How I deal with muscle pain with natural pain relief solutions – also in pregnancy

My journey through muscle pain and how I deal with it through natural pain relief will bore some but I am sure will fascinate most mums and dads – especially if they have experienced constant muscle pain from a sport injury or even pregnancy at least once in their lifetime.

I have the mind of a 20 something trapped in the body of a 40 something…  This can cause problems because my young mind makes me want to do hazardous things that a woman in her 40s would not necessarily do. But I strongly believe that life has to be lived to the full to feel good and healthy. The Romans used to say Mens sana in corpore sano which means that a healthy body helps keep your mind young. And as an Italian, I certainly stick to it!

Monica fencing collage

Photos courtesy of Memorygate

To cut the story short, last Summer I played a Beach Volley tournament and injured my shoulder pretty badly: I ended up tearing a muscle irreparably (10mm x 6mm tear),  getting a severe tendinosis and also a bursa on the same right shoulder. I could have avoided that by warming up before the match but how cool would it sound on a sunny afternoon to say to your 20+ friends ‘sorry guys I am warming up for half hour before the match’. At friendly matches on the beach you don’t really do it. It’s been such a costly mistake for me.

Eight months down the line, after going through lots of pain, one steroid injection and 12 weeks of physiotherapy, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. To get me through the pain for almost a year, used all sorts of natural pain relief solutions and feel I have become an expert in this field.

Talking to various friends, I ended up knowing all their ‘hidden’ problems … I have come to the conclusion that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. People prefer using natural pain relief to begin with before going down the medicine route.

Here I will showcase the products I tested over the past months to keep me mobile and allow me to do what I love like fencing despite the pain.
 

Deep Freeze

natural pain relief DFP 2

Deep Freeze Pain Relief Cold Patch is easily applied to the affected painful area like a plaster and releases cold to keep you pain free for approximately three hours. As it does not contain drugs, it is suitable also for ongoing pain during pregnancy. For my shoulder injury it worked miracles and helped me being pain free during my fencing training and my physio sessions. The Deep Freeze Cold Patch ensures consistent, long-lasting cold analgesia at the point of pain but without the mess and fuss of ice packs. It contains menthol, aloe vera and water in a hydrogel layer which slowly evaporates to produce prolonged cooling relief without a hint of drips or dampness. The slim profile and flexibility of the adhesive patch means it can easily be hidden under clothing. The adhesive patch can also be worn without restricting movement or needing to be replaced frequently to maintain the cooling effect. Once in place it will work for up to three hours. RRP is £1.55 for a single patch and £5.10 for a pack of four patches.

natural pain relief DF Spray

I enjoyed the Deep Freeze Spray especially during or after sport sessions to cool the painful muscle areas. The relief is immediate without the nasty ingredients.

Exercise during Pregnancy

Deep Freeze was created actually as the suitable alternative to Deep Heat for pregnant women. It’s a important to keep active during pregnancy. Exercising when you’re expecting reduces the risk of diabetes, minimises weight gain and cuts the chances of complications in labour. There is even evidence it could even make your baby brainier.

On paper it’s a no-brainer, one study found exercise reduces the risk of pre-eclampsia, a potentially dangerous pregnancy complication by 34% while another reported that mums-to-be who don’t exercise are twice as likely to have a caesarean delivery.

But new research from Mentholatum (makers of Deep Freeze) shows that more than a third of women (37%) cut back on exercise during pregnancy. And ironically, it’s often for all the wrong reasons.

Half (50%) complained they were too tired to work-out, yet studies have shown that exercise helps combat fatigue, during pregnancy. One in five avoided exercise because of back pain, but studies show keeping active will reduce the risk of back pain and problems in pregnancy. And one in six (16%) worried they would hurt their baby, despite studies confirming there are physical and cognitive benefits.

Tellingly, not one of the 1,000 women quizzed for Deep Freeze Cold Patch, said their doctor or midwife had told them to rest during pregnancy. However the Deep Freeze survey reveals that a quarter (18%) stopped exercising the moment they knew they were pregnant and one in six (7%) gave up in the first few weeks. Perhaps not surprisingly, almost half (49%) thought their fitness levels had fallen as a result of pregnancy and parenthood.

