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On headaches

One of the most annoying things about being in pain is that you are constantly on painkillers – many of us doped up to over the level that would actually be reasonable. So, when a little more pain piles on – like a headache – there often seems like no place to go. Take a Tylenol? I’m already on a very large dose. NSAIDS? No, problem stomach. Here are a few places I go when I need a painkilling boost for a headache. If you want to know more about headaches in general, I found a good source here.

Scent

I’ll start with smelling lavender oil – I keep some lavender essential oil diluted in sweet almond oil by my work seat. If the headache is just coming on, or is small, this can often do the trick. I also diffuse lavender (lavandula augustifolia) when I sleep. Scientific studies show that it induces relaxation and calms the nervous system. Scientists have even found it works for migraines.

Other people find rosemary or peppermint oil to help as well. Rosemary is full of antioxidants and relieves inflammation (the top cause of headaches) as well as raising alertness. Peppermint stops spasms and some studies say it may help headaches, but more studies need to be done before we know for certain,

Dark and quiet

If that doesn’t work, there are a couple of places I go. Generally dark and / or quiet help me calm down. A lot of headaches trigger the same part of the brain (the thalamus) that reacts to light and noise. Also breathing exercises when I try to pay total attention to my breathing in and out and what it feels like. If that’s not enough – a cold, wet cloth over the eyes will at least get me calmed down.

Tea

Image by Shae Davidson. Tank Girl and cats are also great for headaches.

I really like drinking herbal tea in general, so tea was a good place to find some remedies that work well for me. Chamomile is a strong choice for headaches, studied by both scientists and working herbalists, and found to work against migraines and other headaches. Chamomile is anti-inflammatory and protects the nerves. Take the tea as strong as you can – using as much chamomile and steeping as long as you can stand.

I add other ingredients to chamomile much of the time. My go-to headache and stress blend is chamomile with meadowsweet, lavender, and rose petals. Meadowsweet (Filipendula) has a long history of use for headaches, back to the Druids in Ireland. It contains salicylic acid like aspirin, but has substances that buffer the impact on the stomach. It works in a different way than chamomile, and pairs well with it.

The lavender is proven for relaxation and rose (Rosa) is another pain reliever. By mixing these four herbs together (in equal parts), I make a tea that eases pain that pops up on top of my regular pain. The tea doesn’t kill of all the pain, but often takes it back to a livable level.

Other tea ingredients that can work for headaches include willow bark (same ingredient as meadowsweet but doesn’t taste as nice), basil, ginger, catnip, feverfew, and fennel. Most of these herbs can also be infused in an oil to rub on your neck and temples, if you don’t want to drink the tea.

Conclusion

Focusing on headaches, I have a number of tools to use to tamp down additional pain that overrides my painkillers. Herbal scents and teas lead the batch, and lessening light and sound are great helps as well. None of these work like in the pre-pain days when I would just take an ibuprofen and a half an hour later the headache would be gone. But they all do work a little bit.

I have a different tea (turmeric ginger) that I use for body pains. I’ll share that recipe soon in an article that focuses on body pain relief.

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Low Pressure is coming

Do you have a knee that tells the weather? A hand? Mine is a shoulder – and my shoulder says the air pressure is dropping and the weather is changing. While it’s kinda nice to be able to forecast, it’s not so nice when it spreads to my other joints and I get pinned to the sofa.

The wind is blowing in. We have had weather warnings for gale-force winds. And I have my windows open on both sides of the living room because it’s 76 degrees Fahrenheit and the middle of November. That temperature should start dropping any time now and get cold tonight.

It got me thinking of remedies for the weather forecasting body part. My first go-to is Salon Pas or another direct-to-skin painkiller that likely smells like it lost a fight with a wintergreen plant. Anyone who slaps one of those on instantly ages about 30 years with the smell alone.

Step 2 is my heating pad. But I have to be careful because when the heating pad goes onto the already-treated body part it can shoot knives of heat or cold right into the skin. I have found a new toy that I am waiting to try out – an electric hand warmer (with built-in flashlight). It charges through a USB to a plug or computer. I am one of those people with icy fingers all winter. I’m excited to see if it works. It could double as a small, mobile heating pad for my shoulder.

After that, courses of action become less clear. Comfy clothes, of course. A hot shower helps, if I have enough spoons left to take one (not today). Distraction is another good course of action. That tends to mean movies, because the pain lives in my right shoulder – the same shoulder that helps control the mouse for video games. I can really get lost in video games.

What I really want is a large but light piece of armor that I can put on my shoulder. It should aggressive to communicate my pain to other people and keep them from touching me. I bet these folks don’t have problems with people touching their shoulders.

I think I’ve perhaps been playing too much World of Warcraft and thinking about the crazy shoulder armor that everyone gets there.

Since I’d be installing something that large on my shoulder, I bet it would hold my new hand heater pretty well. Or my rice-in-a-sock heater. And really, you could do this for a knee or a hip.

One thing that did help was regular massages, not when the pain acts up, but when I am feeling okay. It works like a tune-up to keep everything working. I haven’t been able to see my masseuse since Covid-19 started. That would be February or March. Too long.

Of course, my inconvenience is minor compared to hers. She is either not seeing her clients (and not getting paid) or seeing them and risking her life and that of her family. That’s not a choice I would wish on anyone.

Getting back to what does work, I drink turmeric spice tea. The turmeric helps with the inflammation, especially when paired with black pepper. The rest of the spices ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice help keep my body warm when the cold comes in with the low pressure. I also sometimes do golden milk – which I think I may do tonight.

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Living with pain Things that work Uncategorized

On chronic pain

Hi. I’m Heni and I’ve been living with chronic pain for a very long time. And I’ve just about reached the end of my rope more times than I can count. At my last doctor’s visit, and yet another, “We can’t do anything about it except give you more pain pills.” I thought I was going to choke. Then I decided I could write about it – and share everything with you. I have fibromyalgia and arthritis – but I want to be inclusive – looking at all types of chronic pain.

I am on a journey to find out what works, even a little bit. I am going to write about it here. Send in your things that work, even a little bit, and we may build a resource here.

Things that work (even a little bit) so far

  • not moving
  • heating pads
  • pills
  • CBD
  • massage
  • popsicles
  • herbal teas
  • aromatherapy
  • meditation
  • screaming
  • aqua-therapy
  • bio-feedback
  • cats
  • sunshine
  • The Great British Baking Show
  • sock filled with rice
  • humidifier
  • yoga – only sometimes

I’ll talk about these as we move forward. I’ll also talk about my continuing effort to find relief and other issues around living with pain. Send in your stories or suggestions and I can blog on that, too.

Also, I find strength in my animal friend the Virginia Opossum. Expect them to pop up regularly.