A week or so ago I was in bed nursing a migraine. My usual preventative treatment is Botox, but this has been cancelled due to our current situation. So I turned to the best resource I know (aside from my doctors of course!) and asked on my Instagram for non-pharmacological forms of pain relief recommended by those living with chronic illness.
Well my insta friends really stepped up and so many people responded to the Instagram story I put up. I had over 50 replies, which was so generous and there were so many helpful and diverse ideas. My personal favourite, as it seems so positive and uplifting:
laughing and lying in the sun
I am sharing the suggestions here so it acts as a resource for anyone looking for non-pharmacological pain relief. Many of the suggestions can be undertaken on your own, while it would be best to run some of them (such as CBD oil and supplements) past your doctor first. Hope you find something useful - and if you have a favourite that isn't here, then do leave a comment below!
This post is for informational use only and does not constitute medical advice in any way. Please be sure to consult with a doctor before taking any new supplements or trying new forms of pain relief, particularly if you are pregnant or live with chronic illness.
- Migraine glasses
- Nausea relief bands
- Supplements - magnesium
- CBD oil
- Roller ball or foam roller
- Flotation therapy
- Mouth guard
- Weighted blanket
- Distraction - hobbies and interests
- Related posts:
The number one suggestion from my insta friends! Heat and ice for pain relief can be really effective for fibromyalgia, migraine and other conditions. There are lots of options, and each person seems to have their favourite. These are the ones mentioned by those living with chronic illness:
Hot water bottle - always one of my favourites too, especially for my achy hip and period pain. Not sure if there are any spoonies that don't love a hot water bottle! Also great is the Yuyu water bottle, which is longer and can be wrapped around the body.
Heat pad - so many suggestions for this!
Microwaveable heat bags and pads - so good for neck or shoulder pain, or anywhere really!
Hot shower or bath - add some epsom salts to your bath for extra benefit!
The sun (but wear sunscreen!)
Koldtec ice towel - I love the ice towel too, as you can either tie it around your head or anywhere that needs that cooling feeling (like my cranky knee!).
Headache hat - a wearable 'hat' that you insert ice packs into for those painful migraine days.
Biofreeze pain relief gel - a topical analgesic for muscle and joint pain.
Cold showers! Brrr, if it works for you go for it, but I may pass . . .
Two devices came up a lot as great forms of non-pharmacological pain relief:
Cefaly - a device used both as a preventative and acute treatment for migraine. It is an external trigeminal nerve stimulation device which you apply to the forehead.
TENS machine - this is a device which uses electrical impulses that 'can reduce the pain signals going to the spinal cord and brain'. A TENS machine may also 'stimulate the production of endorphins, which are the body's natural painkillers' (NHS). So many suggestions for this!
A brilliant suggestion for those with migraine is glasses that contain blue light blocking technology, which has been shown to help prevent attacks. These glasses are perfect for outdoors, or for when using devices such as a laptop or phone that emit this type of light.
Migraine Shields is a brilliant brand of migraine glasses with lots of fashionable styles, and have kindly given my readers 20% off with the code throughthefibro
Nausea relief bands
So, not strictly for pain relief, but nausea can be so debilitating and so many of us with chronic illness live with this symptom. One thing that can be helpful as a non-drug option is nausea relief bands. Working through acupressure, there is evidence they can be helpful with motion sickness, morning sickness or the nausea that comes with chronic illness.
The brand Blisslets is great for their stylish bands that look like cute bracelets rather than a 'medical' band. Blisslets have kindly given my readers a discount of 15% off with the code fibrofog
Supplements - magnesium
Well, my friends on Instagram really love their magnesium for pain relief, and in a few different forms!
Magnesium spray - for achy muscles the BetterYou magnesium body oil spray is a good option!
Another idea that came up was using Epsom salts in your baths. I love them too and definitely feel less achy the next day after using them.
I'm a big fan of menthol as a form of pain relief, and the 4head stick has been a favourite for a long time. My mum bought me one years ago and now there is always one on my bedside table.
A further suggestion for a menthol-based product was Tiger Balm, which you apply to the parts of the body where you are experiencing pain.
Whether you are able to have a massage by a therapist, or do self-massage, this non-pharmacological form of pain relief came up a lot. One of my insta friends also said that she likes to use a jade roller too, which is a great at-home form of relaxation.