The Deep Freeze data suggests these decisions are often misguided as one in eight (12%) wrongly believed women should stop working out at the earliest point in their pregnancy and a further one in seven (14%) believed women should stop before the end of the first trimester.

Almost a third (30%) of the new mothers surveyed said they worried that exercise could make them miscarry, and as you would expect, this fear grows with age. Two out of five women aged 31 to 35 (42%) expressed concerns, compared to just one in eight (13%) of those aged 21 to 25.

However the evidence is far from clear. One of the biggest investigations of exercise in pregnancy — a Danish study of more than 92,000 women — found an association between high-impact exercise an increased risk of miscarriage during the first trimester but the researchers stressed the results should be “interpreted cautiously”. And the researchers could find no link with exercise and miscarriage after 18 weeks.

Women instinctively know what works. Two out of three (66%) of those surveyed thought swimming was beneficial during pregnancy, and a similar number (65%) identified walking as one of the most appropriate activities.

Pregnancy hormones soften and relax ligaments and muscles in preparation for labour and this common cause of back ache in pregnancy. Half the women (50%) surveyed reported problems, with three quarters reporting it started in the second (46%) or third (31%) trimester.

When it’s best to take a time-out

  • Medical conditions which may make it unsafe to exercise include:
  • Heart disease
  • Incompetent cervix — when the cervix begins to dilate before the baby is due
  • Pre-eclampsia and/or pregnancy induced hypertension
  • Persistent bleeding in the second or third trimester
  • Placenta previa
  • Multiple pregnancy

 

Deep Heat

For non pregnant women and fitness fans there are lots of stronger non medicinal products that can be purchased in supermarkets over the counter. I used all sorts of Deep Heat variations including the Pain Relief Heat Patch and the Muscle Roll-on lotion (in a Rosemary’s fragrance that makes you smell like a chicken going in the oven), the muscle rescue patch and lotion.

 natural pain relief DH Patch

The roll on lotion is by far my favourite one as it helped me get up pain free in the morning. These simple remedies allowed me to continue my fencing training which I love while I was healing from my shoulder injury.

natural pain relief DHRB - 2nd

Back pain did not stop tennis ace Andy Murray steering Great Britain to their first Davis Cup final in 37 years — but it is proving to be a break-point for thousands of young Britons, new research has revealed.

Seven out of ten adults have experienced back pain at some time in their lives, but surprisingly 72 per cent of those affected are under the age of 35 when they first experience symptoms.

The specialist doctor who visited me after seven months of physio and fencing told me that being active and working out despite the pain has sped up my recovery. The Mentholatum study has confirmed that. The poll revealed that lack of movement is bad, with two out of five people (42%) identifying sitting at a desk as the primary trigger for their troubles, followed by standing for long periods (35%).

Simple movements also emerged as problem areas with a third (34%) reporting that bending down was a common cause of back problems and a similar number (31%) blaming twisting.

Other common culprits were perhaps more predictable — gardening and carrying shopping were a source of back pain for almost a third (29%) of those who were quizzed, and DIY was the downfall of one in six (17%).

natural pain relief Patch

What was far from predictable was the scale of suffering back pain inflicts on the nation. Shockingly, almost a quarter (23%) of those affected suffer discomfort on a daily basis, and one in ten (9%) reported being in constant pain.

Almost half (45%) said back pain had disrupted their sleep and more than a quarter (27%) had been forced to take time off work. Two out of five people (41%) with back pain said they felt worn down by their discomfort, a third (33%) said it left them feeling frustrated and a similar number (31%) admitted it made them irritable.

However, there are some simple steps you can take to help reduce the risk, and proven strategies to ease back problems.

REDUCE RISK

Always prepare before physical activity. Personal fitness trainer Toby Garbett advises: “The risk of muscle injury and aches is significantly reduced if you prepare properly for activity with a warm up. The new Deep Heat Muscle Massage Roll-on Lotion from Mentholatum is perfect to use before exercise. It can be used to gently target tight, knotted muscles and loosen any trouble spots. By using the new Deep Heat Muscle Massage Roll-on Lotion on these areas before exercise I managed to loosen and soften muscles, so they could move more easily.

Bend it: When lifting anything heavy, always bend from your knees.

