There are many natural therapies that can be a real boon for people with mild, moderate or severe aches and pains. Acupuncture, bowen therapy, hypnotherapy, remedial massage, medical nutrition, aromatherapy and homeopathy are just a few of your choices.
If you are suffering backache or neck pain after injury, tension or gardening etc, try these:
Massage using anti-inflammatory products like Weleda’s Arnica Balm or Heels Traumeel cream can help to soften muscles and stop them pulling on joints and discs as well as speed up healing (see more on Traumeel below). It can also help relieve tight muscles putting pressure on nerves as in neck pain or sciatica. Interestingly, we have found Reflexology works particularly well with sciatica, especially if you don’t want the area touched.
Remedial and manipulative massage techniques can be really helpful and effective in any muscle or joint problem. In fact, when I was a remedial specialist myself, the greatest relief for issues such as back pain, frozen shoulder, repetitive strain, sciatica, knee and hip pain etc was gained by releasing the tendons, ligaments and muscles using trigger point therapy, muscle work, stretching and myofascial release, amongst other things. You have to work on all the soft tissue structures around the affected area.
Tendons and ligaments pull on the joints, popping them out of alignment, causing overworked compensatory muscles, impingement on nerves, inflammation and referred pains elsewhere. It is usually those that are the primary cause or exacerbating the pain, preventing healing and putting pressure on joints and the body systemically. It can work hand in hand with eg. steroid and anti-inflammatory therapy, but I found it often worked better, although took a bit more time. It works particularly well with acupuncture too.
Remedial massage is not like relaxation massage so don’t expect a blissful time! It’s not like most physiotherapy either nowadays, mostly because physio tends to use a lot of machines rather than hand work which, to my mind and clinical experience, is never as effective. Remedial massage is much more hands-on and takes a lot longer usually so appointment times are generally longer . You can be sore the next day or so, but I have never seen anything work as well for most painful conditions.
You can find a good local remedial therapist on this register.
Here is a good, brief explanation and demo of remedial massage – I just loved the laid-back Ozzie accent in it!
Acupuncture (with needles or electric stimuli) can also help block pain receptors. I found this particularly worked well for nerve pain such as sciatica or carpal tunnel – but use the remedial techniques above too to release the ligaments etc and take the pressure off the nerve.
If your pain is chronic, though and you are suffering from arthritis, spondylitis, bursitis etc, you might need to think a bit more deeply about it. Sometimes, all the massage and physiotherapy in the world will help to lessen the problem to an extent, but won’t be able to go far enough because the problem is coming from the inside out.
Read the Pain factsheet here for a different way to view chronic pain – is your nervous system turned up too high?
Arthritis, bone spurs, calcium deposits around joints and spondylitis etc, to a naturopathic nutritionist, are caused mainly by calcium dumping in the soft tissues and joints, poor nutrition to the connective tissues and excess toxicity in the body.
If your muscles are really hard and no amount of massage eases them to any great extent, or your joints are developing spurs, this is likely to be the problem. It comes usually from people consuming a dairy diet with not enough magnesium to offset or help the body metabolise all that excess calcium. The result is usually calcium deposits somewhere in the body – in joints, in soft tissues like muscles and tendons, in kidneys, bladder etc. Most people are pretty deficient in magnesium but have plenty of calcium in my clinical experience, despite the messages constantly to get more calcium! It is causing problems like bone spurs on joints and painful conditions when it is so easily prevented by ensuring the co-factor nutrients.
Calcium and magnesium play roles in muscle health generally. Magnesium helps muscles to relax, while calcium helps them contract. If you aren’t getting enough magnesium, muscles will cramp and spasm more easily. In addition, things like lactic acid become much harder to flush out without enough magnesium and leads to sore muscles and poor recovery after exercise.
One way to look at the calcium and magnesium balance is using a hair test. The other thing is to to test red blood cell magnesium and check if that is too low – there’s part of your treatment answer if it is. Treatment to correct any imbalance can be very effective within a few months.
Bowen is a very effective technique for stubborn problems such as frozen shoulder and general aches and pains as it rebalances the whole body. No one is really sure how it works, but there is no doubt that it does in my experience.
I find homeopathic Traumeel is an excellent anti-inflammatory for any ache or pain caused by whatever problem. It comes in cream, tincture and tablet and we have excellent results with it. It even works on sore gums, abscesses, bunions etc. Wonderful stuff, inexpensive and can be taken with other painkillers. You can read a detailed booklet about it here.
Or consider Zeel if yours is chronic rather than acute pain. This is not so easy to get in the UK (although ND do have the cream) but ask me and I will arrange some for you. Read about Zeel for arthritis here. We’ve had great results with this too – for dogs actually as well, works a treat!
If you are achy all over with lots of pains for no obvious reason. Or, even if you suffer from one of the conditions mentioned above, simply removing a suspect food from your diet for a while can dramatically improve things. In this case, I would follow the recipes in the wheat and dairy free Eat Well book. Or, if you want to go one step further, go gluten and dairy free with the Belly Fat book (ignore the name!).
There are tons of anti-inflammatory diets – most of which remove the key allergens and nightshades – although I have found the wheat, gluten and dairy free approach helps most people. Then, add in lots of anti-inflammatory compounds, which you can learn about here in Dr Murray’s excellent Osteoarthritis factsheet, which includes some useful stuff on diet and supplements.
My favourite anti-inflammatory generally is Biotics KappArest, which is a blend of some really powerful herbs and spices. I usually give that first. For arthritis specifically, as per Dr Murray’s factsheet above, I often also add in MSM or lots of sulphur foods, plenty of Vitamin C to build collagen, glucosamine hydrochloride or sulphate and fish oils.
In that case, Designs for Health Arthrosoothe might be worth considering. Interestingly, their new Arthrosoothe Cream contains the celadrin mentioned by Dr Murray too. I can’t see it on ND’s site, but ask; I’m sure they can get it for you if they stock the caps.
Nutrigold’s Joint Support Formula is also a favourite.
Finally, hypnotherapy can be wonderful for pain relief. You can have a couple of treatments to learn techniques you can use at home to block pain. This works brilliantly for cancer patients, arthritis, labour pain and any form of constant pain. I know it sounds quite unbelievable, but it is now a recognised therapy of choice in chronic pain clinics.
I’ve written tons over the years on arthritis and pain on the blog etc, so do use the search box on this site and it will bring up some useful stuff. Here’s an arthritis search to start you off. Get a cuppa – of anti-inflammatory tea, of course – and have a mooch.
I hope that all helps!