This was a big favourite as well! CBD oil was given as a suggestion by many people. There are lots of brands available, but as I haven't used it myself I haven't linked one. Try and find a good quality and reputable brand.
I hadn't thought of food as a form of pain relief, other than it being good for general overall health. A few suggestions came up though! The first is Holy basil (also called Tulsi), which you can drink as Holy Basil tea or take as a supplement.
The second suggestion was turmeric. This golden yellow spice (as in the pic below!) can be used as a dried spice in cooking such as the Simply Organic ground turmeric root, or you can take it as a supplement such as the Solgar turmeric.
Ginger was also given as a suggestion, and I love fresh ginger tea! You can also use ginger as a supplement, and it is often used for migraine.
Homeopathy has been used for centuries, with practitioners claiming that it can cause the body to heal itself (NHS). One suggestion was to use arnica gel as a form of pain relief. Arnica is sometimes used to treat bruises, bleeding and swelling.
I know many people love to use aromatherapy for its relaxing and calming properties. The use of lavender oil was suggested a few times, and is often thought to be helpful for aiding sleep.
The other form of aromatherapy that was suggested was the use of tea tree oil.
Acupuncture can be helpful for some, and is considered a treatment option for some person with chronic headache and migraine, as well as chronic pain, jaw pain, joint pain and post-operative pain (NHS).
A further suggestion was to have regular reflexology. A complementary medicine treatment, it is important to speak with your GP before having reflexology if you are pregnant or have underlying conditions.
There are a lot of really good free meditation resources now, and apps are always a great way to start a meditative practice. Some favourites are Calm, Headspace and Insight timer - all of which have free sessions as well as paid-for ones.
Physiotherapy is well-known for the management of chronic pain, and seeing a qualified physiotherapist can be so useful for many. Your physiotherapist will be able to advise you on appropriate exercise, relaxation techniques as well as manual therapy such as connective tissue work if appropriate for your condition.
Yoga, and particularly restorative or 'gentle yoga', can be so helpful for stretching tight muscles. If you haven't tried yoga before then it would be helpful to see a qualified instructor first, particularly if you have hypermobility.
Gentle low intensity exercise can be very helpful, depending upon your health condition. It is often recommended for conditions such as fibromyalgia (NHS). However, it is best to speak with a health professional before starting an exercise programme so that you can work up gradually and to your personal circumstances, especially as graded exercise therapy (GET) can be harmful for some persons.
There is evidence that exercise can reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks for some people (The Migraine Trust).
Roller ball or foam roller
The use of a roller ball and foam roller were also given as a suggestions alongside physiotherapist. Use gently if you haven't before!
I'll be honest and say I don't know a great deal about flotation therapy, but one of my insta friends gave this as a suggestion for non-pharmacological pain relief. I definitely would love to know more about it!
As a mouth guard-wearer, I know they can be very helpful! Often used for those with migraine if someone has an issue with teeth grinding and/ or jaw tension. Mouth guards are also helpful for those with temporomandibular disorder. Have a chat with your dentist if you think it would be helpful for you!
So many people love a weighted blanket! I have a Mela Comfort weighted blanket and love it. It's so cosy and feels very comforting. Many people find them helpful for promoting restful sleep as well as reducing stress through the pressure on the body reducing cortisol - the body's main stress hormone (Forbes).
Distraction - hobbies and interests
There are so many hobbies and interests that can be relaxing and help us manage pain with chronic illness. Why not try and find something you enjoy? It could be cooking, being creative with crafts, knitting or crochet, watching a particular genre of movies, doing jigsaws, learning calligraphy or other technique. So many options!
I loved this suggestion so much! It's so easy with chronic pain to get into a negative mindset and feel overwhelmed. The suggestion of laughing is beautiful as it can help us shift towards finding the lighter side of the world around us, and perhaps sharing good moments with friends and family.
I hope those suggestions are helpful! (yes, there are 23 - I added one after a great suggestion!) Do let us know any others in the comments that work well for you.
Don't forget to pin the post!
Please follow the advice of your doctor as to all medical treatments, supplements and dietary choices, as set out in my disclaimer. I am not a medical professional, and this post, as well as all other posts on this blog, are for informational purposes only.