Lose weight: Being overweight not only increases the risk of back pain, but it also increases inflammation, which will exacerbate pain problems.

 

ACTION FOR ACHES

Keep active: Bed rest doesn’t help. Current advice is to keep moving. People who remain active recover more quickly.

Get to the point: Use treatments like hot therapy to target muscular pain directly. According to Toby, the benefits of thermotherapy to help aid muscular back pain are huge. Thermotherapy is ideal for long term pain problems such as back ache as it helps provide quick and effective relief with none of the potential problems that may be associated with long-term use of some oral painkillers. So if you suffer from mild to moderate muscular pain, back pain, rheumatic pain, sprains and strains or inflammation you could opt for a topical pain relieving gel like Deep Relief Pain Relief Gel. However, if the pain becomes severe or worsens, always seek GP advice immediately.

 

ActiPatch®

ActiPatch® is another non medicinal product I have tested available over the counter (at Boots, www.boots.com, Superdrug, Lloyds Pharmacy, and independent pharmacies) but it is not suitable during pregnancy.

natural pain relief ActiPatch Muscle & Joint Box 3D

ActiPatch® helps long-term with pains and strains without the need for taking pills and can also help heal the problem area over time unlike other pain relief products. It provides advanced long-lasting chronic pain relief using electromagnetic pulse therapy and works for back pain, knee pain, muscle & joint pain, arthritis, sciatica, fibromyalgia, strains, sprains and more.  BioElectronics ActiPatch® (RRP £24.99) is drug and ingredient-free so is safe for continuous use and can be used while taking any other medication. Unlike a TENS machine, you will not feel heat or vibration. In fact, ActiPatch® is completely sensation free, so the only thing you are going to feel is better.

Personally I haven’t used it long enough to ripe the full benefits of the electromagnetic impulses but it is supposed to last for 720 hours and be better than TENS machines. During my short test, it has been very effective.

Prevention is better than cure! Tips on coping with joint and muscle pain

The cold weather can be problematic for people who suffer with joint and muscle pain. Nerve endings in joints and muscle tissues are sensitive to changes in weather pressure and temperature which in turn cause stiffness and pain, worsening in cold, damp conditions.

Keep warm externally by layering up clothes and ensuring your extremities (hands, feet and head) are kept toasty with gloves, thick socks and a hat. If you suffer with neck and shoulder pains, always wear a scarf and protect the lower back by tucking a thermal vest in so as not to expose that area.

Keeping warm internally will help to increase your metabolism, thus warming you up all over. Opt for hearty soups, warm drinks and spicy food if you like chilli! Add some ground turmeric to soups as this natural spice has anti-inflammatory properties which will help to ease pain from swollen muscles.

Use a natural pain reliever when possible. Taking over the counter pain relievers may help in the short term but many have problematic side effects and cannot always be used for long periods of time. ActiPatch® pain relief devices work using electromagnetic pulse therapy and are totally drug-free and clinically proven to be very effective in the long term for easing the symptoms of arthritis, fibromyalgia, muscle and joint soreness, sprains and strains.

Taking a warm bath will soothe aching muscles and help them to relax. Add some detoxifying Epsom bath salts or Arnica salts to the tub for an extra health boost. If possible, spend time in a hot tub as the water jets will gently massage a sore back.

Staying active is important all year round but more so in the winter when our bodies naturally stiffen up a little. Exercising indoors is a great option if you don’t fancy braving the outside weather, so research some local fitness classes or do a work out at home. Remember to be gentle with your body if you are in pain and don’t do anything that hurts.

Increase your vitamin D intake with a natural supplement. Vitamin D is mainly gained from the sunshine but this can be scarce in winter. A lack of vitamin D is thought to increase the risk of osteoporosis and rickets, leading to joint pain. There is a wide variety of supplements available nowadays but always check with your doctor before taking anything as it may interfere with existing medication or health problems.

About Monica Costa

Monica Costa founded London Mums in September 2006 after her son Diego’s birth together with a group of mothers who felt the need of meeting up regularly to share the challenges and joys of motherhood in metropolitan and multicultural London. London Mums is the FREE and independent peer support group for mums and mumpreneurs based in London https://londonmumsmagazine.com and you can connect on Twitter @londonmums

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