Tight shoulders. Achy knees. Low back pains. Frequent headaches. For some, this is a normal part of his or her day. For some this is just expected. I have always prided myself on being athletic and in shape and able to manage any physical discomforts that have come my way…until I became older. Those aches and pains became more frequent and more intense and my old “tricks” just didn’t seem to be as effective as they once were. For a long time, I was having difficulty understanding why an extra stretch was taking care of my foot pain and one mere extra day of rest was no longer sufficient for my tight and painful hamstrings. Looking back on it, I want to scream at myself for the lack of care and true concern I was giving my body, but I didn’t know that so much more went into taking care of myself. See, taking care of yourself is not just post injury or trauma rehabilitation, but it is also preventative…preventative in mind, body, and spirit! For my tight feet, I SHOULD have gotten better shoes and orthotics. For my aching and tight hamstrings, I SHOULD have stretched a little more and used a foam roller to loosen up my fascia and muscles more deeply. Perhaps, I SHOULD have made it a priority to see a masseuse regularly. Let it also be said, that aches and pains worsen over time because of a lack of care, breaking down of the body because of said lack of care, and just a build up of emotional and mental stress that goes uncared for. Well, I say now (that I am a heck of a lot wiser and more knowledgable and more in tune with this body of mine) should haves, could haves, would haves..the past is the past and that is where it will stay. I am here to share my knowledge and my experiences and my advice for all of you so that you can help to prevent future aches and pains or, if you are already experiencing them, how to address them healthfully and more effectively. Remember, if you have something serious in regards to an injury or illness or a disease, it is best to see a doctor or specialist, but if you are just sore from a restless night of sleep or ache after a long workout or have some minor cuts and bruises or find yourself just needing a little tlc, you are exactly where you should be right at this moment. See, my friends, you do NOT have to suffer like so many think is a fact of life and a part of being active and getting older! We just need to wise up. So, grab a cup of your favorite green tea and join me..let’s talk healing.
Why does self massage work and how does it change the one’s interpretation of pain?
Massage seems to ease pain in several different ways. It affects your nervous system through nerve endings in your skin, stimulating the release of endorphins, which are natural “feel good” chemicals. They promote feelings of relaxation, sense of well-being, lowered stress, and lowered pain.
Stronger massage increases blood flow to sore or stiff joints and muscles and increases the warmth by the extra circulation. It also improves the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the body tissues, therefore, assisting the lymphatic system in flushing away waste products and toxins. This all, in turn, eases some tightness and can break up some scar tissue (depending on the kind of massage) in order to loosen up the body and allow energy and movement to flow easier. Massage is shown to trigger the release of natural painkillers called opioids in the brain and speeds up the flow of oxytocin, a hormone that relaxes muscles and encourages feelings of calmness and contentment. Oxytocin is a fantastic hormone that brings us ease and love and good feelings. It is the same hormone that is released after prolonged amounts of skin to skin contact with another human, such as hugging and snuggling. It naturally helps to lower feelings of pain and discomfort. Massage may also change the way the brain senses pain. Studies have shown that the short, sharp sensations of a good massage can temporarily make the brain forget about other aches.
Alternative therapies for aches and pains
There are a variety of alternative therapies and avenues to explore if you are looking for 1. a more natural and soothing approach to pain management and 2. conventional medicine just didn’t work for you. My philosophy with pain and discomfort is to treat the core problems and create a harmony within the body that will assist in staving off future problems. Instead of masking the pain with a “band-aid,” alternative therapies can open your world to other options that will address the core issue. There are physical therapists that can help teach you proper stretching and strengthening techniques that may alleviate some tightness and build strength to support your joints and allow you to tolerate more aggressive activity. They also are equipped with modalities for pain control, manual techniques that provide a deeper stretching, and have access to other therapies such as sport braces and orthotics. Perhaps, you may choose to get a massage so that the masseuse can perform trigger point release and/or varying degrees of pressure to give you the massage that is most satisfying to you. There are many option out there, you just need to research and find what is right for you and your symptoms. Some great alternative therapies to note? Acupuncture, reflexology, reiki healing, physical therapy, massage, chiropractic treatment, nutritionist for dietary healing, herbal remedies, essential oils ( I like Mountain Rose Herbs), yoga or qigong or tai chi, meditation, hypnosis or guided imagery, tapping, or cognitive behavioral therapy…just to name a few.
