As a person who has chronic pain, this list was created with the help of members of the group Ehlers Danlos & Joint Hypermobility on Facebook because I thought it would be helpful to have an easy, one page resource to refer to when my mind was consumed by pain, making me unable to think straight. I even printed a copy for my family to refer to so that they could help me after surgery. Here is the pdf that I use at home.
The way that I think about pain relief is how Dr. Pocinki explained it at the EDS International Consortium in 2016: He said that if you do one thing that takes away ten percent of your pain, that is good, and if you do five things that each relieve ten percent – now you’re at fifty percent pain relief! I have found this to be true and a helpful perspective to have. I believe it is important to try many different things at one time and to not rely on just one.
***Always check with your doctor. This list is not intended to replace medical advice and is solely a compilation of opinions about things that others have tried for themselves.***
- “Epsom salt bath (2 cups Epsom salt, 1 cup baking soda for 45 minutes). Since magnesium is best absorbed through the skin, this helps achy muscles. If you cannot take a bath, soaking your feet in a foot bath with Epsom Salt will also work.”
- “Heat and/or ice. One or the other, or alternating.”
- “I’m always distracting myself from my pain since I’m no longer taking pain meds.”
- Self-hypnosis – Find more information on Alicia Cramer’s Facebook Page.
- “Compile a list of books you want to read. The social website Goodreads you can find your friends and family and find out what they like.” A different member adds “I keep a list of books I want to read on my phone, so when I go to the library, I can be in and out, always have a book to read!”
- “YouTube video for Weil’s 4-7-8 Breathing exercise to help counteract the body’s fight or flight response.”
- H. says “benadryl can curb panic attacks and relax you (can also put you to sleep of course).
- “I also keep lavender spray near my bed, and a sleep Febreeze air thingy too.”
- “Nice smelling hand cream by my bed.”
- “My TENS unithas been a godsend sometimes for all types of pain. I only wish it weren’t dangerous to use on certain body parts (head / chest) otherwise I’d use it everywhere.”
- “Natural anti-inflammatories like Arnica — Arnica Montana.”
- “Biofeedback — hand warming has been amazing both for reducing stress and decreasing pain. Used to be that one could get a cheap indoor / outdoor thermometer and just use the outdoor probe in the fingers to track it. Sadly I haven’t been able to find one in the stores for several years, but they still sell biofeedback thermometers for this.”
- B.W. says “Ucla also has great (FREE) MP3 downloads of mindfulness tracks, they have a whole university program on it”
- “Tennis balls for myofascial back pain — a cheaper alternative for back knots for people who are single like me, or for those whose partners either suck at backrubs or work too much or for whatever reason aren’t able to help out. 2 tennis balls properly placed lying on a soft surface like a bed or very plush carpet can really do great for trigger points.” To get the back, put the tennis ball in a pillowcase and lean against a wall.
- “Taking magnesium can also be helpful, potassium — sometimes we drink a lot water, and don’t have the electrolytes or other things we need to absorb it. Making sure that we have more than just water in the system.” Another member adds, “Coconut water and Gatorade have electrolytes. Be careful with Coconut water if you have high potassium though.”
- “Breathing. Deep breathing can do a lot, and as we get stressed we tend to take shorter breaths and deplete our oxygen. Just 10 deep breaths can help counteract this.”
- “The word “nothing” repeated to clear my mind.”
- M. says “I’ve been listening to some subliminal message on YouTube about ‘healing’ and it helps me relax and eventually fall asleep. Now I don’t know if this will help me when I’m in the worst of my pain but it’s helped some. The messages are about believing your body is healthy, feeling good, etc. Here is another one.
- “Power posing! If you don’t do this already, just 2 minutes can change your cortisol (and testosterone) which can both change your stress and pain.”
- “Although easier said than done — not isolating. I always do this when my pain gets bad, and I know it makes things worse. It can be scary because people can lack understanding and can be rejecting when we most need empathy (or they can be condescending with sympathy, rather than empathy). I think that groups like this might be able to help, though, because there might be people who have been there. I think reaching out to someone, anyone, can be helpful.
- “Of course we all probably know that there is pain and there are times where it feels like (or there literally is) nothing that’s going to fix it or work enough. And that sucks. But I think hope – having hope is the most important thing.”
- “For me getting diagnosed with EDS was really important and having validation. So…hope. Music (for me), love, and letting ourselves live on those days when we feel well enough to do so.”
- “Making sure we don’t lose sight of those things that make us us.”
- “Remembering we are more than just a diagnosis.”
- R. says “What I find interesting is that when my pain tries to take me over from head to toe…oddly enough, my ph balance is off. Prylosac (sp) is good. Weird but works, or h202 therapy. Just a spray for under your tongue.”
- K. says “The nerves that perceive pain also feel tickles, joy, sadness. You can,only hold one emotion at a time. Choose JOY!”
- W. says, “Distraction. Find a movie that makes you laugh till it hurts or scares the heck out of you, you’ll forget about lots of the pain.”
- T. K. says: Watch Why Breathwork Matters by Andrew Weil. Breathwork is a free and easy practice that can significantly benefit your health. Dr. Weil discusses..Vitamins! Vitamin C helps synthesize collagen, Vitamin D helps with body aches and depression especially in the winter, Magnesium and potassium help muscles aches and spasms.”
- B.T. says “permission to rest. One thing that sometimes helps me, often helps me, is to lie down and listen to myself breathe. Focusing on my breath as it goes in and out can redirect your thinking away from the pain. It does take a little practice, but it cannot hurt.”
- A. says “when I’m in pain I focus on the idea that pain isn’t the worst thing in the world. It’s a thing, and it’s distracting, but I’ve been through worse. This can lead me to overdo it, so be careful, but I suppose you would call it “meditating on the pain” and I believe that has been shown to be effective. It involves deep breathing, and that’s helpful as well. It also distracts me from blaming myself, which is very helpful. Eating right/ electrolytes and water are helpful but if I mess it up I’m very hard on myself, so that’s not a go-to when I’m already beat up.”
- T. K. says “app on my phone with binaural beats. Very relaxing. Anything that can help you focus on something other than ‘tactile’ sense can help relieve pain.”
- “I put on music of my pre-teens and teens yesterday… A time when I definitely felt better. It was energizing as it woke up that part of my brain when I was singing and dancing and having fun in my less painful years. I haven’t put my list together but you are all doing a great job with the variety of ideas.”
- Essential oils
- “I play multiple games of Words With Friends, and several other games to keep my brain busy and occupied.”
- “Drink hot tea and honey to relax.”
In case you missed it, here is the printable version.
I am sure that there are many other things that can help relieve pain that did not make it on this list. Some of the more obvious ones were left off because those are things that I try to do on a daily basis anyways, such as consuming a nutrient rich diet, and getting adequate sleep and exercise.
Do you have something that you do for your pain that would be willing to share? Please post it in the comments section and we may add it to the list permanently.
Disclaimer: EDS Wisconsin, Inc. is not a health care provider and does not provide medical advice or treatment. Information provided by EDS Wisconsin is not a replacement for care from a doctor or other health care provider. Please talk with your health care provider about your personal diagnosis & treatment options. All information is for educational purposes only and is not a substitution for medical care or advice.