Last time we talked about three of my favorite holistic therapies for pain relief: massage therapy, acupuncture, and chiropractic care. These are the mainstays of holistic care for people living with chronic pain, particularly because they integrate so effectively with Western medical care.
This time we’ll talk about two more holistic therapies that have big advantages for pain relief: topical analgesics and Reiki energy work.
Topical analgesics sure sounds like a medical term, not a holistic one. But actually there are many choices available over the counter, without a prescription. These lotions, gels, sprays, or patches usually include a few common ingredients: menthol and camphor. Each has a different formula, fragrance, and delivery method. You’ll find what works best for you! (Personally, I like patches because they stay on the skin longer. But you may find that adhesives aren’t comfortable for you.)
Why menthol and camphor? Menthol comes from peppermint and spearmint, and has natural cooling effects. If pain is inflammation and heat, then the cooling effects of menthol help counteract that. Menthol causes a signal to be sent which your brain interprets as cold, relieving the uncomfortable heat of inflammation. Menthol is also a vasodilator, which means it encourages your blood vessels to widen or dilate. When they dilate, increased blood flow can help relieve pain, especially in muscles.
Camphor comes from a tree called the camphor laurel. Originally from Asia, it’s now cultivated in many places around the world. Camphor is used for pain relief because it numbs the nerve endings. It also produces a cooling sensation similar to menthol. A volatile oil, it should always be added to a carrier lotion or oil.
Based on personal experience, and various clients’ experiences, I recommend Salonpas® products. They offer a wide variety of methods (patches, gel and sprays), and have been around for 150 years. That’s a lot of time to perfect their formula!
Full disclosure: I was recently quoted in two Salonpas blog posts. I hope you’ll read them if you’re interested in the topics.
Reiki is something I experienced for the first time over ten years ago. A friend in massage school offered to give me a session, and I loved the peaceful way it made me feel. I started my own Reiki training soon after. When a client asks me to explain Reiki here’s what I say:
Reiki is a way of harnessing the positive energy that’s all around us. By positive energy, I mean the way you feel when you’re spending happy time with a friend or family member. It’s the way you feel in your “happy place.” It’s not spirits, ghosts, or anything intended to be forced on you. It’s not a religion or religious ceremony. Reiki energy is designed to go only where it is needed and welcome. The person giving the Reiki session is merely a vessel through which that universal energy flows.
Having a Reiki session can begin with an intention. For example, the client might say, “my knees have been bothering me and I’d like to picture the Reiki energy focusing goodness on them.” The session can also be broader in intention, such as to lift sadness or tension. Or the client may choose to “ask” the Reiki to go and to do what is needed.
How does Reiki relate to pain? Well, it’s individual of course. But in 2008 a meta study was done, reviewing results of previous studies. This meta study looked at pain relief and Reiki, as well as two touch-based therapies. The conclusion was that of the studies reviewed, Reiki was more effective than the other therapies. They also found that an experienced practitioner assisted the study participants in achieving greater pain relief.
These are just brief discussions of two holistic pain relief methods. Don’t forget to look at the first post in this series. Next time we’ll discuss
- Magnetic therapy
- Far infrared saunas & mats
Do you just wish you could find a set of realistic, holistic tools you can put in practice that will minimize your pain and maximize your energy? Download my free PDF report to learn 17 EASY WAYS TO START MINIMIZING PAIN TODAY!