Add these effective methods for pain relief to your home repertoire.
This section will cover strategies you can use at home to take pain treatment into your hands. For more on our clinical treatment strategies, see "Treating Pain in the Clinic."
Topical Herbal Medicines: Put some herbs on it!
Over the years I have used quite a number of different topical products for pain relief. Here's what I've found to be most effective for different conditions.
Magnesium: for muscle tension and spasms - topical Magnesium can be very helpful. Back spasms, tight neck, jaw clenching, and any hypertonic, hard muscles often feel better after topical magnesium is applied. There are many kinds out there - this one from Natural Calm is the only one I've found that is effective and also not irritating to the skin. (Magnesium is a salt, and as it dries it can make your skin feel prickly). It is especially nice for TMJ pain sufferers because it can be used on the face over the temporalis and masseter muscles.
Find it in your local store or online: https://www.amazon.com/Natural-Vitality-Cream-Calm/dp/B01F44T0WK
Arnica, St. John's Wort Oil: for injuries, arthritic pain, post-surgical pain, and nearly all chronic pain - Arnica & St. John's Wort oil is a go-to treatment. I first discovered the power of Arnica & St. John's Wort when I took home a bottle after a class with my Herbalist mentor. My mom had started having arthritic pain in her hands and it was getting in the way of her gardening. Well arthritis tends to get in the way of everything you use your hands for - but in our family if it gets in the way of gardening, it has got to go. I gave her the bottle with the suggestion to use it daily. When she ran out, she asked for more. After a few months the pain was gone altogether - it's been 10 years with no problems and just occasional use of the oil as needed. Since then many friends, family members, and patients have found this to be a very effective herbal combination. Put it on where it hurts, and put it on often.
Note: Arnica oil is 100%, absolutely, positively not the same thing as homeopathic arnica gels, lotions, etc. The goal of homeopathic medicines is to dilute the physical constituents down to a tiny quantity. The goal of an herbal oil is the opposite - to have the highest concentration of herbal medicine in the oil.
We make our own oil for clinic and family use by wildcrafting mountain Arnica and St. John's Wort - but when we run out we use Five Flavors Pain & Trauma Oil, which is made from wildcrafted Arnica, St. John's Wort and additional Chinese herbs that are very effective for pain relief. https://www.fiveflavorsherbs.com/online-herbal-store/pain-trauma-oil
Dit Da Jiao: for injuries, tendon and ligament weakness or injury, and many chronic pains- Dit Da Jiao is an alcohol based topical Chinese herbal medicine originally designed to help martial artists heal faster from injuries.
Dit Da Jiao recipes are different based on family lineage or martial arts school, with many of them kept secret. We make our own for clinic use, and we also recommend the one that Five Flavors makes if you can't get it from us. https://www.fiveflavorsherbs.com/online-herbal-store/dit-dat-jiao-pain-liniment
Castor oil: cheap, sticky, messy, and an amazing anti-inflammatory. Frequent use of castor oil packs has gotten many people off surgical lists for joint replacement and helped heal chronic tendonitis, joint pains, baker's cysts. Castor oil is especially helpful for tendon-related injuries and problems - which includes all joint problems: knee, shoulder, hip, etc. While heated castor oil packs are the commonly recommended treatment, and likely the most effective, I've had patients get good results simply from rubbing castor oil into the painful area daily. Use hexane-free castor oil. You'll find hundreds of videos on how to apply castor oil packs on Youtube. It's a mess, it'll stain your clothes, but that's a lot less hassle than the risks and potential side effects of surgery or other medical interventions.
CBD Topicals: for mild to severe pain, a good quality CBD topical can be very effective at reducing pain. What we have found is that CBD topicals can significantly reduce pain by reducing inflammation and blocking pain signals, which allows the body to continue healing itself - sometimes taking a 8/10 tension headache down to 0/10 in a short time. A few things to note, however. Not everyone responds to CBD. Why? It may be due to differences in individual CBD receptors which vary from person to person. Additionally, many CBD products on the market are virtually useless since there is yet to be much regulation in place. We usually recommend getting a sample to see if it works for you. For long standing chronic pain, CBD can be useful to cut the pain - but something like Arnica & St. John's or Dit Da Jiao may be necessary as well to help the healing process along. We recommend CBD Clinic products in states where CBD is legal. (Technically, per the 2018 Farm Bill CBD is federally legal everywhere in the US - but your state law may not agree. Beyond that, your local police officers may not agree with your state law that says CBD is legal.)
Moxibustion is a frequently used clinical treatment that can also be done at home. Moxibustion is the practice of applying heat from the combustion of Chinese herbs, primarily Chinese Mugwort. There are a variety of ways to apply Moxa, but for at home treatment we recommend Moxa sticks as the easiest method. Moxibustion is great for: arthritic pain, joint pain, and any pain that is worse with cold. (BTW most pain is worse with cold) When you come in for a clinic visit I can show you points to Moxa on yourself. You can also take to YouTube to learn how to do Moxa. Be careful not to burn yourself, and make sure to extinguish the moxa stick effectively. I usually put it in a mason jar and close the lid tightly, or cut the burning end off.
For Moxa sticks, I recommend these: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07884BX1N/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_yl7.DbKY7ZTK5
Is your pain better with heat and worse with cold? My money is on YES. While some people get temporary relief from icing, ice is one of the best ways to turn a short term pain into a long term pain you can live with for years. Cold causes contraction. It causes contraction of your muscles and contraction of your blood vessels. Healing requires good blood circulation. Cut if off with cold induced vasoconstriction? Great way to SLOW the healing process. So stop icing your chronic pain. Alternating heat and cold (cold not ICE) can be a good way to increase circulation. Emphasis is on the heat though - 10 parts heat to 1 part cold.
Ways to apply heat at home?
Hot epsom salt baths. Hot rice/flax seed packs. Infrared heat lamps. Moxibustion.
Taiji, Qigong, Yoga, Egoscue
Chronic pain means you probably have some postural and muscle tension imbalances. Even if they weren't the cause of the problem initially, they develop over time as your body compensates for dysfunction. When it comes to movement and postural therapy, there are many flavors and you really just have to experiment a bit until you find the flavor you like best. For me, it's Taiji and Qigong that help keep me fit and balanced. For many, Yoga is the practice that keeps them feeling good. There are many types of yoga to choose from. The only type I do NOT recommend is hot yoga - due to the amount of patients I've seen that have developed problems related to hot yoga practice. The Egoscue method is a movement and postural re-education practice that many have used with success to heal from low back pain ( as well as other pains) and maintain those improvements. I will be adding more videos and links to movement therapies in the future, keep an eye out.