I don’t watch television all that often. It is not that I necessarily have anything against it, I just find myself getting too wrapped up in whatever is on that I prefer to use that time some other way. However, every now and then, when boredom is peaked, I’ll find myself switching on that good ol’ boob tube.
Unfortunately, I’m not “cool” enough for fancy DVRs that allow me to pre-record shows or fast forward through commercials (perhaps another reason I don’t enjoy TV all that much), so I am forced to watch the commercials. And you know what? It doesn’t matter what the season is or what holiday is coming up—there always seem to be countless commercials dedicated to one thing: Pain.
Get rid of the pain!
Some are subtle, some are loud and annoying, but all these commercials are telling me basically the same thing: Take this pill to relieve this ache. Or this liquid to diminish this sensation. Or this magic dust to get rid of this unpleasant…whatever.
Now, I have nothing against modern medicine (well, I don’t know if I’d say nothing…). I am grateful for skilled and caring physicians. When I sliced my head open at the age of 8 I was grateful for a skilled doctor who could stitch me up. When my home birth plans didn’t go as planned, I was thankful I had access to a hospital nearby. However, I do have a problem with how our society views pain and our persistent strides in numbing it completely.
I probably sound a little masochistic. Let me explain.
I don’t really like pain. Who does? (Please don’t answer that, I don’t want to know.) But I am grateful for pain.
Let me tell you (a completely made up and maybe not super appropriate) story:
Little Sally Sue wakes up one day to a screaming headache. Wow, it hurts a lot. She walks into her mother’s room, her eyes welling with tears.
“Mom,” she says in her innocent little voice, “my head hurts.”
“I’m sorry dear. Where exactly does it hurt?”
Sally Sue points to her forehead exactly where a little woodpecker is perched. The bird is repeatedly dinging his pointy little beak right in the side of Sally Sue’s head. Not wanting to see her little girl in pain, Sally Sue’s mother runs to the medicine cabinet to grab some medicine.
“This will do the trick,” she says. And twenty minutes later little Sally Sue says she feels better despite the fact that the bird is still chipping away at her skull.
Okay, that is a horrible story for many (many) reasons. But the point is: Sometimes we are so quick to get rid of the pain that we don’t realize the real problem.
Pain is an essential aspect of our health
Pain is the body’s way of letting us know something is not right—that something is out of whack. Someone didn’t drink enough water. Someone stayed up too late. Someone spent too much time looking at a computer screen. Someone didn’t exercise for a year. Someone exercised too much. Someone shouldn’t have lifted that heavy box alone and now something needs to be done to fix the problem.
Or worse yet, someone has something deeper going on and that pain is our body’s way of saying: Get help, please.
But popping pills doesn’t fix the problem—just like drugging up a child doesn’t remove the annoying bird that is causing the pain.
I feel the need to reiterate the fact that I am not against modern medicine OR pain medication (necessarily). But I am totally angered by the countless commercials that tell us that pain is just a part of life and we should take whatever drug is available so we don’t feel it anymore. Feeling is a part of our human intelligence.
If we don’t address whatever issue our body is dealing with the issue may take on a very ugly face down the road. Or, perhaps worse, our body’s alarm system (pain) will shut down completely leaving us numb to the problem. Numb to it, but not void of it. Years later we can find ourselves dealing with some pretty big problems and then we usually get angry at our body as if it let us down.
In reality, it’s just saying, “I told you so.”
Natural Pain Remedies
Of course, sometimes the pain is real and the problem is “too late” to solve. Maybe you drank too little water and you’ll do better next time but need some relief now. Maybe you are in the process of healing through nutrition, physical therapy, or other means but still need some relief from the pain you feel right now. Are there safer methods than popping a pill? YES!
Of course every body is different, but I have found that the following natural pain remedies are super useful:
- Stretch, Move, Yoga: This is my go-to method for when my back or neck start acting up (usually from too much time at the computer). Our bodies were designed to move! If we stay locked up in any position for too long we will start to feel it. Check out this super short video that you can do right now at the computer.
- Heat: A hot bath, a heating pad, or just laying out in the sun for a few minutes can do wonders for tired muscles and joints. Don’t just target the point of pain. Listen to your body and get the whole muscle pathway warmed up. We often feel pain as a result of issues in different parts of the body.
- Cold: This one doesn’t usually feel as good as heat, but it’s a must for immediate injuries. Cold presses help reduce inflammation which is important for healing AND for feeling less pain. Plus it doesn’t have the nasty side effects of anti-inflammation pills.
- Herbs: Pretty much a big “ditto” to the above. Beyond some real healing benefits, I find that certain herbal teas can be very comforting. Stress is another signal from the body that is often a favorite companion to pain.
- Massage: Who doesn’t like a good massage? But you don’t have to pay big bucks to benefit from healing touch. Ask a friend or family member for a back massage or do a little self massage. Reminding the muscle tissues to “let go” can be a major pain relief.
- Chiropractic, Physical, or Movement Therapy: Sometimes chronic pain is a result of habitual patterns or traumatic injuries that take time to surface. If you find yourself constantly struggling with pain it would probably be wise to seek out a professional who can address the root of the problem. The best practitioners are those who look at the whole body rather than simply trying to address your symptoms. In my work as a Movement Therapist, I have helped a number of people get to the root of their pain problem without drugs, surgery, or other drastic measures. Learn more in my ebook Pain Free.
- Nutrition: Often our chronic pain and disease are a result of malnutrition or imbalances. You may find tremendous help by improving your diet and adding more nutrient dense foods to your daily intake.
- Sleep: Getting enough sleep is obviously essential to overall well-being. However, it can also can play a direct role on our body’s response to pain. One of the biggest culprits to not getting a good night’s rest is an old or uncomfortable mattress. Everyone sleeps differently though so it’s not simply about getting a new mattress. As this Simply Rest post explains, it’s important to choose a mattress that specifically caters to your sleeping needs rather than the most expensive model.
What would you add to this list? What are your go-to natural pain remedies?