Help! You need relief now? Here’s what to do…
- For tightness and pain and tension, you can try one of the above therapies that is easy to implement at home. Try 5-10 minutes of quiet or moving meditation (which could come from yoga, qigong, or tai chi). You could also perform some self-massage on the affected area using some healing salves or gels to increase the healing process. For this, I love using Badger’s Sore Muscle Rub. It has a nice soothing warming effect by using cayenne extract and it helps to ease some of the muscle tightness with it’s essential oils.
- If it is tight muscle spasms you are experiencing, perhaps in your shoulders and upper back, you can try some trigger point release. This is a technique in which you apply deep, constant pressure on the sore muscle spasm with your finger, elbow, thumb or whatever is most comfortable for you. You can use household items or even lie against a tennis ball or golf ball. Hold each muscle spasm for about 10-90 seconds or until you start to feel some release in the tightness. You can either hold each with a constant pressure or use small, kneading, circular movements to help loosen. Again, whatever feels most effective for you.
- If you are experiencing tight feet, arch pain, or a sharp pain in your heel, you may be on the verge of (or already experiencing) some plantar fascitis. Try stretching and self massage. Perform a standing calf stretch or a standing step stretch. To loosen up the arch, roll a golf ball under your foot with moderate pressure,or whatever pressure feels comfortable, for a 3-5 minutes. For better results, you can use a small water bottle with frozen water inside to add the cooling effect and calm down the inflammation. For heel pain, try some light massage over the painful area, again for 5 minutes or until it feels as though the pain is subsiding slightly.
- For cuts and burns and scraps?Apply a drop or two of lavender oil directly to the wound, always after it is cleaned. Cayenne pepper can be used on minor scrapes and scratches for quick relief, but never on open wounds. Cayenne contains capsaicin, which helps speed healing and blocks pain messages to the brain. Wipe off when pain is lessened. An aloe vera plant is absolutely amazing for healing. Break off a leaf and squeeze gel directly onto affected area. Aloe vera seals injury, relieves pain and provides quicker healing. Reapply 3-4 times daily. Limes and lemons have been proven to have an antibiotic effect and can kill bacteria. St. Johns Wort has capabilities to help heal wounds. Chamomilla has an overall soothing effect, relieves pain and prevents infections. Echinacea has been proven to help heal bacterial infections. Immediately, upon burning yourself, cut a raw potato in half and scrape off (from the cut side) a bit of the raw meat. Place the scrapings on the burned area. The pain is instantly relieved, and the healing begins. Tea tree oil for antiseptic, antimicrobial, and healing properties. Arnica gel provides excellent pain relief and healing of cuts, scrapes, and burns.
- For bruises? Treat with compresses soaked in cool water, spiked with the essential oil helichrysum or Lavender oil. This reduces swelling, controls bleeding under the skin and has anti-inflammatory properties. For severe bruising, apply several drops of undiluted helichrysum directly to bruise several times a day. Follow with a cold-water compress for ten minutes containing eight to ten drops of helichrysum, then use ice compress. Eat foods rich in vitamin C, which builds collagen (skin tissue), around blood vessels in the skin. Try an arnica cream, which has been proven to contain a chemical compound that promotes healing. Use a sage tea compress.
- For nausea or upset stomach? Try sniffing some lavender essential oil and/or ingesting real ginger. There are ginger chews and ginger snacks that can relieve an unsettled stomach. I love me some Gin-Gins!
- If you are looking for some over the counter products that are reliable and easy to use and I recommend: Topricin for soothing relief associated with arthritis, lower back pain, carpal tunnel, fibromyalgia, or work and sports related injuries. I also am a huge advocate of Sovereign Silver for all of the incredible ways that silver heals! Sovereign silver is a must in my first aid kit. Arnicare by Boiron is an excellent homeopathic medicine to assist with pain relief, stiffness, swelling, and bruising. Skin Gel by AloeLife is my go to for burns, wounds, and scars.
Take action now! Jot down what you would like to buy or stock your natural first aid kit with. Go out and gather those products and have them on hand for the next time you are in the need for some relief. I would love for you to comment below or email me through my website, facebook, or twitter and tell me all about your experiences regarding this blog and if you have found any other home remedies that have been a life-saver for you and your family.
Are you already using natural healing? I want to hear all about it! Live your life with passion and purpose…
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