4 Natural pain solutions I recommend as a doctor
This Mother's Day is a particularly special one for me, as I recently joined the circle of more than 85 million American women who are moms!
Being a mother is one of the most amazing and rewarding jobs, but as many women can attest, it can also be an extremely painful one. Carrying toddlers, nursing newborns and surviving on limited sleep often leave you with back and shoulder pain, sore muscles and tension headaches. Even if your children are grown, you may still have some of these common aches and pains.
If you find yourself popping pain pills to help get you through your back, neck or shoulder pain, maybe it's time to ditch the meds and go pill-free.
Here are my top four recommendations for alternative pain relief.
1. Acupuncture: One of the most common complaints mothers have is persistent back pain. Acupuncture has been shown to reduce back pain and tension headaches. Acupuncture is an extremely individualized pain solution and results can vary greatly, but many mothers report reduction in pain after the first session. I personally used acupuncture for relief from sciatica.
2. Capsaicin: This is a compound found in hot peppers that is used in topical ointments and patches to relieve muscle and joint pain. Using capsaicin regularly can help decrease the chronic pain in the hands and fingers. Applying capsaicin as an ointment improves soreness and dulls the sensation of pain. Many women report initially feeling tingling, heat or burning on the skin followed by a reduction in pain. Never use capsaicin on open skin, and always wash your hands thoroughly after use!
3. Massage therapy: All moms love massages! Research suggests that massage therapy not only relieves muscle tension and pain but also increases oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is a hormone that promotes feelings of calmness and a general sense of relaxation. Massage therapy relieves muscle tension by increasing blood flow and decreasing inflammation. It allows muscles to relax and reduces feelings of tiredness and pain.
Most busy moms often don't have time to see a massage therapist, so a handheld massager like the Wahl Deep Tissue Massager for use at home can be a great alternative. A deep-tissue massager helps reduce back and shoulder pain by penetrating below the surface to reach deep-rooted tension that can build up in back, shoulder and leg muscles. It is powerful enough to treat a large group of muscles and provides immediate pain relief and relaxation. It also has interchangeable heads to customize the massage to your specific concerns. I personally love using a handheld massager for a few minutes several times a week to ease the muscle pain generated from feeding and holding a newborn.
4. Turmeric: This yellow powder is derived from a plant in the ginger family. Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory found to reduce knee pain, burns and even post-operative pain. One study showed it is as effective as taking ibuprofen to reduce knee pain. Adding two to three teaspoons to a smoothie is an easy way to get it in your diet.
Happy pain-free Mother's Day to all of you!
Have you tried any of these treatments? Do you have other favorites? Tweet me @shilpiMD
Dr. Shilpi Agarwal is a board-certified Family Medicine and Integrative and Holistic Medicine physician with special interest in Women’s Health, and Preventative and Integrative Medicine. She believes that leading a healthy lifestyle can be the key to optimal health. She also maintains a blog on Everyday Health.com.