A chief complaint of many throughout this past year is that quarantine has been physically painful. We’re at such a reduced level of activity that the lack of moving and walking makes muscle tightness a no brainer, but the complaints I’ve heard have been far more broad in scope than just tight muscles. People are full of aches and pains these days, experiencing everything from sore joints to indigestion to headaches. The cause of these aches and pains when there’s no apparent injury or health issue can likely be tied to stress, as stress can cause all that and more.
We’ve known for some time that stress may lead to major health problems by creating systemic inflammation and lowering our immune function, which in turn increases the chances of falling prey to illness. As such, health professionals have encouraged people to conduct stress relieving activities like exercise and meditation as regularly as possible. But we’re in a wild new world these days, where no matter what you do to combat stress, there’s an existential amount of it that nearly none among us has ever experienced or currently has the power to escape from. Eventually, when the pandemic is over and the world has breathed a collective sigh of relief, we’ll all begin to feel better--even if we do so with more grey hair and wrinkles than this amount of time should ever have led to. For the interim, though, what can you do to feel less achy and pained? Read on for some tried and true options.
It may seem weird that friendship is a pain reliever, but it is. Interaction doesn’t need to be in person, so don’t think we’re condoning unsafe conduct—any type of social interaction will do. Social networks have been found to reduce pain in older adults. Whether you choose to text, Zoom, or call a friend, you’ll be helping relax your body, and thus, reducing its pain.
Sleeping more has been proven to relieve pain. Thomas Roth, PhD, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, told WebMD, “For people who don’t get enough sleep, sleeping longer decreases pain sensitivity. This likely holds for all types of pain, including chronic back pain and other painful disorders.” If that’s not a good reason to hit the snooze button, know that sleep is actually used as a pain management tool.
Turmeric and Ginger
This two ingredient combo is my personal go to when I have unexplainable achiness, and it works every time. Turmeric and ginger aren’t magic bullets, but consuming them regularly as tea, juice, or pills has been proven incredibly successful for pain reduction. As a recommendation with my nutrition clients, it’s never not worked to reduce a person’s pain to some degree. Turmeric and its active compound curcumin have been proven to be as effective as over the counter pain medications, and ginger has as well. While some proponents of the combo claim it won’t be effective without black pepper, studies about that have yielded mixed results. As such, if you prefer to consume them without pepper, you’ll be just fine and will still reap plenty of rewards.
Pain Roll Ons
If you don’t like touching pain creams because the smell can be hard to get off your hands, this form of OTC relief will be relieving for you in that way too. Muscle MX makes a heating and cooling duo of roll on balms that I find to be a dream. They’re slim enough to target small areas like wrists, but large enough that you can swipe it all over your aching back with only a few strokes. They provide hours of pain alleviation for both muscles and joints.
CBD and CBG
While you’ve probably heard about the pain assuaging effects of CBD, its parent chemical, CBG, is newer to market. It’s even more magical than CBD alone, and the two are available in every possible format you could want, from gummies to pills to creams. The combo is not psychoactive, as they don’t involve THC (the psychoactive component in marijuana). About why exactly the cannabinoids in CBD and CBG relieve pain, Medical News Today says, “The human body has an endocannabinoid system (ECS) that receives and translates signals from cannabinoids. It produces some cannabinoids of its own, which are called endocannabinoids. The ECS helps regulate functions such as sleep, immune-system responses, and pain."
This one serves a dual purpose: massage relieves physical pain, but it also serves to relieve stress. That means for stress that’s caused by pain, you can get even more benefits from it. Because seeing a professional in person remains risky business, considering asking a partner or roommate for a massage exchange. If you live alone, try one of the many self-massaging tools on the market.
Epsom Salt Baths
Similar to massage, baths have a multifold impact on pain. In addition to helping relieve it, they also lower stress, which can lead to further pain relief. Baths are a wonderful self care tool, being both relaxing and rejuvenating, but when you add magnesium sulfate a bath becomes even more valuable. In addition to relieving inflammation, the Cleveland Clinic notes that “Epsom salt helps relax muscles and relieve pain in the shoulders, neck, back and skull. For example, by relaxing the muscles surrounding the skull, the magnesium in Epsom salt may help release a headache or migraine."
Heat and Cold
Depending on what hurts and where, either heat or cold—or possibly both—can help it feel better. If you’re experiencing the type of pain that involves inflammation or swelling, cold can feel particularly good, and if you have more generalized aches, heat can be more soothing. Experiment with heating pads and ice packs to discern what calms your aches and pains the best.
Exercise and Stretching
When you hurt, you have a tendency to not want to move. If you have an active injury, that instinct is serving you well, but if your pain is caused by stress, it’s not. Numerous studies have proven that exercise relieves pain. Don’t engage in anything beyond your current capabilities, of course, and incorporate stretching into your routine. In addition to reducing your chance of harm from exercise, stretching is notorious for relieving chronic pain.
In the spirit of saving the best for last, it should be no surprise pleasure eases pain. The endorphins and oxytocin released during sex, which are two of our four feel good chemicals (the other two being serotonin and dopamine), can alleviate myriad aches and pains. While once upon a time “I have a headache” was a reason to not be in the mood for sex, it’s actually been shown that orgasms relieve headaches. It works for chronic pain for many people, as well, and it doesn’t matter if the act is conducted alone or with a partner. If you’re solitary these days, this is an excellent time to broaden your self-pleasure horizons; there are amazing new products hitting the retail market regularly, such as this pressure wave suction toy by Dame, which has been receiving rave reviews.
Life may hurt lately, but it doesn’t have to. If removing stress from your world isn’t currently possible, try one, two, or all of these ways to reduce your stress induced aches and pains.