Natural Pain Relief

Natural Remedies for Pain

Many people would prefer to manage their pain naturally without the need for medication.

Natural pain relief is a term that can be used to describe approaches that stimulate the body’s innate ability to heal without recourse to drugs synthesised in a laboratory. Approaches include naturopathy, massage, exercise, manual therapies, herbal medicine, acupuncture and in recent years, earthing.

Earthing is the practice of connecting to the earth. The effects have been studied and published in peer-reviewed medical journals. See earthing research here. It has been found to reduce pain and alleviate inflammation among other health benefits.

Why is Pain Relief Important?

Most people have experienced pain at some point during their life, whether it was a headache, a sports injury or stubbed toe. Most pain goes away by itself within a few hours or days. But imagine living with that pain every day of your life. Arthritis, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, nerve damage, chronic headaches and back pain are just a few examples of the many conditions that can cause people pain on a daily basis.

Suffering from chronic pain can seriously interfere with your ability to work, sleep or enjoy your hobbies. This often leads to stress, depression, and anxiety, which in turn make the symptoms of pain seem worse and worse.

By finding an effective way of managing pain, people with these conditions can begin to reclaim their lives and take the first steps along the road to better physical and mental well-being.

How do Pain Medications Work?

One of the major causes of pain is inflammation. Inflammation happens in response to an injury or infection and causes symptoms such as swelling, redness, heat and pain. Reducing inflammation is key to relieving pain and that is how many popular painkillers work.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) work by blocking enzymes which produce some of the chemicals which cause inflammation. This reduces both swelling and pain. NSAIDs are commonly used in the treatment of headaches, toothache, arthritis and joint pain and muscular strains and sprains. Some of the most well known NSAIDs are aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen.

Another commonly used painkiller is paracetamol. Although paracetamol does not reduce inflammation, it is effective for many different types of pain and also reduces fever. It is well tolerated by most people and is unlikely to cause side effects.

NSAIDs and paracetamol work well for most mild to moderate pain. However, if your pain is very severe, you may be prescribed stronger painkillers such as opioids. These include drugs such as codeine, morphine and oxycodone. They work by blocking opioid pain receptors in the brain and preventing it from registering pain signals from the nervous system. These drugs are very good at relieving pain, but do carry the risk of side effects.

Side Effects of Pain Medication

As with most drugs, pain medication can cause side effects in some people. These vary depending on what type of pain medication you are taking.

NSAIDs can cause upset stomachs and bleeding in the digestive tract. If they are taken over a long period of time, they can increase the risk of gastric ulcers. NSAIDs should always be taken with or after food to minimize this risk. People with high blood pressure, kidney disease or asthma should be extra careful when taking NSAIDs. They can also cause an allergic reaction in some people.

The biggest risk with opioid painkillers is that you can easily build up a tolerance to them. This means that over time, you need a higher and higher dose to get the same effects. Eventually this can lead to addiction and even overdose. This is dangerous because as well as relieving pain, opioids can suppress your breathing. If you take too many, your breathing could stop altogether and every year, many people die from opioid overdose. Other side effects of opioids include nausea, vomiting and constipation.

Natural Remedies for Pain

There are many ways to relieve pain naturally. The easiest thing that you can do is be more active. Starting a regular fitness regime can help to strengthen your muscles, improve flexibility and joint mobility, as well as reducing pain.

Exercise also stimulates your body to release chemicals called endorphins. These work in a similar way to opioid painkillers, relieving pain and giving a sense of general well-being.

When beginning a new exercise regime, start off slowly in order to avoid injury. Gentle, low impact exercises such as walking, swimming, yoga, and tai chi are especially suitable.

Manual therapies such as massage, osteopathy and chiropractic work by manipulating the muscles and joints. They relieve pain by relaxing the body and correcting any physical imbalances that might be contributing to the problem.

Acupuncture is an ancient oriental therapy which works by placing fine needles at specific sites on the body. This influences the nervous system and blocks pain signals from reaching the brain. It also stimulates the release of endorphins, adding to its painkilling effects.

Herbal medicine is another method of natural pain relief. The safest way of using herbs to relieve pain is in a rub or liniment. These can be applied directly to the painful area and work to reduce inflammation and pain. Herbs can also be taken orally under the supervision of a qualified herbalist.

How Earthing Works for Pain Relief

Earthing is another great choice when it comes to natural pain relief. Earthing, also known as grounding, is the act of bringing the body into conductive contact with the earth. This has many benefits such as improving sleep, speeding up the healing process, reducing inflammation and relieving pain.

