Natural Options for Aches and Pains

by Connie Hernandez, ND

As a naturopath, I see lots of patients who adamantly refuse any form of conventional pain relief – they won’t take “pain meds” of any kind, not even aspirin or ibuprofen.

Nevertheless, I find that conventional methods can sometimes be appropriate.

Dr. Connie Hernandez, ND
Dr. Connie Hernandez, ND

I recently wrote about a shoulder problem for which I agreed to have surgery, followed by a cortisone injection.

I also agreed to take pain meds – I ended up taking traditional meds to “stay ahead of the pain.” In fact, I took more than I had taken in all my previous sixty-five years!

I hadn’t refused traditional meds throughout my life because of any great principle. I simply didn’t need them, because I was aware of the many options that naturopathy offers for managing pain. But in this case the “regular pain meds” seemed the right way to go, and they did a good job of helping control my pain.

How risky are conventional pain medications? These meds generally fall under one of two categories: NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), or COX 2 (cyclooxygenase 2) inhibitors.

Aside from any harmful effects to the body, a problem with these medications is that they can have unpleasant side-effects. And a distinct advantage of naturopathic anti-inflammatories is that that their side-effects are few or nonexistent.

Naturopathic Pain-Relief Options

Here are some of the commonly available naturopathic medications for pain relief:

  • High-potency proteolytic enzymes such as bromelain or Wobenzyme, taken between meals
  • Natural COX inhibitors such as Kaprex that intervene at a different point than conventional meds and don’t cause COX 2-related side effects
  • Therapeutic doses of EPA and DHA as found in fish oil and some algaes
  • Oral and topical homeopathic formulations prescribed for specific types of pain
  • White willow bark, which has similar effects to aspirin
  • Cramp bark – yes, it does what the name implies!
  • Peppermint oil, which can reduce the spasms and pain of intestinal cramping

Dietary Help for Pain Relief

Tweaking our diet can help significantly to reduce pain. For example, sugar increases inflammation, thereby contributing to pain. By eliminating sugar from the diet, at least temporarily, we remove it as a factor.

Naturopathy offers many options that can help us break the cycle of pain.
Naturopathy offers many options that can help us break the cycle of pain.

Eating a preponderance of alkaline-forming foods can reduce joint pain. This means eating a large proportion of fruit, vegetables, and alkaline-forming grains such as millet, buckwheat, and quinoa. (“Alkaline-forming” means that these foods leave a slightly alkaline residue in the body after digestion; they boost our immune defenses, because the immune system functions best in a slightly alkaline environment.) Conversely, for pain relief it’s a good idea to avoid acid-forming foods such as meat (including fish), as well as rice and wheat.

Eating foods to which our bodies react sensitively (e.g., corn, wheat, soy, etc.) can increase our level of pain.

For example, avoiding foods from the nightshade plant family can significantly reduce the pain of rheumatoid arthritis and beneficially affect the course of the disease. The nightshade family of foods includes:

  • Tomatoes
  • Tomatillos
  • Eggplant
  • Potatoes
  • Goji Berries
  • Tobacco
  • Peppers (bell peppers, chili peppers, paprika, tamales, tomatillos, pimentos, cayenne, et al.)

Gut pain can often be reduced or eradicated by eliminating dairy, artificial sweeteners, and gluten.

More Natural Pain-Relief

Following are some additional natural modalities that can help ease pain:

  • Acupuncture, magnet therapy, cold-laser therapies, massage, and manipulation. These methods move energy in the body. Home applications of hot and cold compresses can similarly stimulate the flow of blood and lymph to get energy flowing and help the body heal itself. Electrical stimulation treatments may also be useful.
  • Epsom salt and/or baking soda baths can relax muscles and help relieve pain.
  • Adding lavender oil to bath water can calm emotional pain.
  • Medical marijuana and various essential oils are beneficial when taken topically and internally.
  • Ylang Ylang oil, applied over the liver, is an effective treatment for pain that cannot be treated in other ways.

To make sure you’ve covered all the natural pain-relief bases, don’t rule out emotional issues that may be contributing to the pain. Too much emotional and mental resistance can heighten our subjective feelings of pain. On the other hand, reframing the pain or distracting yourself from it can help reduce the perceived suffering.

The Emotional Freedom Technique, offered at our clinic by Elijah Free, can help reprogram emotional responses that may be contributing to the pain.

Hypnotherapy and visualization can help generate positive emotional states that will make the pain more bearable.

Researchers have found that the loving presence of friends and family can decrease our perceived level of pain.

Naturopathy offers a broad array of options for relieving pain. Many of them can be combined with conventional meds, allowing you to lower the dosage of the traditional meds and augment their effectiveness.

When you’re in pain, don’t lose hope – remember that there are many proven naturopathic options.


Find out more about Dr. Connie’s work HERE.