Top 7 Pill-Free Pain Relievers

August 22, 2016

Prescription painkillers and over-the-counter NSAIDs can certainly help reduce your pain, but unfortunately they’re also tied to numerous side effects, growing rates of dependence, and risks associated with overdoses and addiction. Whether you have arthritis, tension headaches, acid reflux, or you’re healing from an injury, here are 7 natural painkillers that really work.

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1. Soothing Oils

Peppermint essential oil has a natural menthol effect that has cooling, anti-inflammatory benefits for tense, swollen tissues or muscles. Although less well-known, arnica oil is another popular ingredient in many pain-numbing creams, ointments and salves. Research shows arnica contains many active constituents including palmitic, linolenic and myristic fatty acids, along with antimicrobial thymol.

Both oils are recommended for arthritic pains, skin inflammation, bruises or bites, sprains, carpel tunnel syndrome, headaches, and much more.

2. Acupuncture and Dry Needling

Although these two alternative practices are similar in many ways, they have their differences. Dry needling uses tiny needles to stimulate specific tight “knots” in tense muscles, while acupuncture focuses on addressing the flow of energy around specific points in the body that are connected to bodily organs (called meridians).

Both practices are commonly used to treat injuries caused from overuse, chronic pain, muscle spasms, or tension (especially in the neck, shoulders or back), even without the use of any herbs, supplements, or medications. In the case of dry needling, therapists are able to effectively target deep subscapularis, iliacus and lateral pterygoid muscles that are normally hard to reach. And acupuncturists can help you get a good night's sleep and feel calmer, in addition in experiencing less pain.

Related: 9 Surprising Things An Acupuncturist Can Help You With

3. Rolfing

A form of soft tissue manipulation (similar to “mayofascial release” or deep massage), Rolfing helps to realign the body’s network of deep soft tissues, helping to treat various injuries of the neuromuscular system. The result is improved blood flow, corrected posture, speedier healing, and reduced pain accomplished through manipulations that target inflamed fascia (the connective tissue that surrounds muscle tissue). Additionally, many find that similar to massages, Rolfing has the emotional benefits of reducing stress and improving overall feelings of well-being.

cupping therapy
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4. Cupping Therapy

An Eastern therapeutic method that has been popular in China since at least 1000 B.C, cupping can help improve overall immune function and speed up healing time. Cupping works through suction and heat, which expands small capillaries and therefore increases blood flow to painful or inflamed tissues. A 2011 report published in Evidence-Based Complimentary and Alternative Medicine found that cupping significantly reduced lower back pain, helped treat cancer pain as well or better than anticancer drugs/analgesics, and helped soothe respiratory congestion and phlegm. 

list of allergies
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5. Identifying Food Sensitivities And Allergies

Believe it or not, the cause of not only your stomach pains, but also of reoccurring headaches, congestion, fatigue, and muscle pains might be related to unidentified food allergies.

A 2013 report that appeared in Advances in Dermatology and Allergology found that food allergies cause a host of negative immune responses and increase body-wide inflammation—which is why they are often tied to painful skin irritations like itchy hives, watery eyes, stiff muscles, diarrhea, and even increased anxiety or confusion. What’s a reliable way to know if you have an unknown sensitivity? Consider tests that identify leaky gut, including Zonulin or Lactose tests, or an IgG food intolerance test.

Related: 9 Foods That Boost Your Immune System

6. Guided Meditations

Dozens of studies, including a review published in the journal Neuroscience Letters in 2012, have found that meditation can help people better cope with chronic pain, along with lowering problems related to stress management.  Pain is reduced through factors including: altering one’s attention, expectations, and beliefs about their experience; improving mood; increasing regulation of emotional responses; and lowering one’s physical stress response.

Another bonus? Because meditation might also help improve your sleep quality, it can help reduce fatigue, headaches, and even cravings for foods that wind up giving you indigestion.

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7. Bone Broth

Traditional bone broth has made a huge come back recently, and that’s good news for anyone with aches or pains. Thanks to nutrients including glutamine, glycine, proline, and collagen, bone broth can contribute reductions in joint pain and arthritis, leaky gut syndrome, food allergies, asthma, bone pains, and more.

Gelatin and collagen—two of the most valuable components of bone broth, which can be hard to find in other foods—help to stop degeneration of cartilage, cushion the space between bones which helps them “glide” more easily, repair integrity of the GI tract, improve joint and muscle recovery, and help treat various skin issues.