Earthing works by taking advantage of the earth’s subtle electrical charge. The earth’s surface is rich in what are known as free electrons. When you walk barefoot, these are transferred to the body where they act as powerful antioxidants. This helps to protect against disease and relieves a wide range of conditions including pain. The main way that earthing works for pain is by reducing levels of inflammation.

Research on Earthing and Pain Relief

There have been 20 research studies on earthing including the effect of earthing on pain. This 2010 study, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine looked at the benefits of earthing for delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This is a common condition that can happen following excessive exercise.

In the study, subjects were assigned to two groups. One group was earthed and the other acted as a control. All subjects performed vigorous exercise and were tested for various blood markers indicating inflammation. The subjects also rated their pain levels subjectively.

The study found that the subjects in the earthed group had a faster recovery time than those who were not earthed following exercise. In their conclusions, the researchers state:

“Grounding appears to be the first intervention with the potential to reduce the time of recovery and improve muscle function from DOMS.”

These findings were supported by a further study by Dr. William Amalu, president of the International Academy of Clinical Thermography. In this series of case studies, infrared imaging was used to look at the effects of earthing. It showed that earthing consistently reduced both inflammation and pain in its subjects.

Earthing Overnight for Pain Relief

When we sleep, our body does the lion’s share of its repairing. That is one of the reasons why good quality sleep can reduce the intensity of your pain both during the night and for the coming day. Earthing overnight can both improve sleep quality and reduce pain.

An earthing sleep system consists of a mattress pad, undersheet or pillowcase which is interwoven with conductive fibres. This is earthed either via a wire and earthing rod inserted into the ground, or through the earth port of your powerpoint. This allows the earth’s free electrons to come into contact with your body and regulate your biological rhythms as you sleep.

2004 study on the effects of earthing during sleep found that earthing overnight normalized cortisol levels both at night and throughout the day. Cortisol is usually at its peak in the morning at around 8am and should fall as the day goes on, reaching its lowest level at midnight. Having raised cortisol levels can result in many problems including sleep disturbance, stress, inflammation and pain.

The findings of the study were very positive. After six weeks sleeping on a earthing sleep system, the majority of subjects reported improved sleep and reduced pain, especially night time pain.

Earthing During the Day for Pain Relief

Earthing can also be done during the day. Earthing wraps can be used around any painful areas, or you can sit on or lean against an earthing pad while you work or relax.

The study on earthing for DOMS used earthing patches which were attached to the gastrocnemius muscles and the soles of the feet. These were worn during the day and at night and the subjects spent most of their time on an earthing sheet. This allowed pain relief to be provided directly to the affected muscles as well as the entire body.

Award-winning sports chiropractor Jeff Spencer is a great advocate of earthing and has used it to help many athletes to recover from injuries. He recommends using earthing both overnight and during the day in order to optimize its effects. He says:

“From my experience, whether you are sick or injured, the more consistently you ground yourself and the more time you spend grounded, the greater your body’s ability to heal, repair, and regenerate, and operate optimally.”

How Much Earthing do I Need for Pain Relief?

How much earthing you need for pain relief will vary from person to person. However, there are certain physiological changes that will happen to most people after even a very short period of time.

Within a few seconds of earthing the muscles begin to relax and the nervous system is calmed. After 30 minutes to two hours of daily earthing, stress, pain and inflammation are reduced and circulation is improved.

Earthing overnight has all the above benefits. It also provides deeper, more restful sleep, relief from night-time pain and less pain interfering with sleep.

How to Get Started with Earthing

You can get started with earthing simply by going outside, taking off your shoes and walking barefoot on the green grass. You can also bring the benefits of earthing home by using an earthing sleep system, mat, pad or wrap. This will allow you to experience natural pain relief as well as the many other benefits of earthing during the day or at night.

Earthing Research

Brown D, Chevalier G, Hill M. ‘Pilot study on the effect of grounding on delayed-onset muscle soreness.’ Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine. 2010 Mar; 16(3): 256-73.

Ghaly M, Teplitz D. ‘The biologic effects of grounding the human body during sleep as measured by cortisol levels and subjective reporting of sleep, pain, and stress’ Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 2004;10 (5): 767–776.

Amalu, W. Clinical Earthing Application in 20 Case Studies, unpublished research by the president of International Academy of Clinical Thermography