There is nothing more debilitating than constant, chronic pain. But as we continue to learn that painkillers don't provide long term pain relief, and that the GP doesn’t have many solutions up their sleeve, what options do we have to cope with arthritis, fibromyalgia or general pain?
Well as always with health, once we bring it back to simplicity, we find there are in fact many natural remedies worth trying that do may give short term relief! There are also some more foundational changes we can make to our health (although a little more effort is required) that can result in relief and a significant longer-term improvement. Let's get into it.
Infrared sauna – Hot to Cold Treatment
Infrared saunas work by heating the body directly unlike a traditional sauna which heats the air. The infrared heat penetrates 4 - 5cm into skin, creating a cardiovascular workout on the body, during which process the body increases circulation, moving oxygen rich blood into the muscles and the joints. This increased blood and oxygen flow helps reduce pain sensations.
Cold water immersion also increases circulation. Whilst int he cold water, the body brings all the blood to the core where it remains whilst in the cold water. This is an evolutionary protective mechanism, to keep the 'important bit's warm with blood, during which time this blood is filtered and cleanses. After getting out of the cold water, the body then floowds the extremities with this fresh blood, promoting increased circulation in the joints or the fingers and hands as the body attempts to restore balance in the body.
The Finnish have used hot-to-cold treatment for centuries. Studies increasingly show the benefits of hot to cold treatment for chronic pain and inflammatory diseases.
Infrared Saunas are one of the few ways those who cannot exercise can improve their circulation and feel a great sense of relief. Learn more about arthritis and infrared saunas here.
Simply put, hot baths are underrated. In ancient Greece, baths were a staple part of the culture. The Romans took bathing even further, as they socialised in their communal baths on a daily basis and turned each part of the bathing ritual (undressing, bathing, sweating, massage) into specialised areas within the bathing houses.
There are some tips to setting up a good bath: Firstly, put the kids to bed, we don’t want their background noises distracting you. Run the bath piping hot. Put some salts in there… and we don’t mean the ones from Lush. Get some Celtic sea salt and put 300g in the water along with the same amount of Epsom salts. Your skin will open up, allowing the 52 essential minerals from the salt and the magnesium from the Epsom salts to enter the system. Epsom salts calm the central nervous system and make you feel at ease. All you need now is a magazine; some candles… some essential oils burning. Anything that helps you relax and enjoy. Baths are amazing for relaxing both the body and the mind. Focus on trying to let every muscle relax and take some deep breaths. The hot bath with open up the blood flow and soothe the joints, great for your arthritis, fibromyalgia or any sort of chronic pain. Baths are also a great remedy for general stress releasing.
Massage is a great way to open up blocked channels in the body, increasing both the blood flow to poorly circulated areas as well as increasing the energy flow in the body. Even just a 15 minute massage targeted on a more painful area can provide some short-term relief. With many Chinese massage shops open in most shopping centres now offering affordable, quick options, go and give it a try. Massage is a large part of Chinese culture where weekly massages are commonplace. They believe it helps to remain clear, calm and connected with their body.
Studies show that 80% of the Australian population are dehydrated. Rehydrating the body takes anywhere from 3 – 12 months depending on your commitment. Hydration can be one of the easiest ways help manage inflammation.
In a great book titled 'your Body's many cries for water', author and MD Dr Batmanghelidj explores how dehydration leads to arthritis and osteoarthritis.
For every 22kg of body weight, we require 1L of water per day.
How much water have you drunk today?
We have an article on hydration here.
Exercise gets the bodies systems working. Ever at work, feeling 'stuck' and not sure how to proceed with the task at hand? Go for a walk! We as human beings are designed to move, not sit still all day. Even a quick walk increases blood and oxygen flow, brings relief and helps loosen joints and muscles. 30 minutes of exercise a day is simple way to help manage pain. It might also help you find a solution to the task you were working on.
Food is always a point of contention, but as mentioned in a previous blog post (what is inflammation) the food choices we make greatly affect our body, it’s cells and their health. We are what we eat... right? Changing what we eat is always so hotly contested because not everyone wants to alter his or her food habits and beliefs, even when they may be serving someone poorly. We get it- it’s hard! However there’s no doubt that a healthy diet, rich in vegetables and natural ingredients leaves your body in far better shape, and therefore more able to handle disease and pain. Simply reducing your animal product intake from 3 meals a day to 1 can help manage your arthritis. Learn how animal products affect inflammation here.
If you find yourself completely fed up with your condition, try something different! Please remember every person is different and what does/doesn’t help will someone always vary according to the person :)