Chronic pain is hard af. Trying to live a full life whilst always hurting is even tougher. Pain relief medications are great, but they have limitations & complications. Hence the need for back up. There are a million products claiming to relieve pain. So, if you don’t know where to start here’s a few options that make my life a little less painful.
Let’s start with a cheap & easy product. Epsom Salts are available in every chemist for a couple of pounds & super simple. Just pour some into a hot bath, get in & relax. Epsom salts don’t offer any long term relief, but on a day when my body really aches all over they help. Sometimes even that soothing half hours soak can help me deal with a day of pain.
For more sustained relief I love my tens machine. I find it particularly helpful when I have to be on the move. Often even short journeys or everyday errands can leave me tormented. A tens works by sending electrical pulses across the skin & nerve strands. These pulses help prevent pain signals from reaching the brain & can also stimulate production of endorphins. I swear by mine, wearing my tens definitely prolongs how long I can be ‘active’. You can attach the sticky pads of the tens directly onto your painful areas & the machine is smaller than a phone. Meaning it can be worn discretely under your clothes & is totally mobile. It is possible to borrow a tens from the NHS, but they are also pretty affordable to buy. I bought mine from Argos for around £20, there are of course much more expensive ones if you want something really fancy.
Heat is another humble, but effective analgesic. I find heat works particularly well for stomach cramps/spasms & achey pains. I use a range of products that provide targeted heat. Adhesive heated pads are great for when you have be mobile. You can pick them up in mutli packs from poundshops & they will retain their heat for 6-12hrs. When I’m at home I favour a good old hot water bottle & heat packs. My very thoughtful little sister gave me an amazing microwaveable heat pack that is filled with wheat & lavender. The smell is divine & it stays warm for hours. You can find a similar one here.
If like me you have stomach issues NSAIDs will be off limits to you. This can be frustrating as ibroprofen in particular is recommended for so many pain types. Which is my I love ibroprofen gels. Again this won’t eliminate severe pain, but it can make you a little more comfortable. I find it very helpful for my fibro knee & shoulder. It is also fantastic for back pain. Ibroprofen gel is available OTC in any chemist, but at around £6 a tube for the strongest formula that can add up. If you qualify for free prescriptions it is worth asking your GP to prescribe it.
Bringing heat & gels together is Tiger Balm. The balm can be rubbed onto the body & has a bit of heat, but also has anti inflammatory properties. The aroma is a love it or loathe it affair, but I’m firmly the former. Bizarrely I also found this product really good when I had a chest infection. Perhaps it was just the toy boy rubbing it on my chest that felt good, but hey, whatever works! I recently discovered that a similar formula is also available in stick on patches, so you can also use the herbal remedy on the go. I know there can be ethical worries about Chinese medicine, but fear not, dragon & tiger balm are entirely cruelty free. Both products are widely available in places like Holland & Barratt. Again if you are on a budget keep an eye out in pound shops as they sporadically stock them.
My final suggestion is swimming. I love to swim. My body rarely allows to me do much in the way of exercise, so swimming is a boon. Since the water supports the body stress is lifted from weight bearing areas, which can relieve pain. I find can stretch my body whilst swimming in ways I simply cannot outside of the pool. Swimming is also a great low impact form of aerobic exercise, meaning you can stick two fingers up to the notion of ‘ no pain, no gain’. Even if you aren’t a strong swimmer or can’t manage actual laps, getting into a swimming pool can still be beneficial. Just treading water, holding onto wall/float & kicking your legs or simply walking in the water can really help. Best of all, you can finish your session with a soak in the hot tub or a sauna!
Obviously you should consult your Dr before trying anything new. I’d also like to be clear that I suggest these to compliment medications & traditional treatments. I take a cornucopia of medications plus physio & other treatments. I could not function without them. I would never advocate ignoring medical advice.