3 Weird Pain Relief Tricks That Actually Work
Whether you are a weekend warrior, collegiate athlete, or even a self-proclaimed couch potato, muscle aches (also known in inner circles as musculoskeletal pain) will most likely affect you at some point in your life. The term “musculoskeletal pain” encompasses a broad range of symptoms from a “knot” in your neck and shoulders, to more serious conditions. Such conditions include muscle strain, tendinitis and sprains. Many pain relief modalilties exist to treat muscular pain. In this article, I will discuss some of the pain-relieving “tricks of the trade” that have been the most successful in my practice.
1. Dry Needling: Not as Scary as it Sounds and Incredibly Effective for Pain Relief
Performed with the same needles as acupuncture, intramuscular manual therapy, or dry needling, works in a number of ways by stimulating a healing response. However, the two are quite different remedies. Acupuncture derives from Eastern Medicine and utilizes pressure points, energies and “chis” to heal the body. In dry needling, a needle is placed directly into a myofascial trigger point, or a “knot” in the muscle. It creates a local twitch response. These trigger points are important to treat because they can cause pain, and decrease muscle function and strength.
How it Works to Relieve Pain
Once the trigger points are targeted, an inflammatory response follows. This is vital to healing as it promotes blood flow and nutrients to enter the injured tissue. When this occurs, the hypersensitive muscular tissue reflexively relaxes. Postoperative patients aren’t the only ones who benefit from dry needling. Many individuals, even those with just general aches and pains, enjoy the sensations of relief introduced by the therapy. Dry needling is contraindicated in individuals on blood thinners, those who are immunocompromised and women who are pregnant.
2. Cupping: A Rush of Blood to Heal Wherever it Hurts
Cupping is a healing technique similar to dry needling. It aids in breaking up scar tissue that may have developed in chronically injured muscles. By getting blood to flow to a very specific area of the body, cupping gathers extra nutrients and delivers them to localized areas to aid in the healing process.
How it Works to Relieve Pain
Therapists place cups on areas of the body with myofascial trigger points or muscles with impaired flexibility. The air is then removed from the cup, either using a vacuum mechanism or heat. When the air is removed from the cup, the skin is “sucked” into the cup and occupies the remaining space. The skin will become red on the points where the cupping was done. But this is temporary and will last for about 24-48 hours after the treatment.
3. Electrical Stimulation: An At-Home Option for Deep Muscle Pain Relief
Electrical stimulation can be used for a variety of different reasons. These include muscle strengthening and pain relief. As an increasingly common technique used to relieve pain, electrical stimulation can be performed in the comfort of your home.
At home units are known as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation units, or TENS units. TENS units use electrical stimulation to stimulate sensory nerves. These units are often times covered by insurance.
How It Works to Relive Pain
The electrical impulses “interfere” with the pain signal and prevent the pain signal from reaching the brain. TENS units are often prescribed to patients postoperatively, particularly in those with rotator cuff repairs. This modality helps limit the use of narcotics for pain control. These devices work particularly well, especially when used in concurrence with heat or ice. Although TENS units will not resolve an individual’s pain indefinitely, they are helpful for temporary pain control.
Rebecca Simonds received her doctorate in physical therapy at Emory University, and currently practices at Drayer Physical Therapy Incorporated, an outpatient orthopedic clinic outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Rebecca treats patients with a multitude of diagnosis from orthopedic injuries to neurological disorders. She is also certified in intramuscular manuals therapy, or dry needling.