Senior Health

3/2/2021 | By Kari Smith

Living in chronic pain can be physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing. However, many folks are understandably skeptical of using prescription painkillers and strong medications. Although medical intervention may be necessary, there are still natural steps you can take to ease your pain. Here are some of the best home remedies for chronic pain.

Ice and Heat

Cold and hot therapy are easy, inexpensive ways to temporarily relieve many types of pain – from headaches to aching joints.

  • For stiffness or muscle pain, use moist or dry heat. Heat can improve blood flow into the painful area, and may help improve circulation. Invest in a quality heating pad with an automatic shut-off, to avoid burns or overheating the sore area. Use heat therapy in no more than 20-minute increments.
  • Ice is usually preferred for swelling, inflammation, or injury. Consider using an ice roller for quick pain relief in small, targeted areas.  The ice roller can be rolled directly on the afflicted area (for example, on your temples for a headache) and can be purchased with additional heads if needed. Elevate the area if possible, and use cold therapy for no more than 10-15 minutes. If necessary, repeat after 15 minutes of rest.

Check with your doctor before using heat or cold therapy if you have diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, or other serious health issues.

Vitamins and Supplements

There are many vitamins and supplement home remedies for chronic pain that may help reduce inflammation:

  • In addition to over-the-counter NSAID pain relievers (such as acetametaphin or ibuprofen), caffeine may also help to relieve headaches. As with any other natural remedy, don’t overdo it!
  • Omega-3 supplements may be taken in pill form, and can also be found in food sources such as fresh, wild-caught fish, spinach, and eggs.
  • Vitamin D supplements may improve chronic pain caused by fibromyalgia. 

Food and Diet

Avoid foods that may cause inflammation (a common source of chronic pain), such as fried foods and sugar.

  • Fruits – especially dark-colored fruits like pomegranates and cherries – can help reduce inflammation. However, make sure you eat your fruit, since fruit juices can be loaded with sugar.
  • Eat your vegetables! Again, look for dark-colored veggies. Leafy greens like kale, Swiss chard, and arugula are great options. 
  • Use healthy fats for cooking, like olive or coconut oil, instead of unhealthy margarine, shortening, or lard.
  • Vibrant yellow turmeric contains curcumin, a natural inflammation blocker. Purchase this spice in capsule form, or use it for cooking or to make tea. Be sure to start with small amounts to see what your stomach can tolerate.

Exercise and Movement

For those who feel pain with movement, it may seem counter-intuitive to exercise. However, appropriate exercise actually increases your mobility while decreasing inflammation and pain. Leading a sedentary lifestyle can cause stiffness and decrease strength and mobility – so look for easy cardio and strength exercise routines that get your body moving!

  • Walking is an easy, low-impact exercise that can be done anywhere and for any length of time, depending on your level of strength and mobility. Start small – a walk to the mailbox, for example – and choose a smooth surface, especially if using a cane or walker. Slowly increase the distance and time interval of your walk as your stamina improves. If you plan to walk regularly, a treadmill may be a worthwhile investment.
  • Ask your doctor or physical therapist to recommend strength exercises appropriate to your level of fitness. These exercises may involve using objects you have around the home – such as canned goods – instead of purchasing costly weight sets. There are even DVD and online workout routines that can be completed from a seated position. Or try these chair exercises for the stay-at-home senior.
  • Yoga and Pilates are some of the most effective exercise-related home remedies for chronic pain. Yoga will help to stretch your muscles and relax your body while focusing on breathing. Pilates strengthens your core, which may help to eliminate lower back pain. Be sure to consult with a qualified instructor to verify that the yoga or Pilates class you choose is appropriate for your level of fitness and mobility.

Although some chronic pain may need treatment with prescription medications, you can still make small changes to your diet and lifestyle to eliminate prolonged need or higher dosages of painkillers. Your body will thank you!

Kari Smith

Kari Smith is a frequent contributor to Seniors Guide, helping to keep those in the senior industry informed and up-to-date. She's a Virginia native whose love of writing began as a songwriter recording her own music. In addition to teaching music and performing in the Richmond area, Kari also enjoys riding horses and farming.

Kari Smith