Believe it or not, a basic form of aspirin has been in use as a pain reliever for over 2,000 years. Hippocrates was among the first physicians to write about the medicinal properties of willow tree leaves and bark, which was used at the time to remedy aches and fever. The leaves and bark contain salicin, which, long story short, was developed in the 1800s into acetylsalicylic acid, the pain relieving compound found in aspirin.
And so began our love affair with simply popping a pill to relieve all kinds of headache, muscle and joint pain. But almost from the beginning, there have been notable side effects to aspirin’s use, particularly in causing stomach and digestive system problems. To help address those and other side effects, scientists developed other pain-relieving compounds, including acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
Today aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen are all widely accepted as effective treatments for pain, fever, and inflammation. Even more, particularly in the case of aspirin, they are beneficial in treating other issues, including aiding in the prevention of heart attacks, strokes and blood clots.
Still, despite the fact that they’re easier on your stomach and digestive system, the use of ibuprofen and acetaminophen has been linked to increased cardiovascular risks, skin reactions and liver complications.
Treating Pain Without Medicine
Clearly, while commercial pain relievers can be a good way to treat pain, they are not without their drawbacks. In a search for ways to treat pain without drugs and some of the issues associated with them, therapists and practitioners have researched and developed complementary approaches.
A recent study reported by the National Institutes for Health (NIH) in the U.S., finds that many of these non-drug approaches can be effective treatments for common pain conditions.
That means pain sufferers can choose a number of more natural treatments that will not only relieve pain, but also be beneficial for the ongoing management of pain.
Acupuncture stimulates the production of endorphins, which are the body’s own ‘pain killers’. Endorphins actually imitate one of the most powerful pain-killers known, morphine, to interrupt pain signals to the brain.
In addition to being known as a great, low-impact form of exercise and for its spiritual nature, yoga has been shown to relieve back pain and arthritis pain. And it’s linked to lower risk of heart disease, depression and diabetes.
In addition to helping the body release its own pain relievers, like the endorphins mentioned above, massage therapy helps relieve muscle, ligament and join pain in a number of other ways. First, it improves blood and lymphatic flow to reduce inflammation and pain in affected areas. It also speeds up the flow of oxytocin, which helps relax muscles and reduce their pain symptoms.
According to the NIH report, relaxation techniques like meditation and deep-breathing exercises are effective for treating pain from severe headaches, including migraines.
Active Release Technique (ART)
One of the newer therapies for treating muscle, tendon and ligament conditions, ART is used to treat pain due to headaches, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, shin splints, shoulder pain, sciatica, knee pain and tennis elbow, among others.
There’s a reason why your back or knees might hurt after you get up after sitting for an extended period. They haven’t been active and are suddenly asked to start performing. Regular exercise and a more active lifestyle help to keep muscles and joints toned and limber, which helps reduce pain and the risk of injury.
Again, pain relievers like aspirin are effective pain treatments. But it’s important to know that you don’t have to rely on them exclusively to relieve your pain.