The 3 Different Pain Types (3:39)
Not all pain is the same and not all pain relievers are appropriate for your needs. Take this short quiz to find out what type of pain you have and then discover the best pain relievers for your type in the customized plan below from anesthesiologist Dr. Yael Varnado, chiropractor Dr. Steven Shoshany, and researcher Tim Fleisher.
For the Stress Tension Pain Type
If you get a tight and tense pain in your head, neck, or back when you feel overwhelmed, you are probably suffering from stress tension. To quickly address your tension, you may try over-the-counter medicines (NSAIDs), like acetaminophen and ibuprofen, to reduce inflammation. Make sure to consult your doctor first and discuss your symptoms and triggers if you have any conditions or are already on medications before taking anything new.
Keep stress tension pain at bay by eating foods high in B vitamins and avoiding foods high in sugar, which can exacerbate tension pain. Not sure where to start? Try Dr. Varnado’s “Power B combo” — a combination of scrambled eggs and nutritional yeast.
For the Positional Pain Type
When daily activities affect your postural alignment and cause pain, you likely suffer from positional pain. Dr. Shoshany recommends using a menthol-based topical spray, which offers a cooling sensation and minimizes throbbing pain.
Pay attention to your posture and the way your sit and stand. When you’re aware of your body’s alignment, you can prevent long-term injury and stop aggravating sore spots. You can also try using kinesio tape, which lifts the skin and takes the pressure off of inflamed muscles.
For the Structural Pain Type
If your pain is chronic and has a deep-rooted cause, you fall into the structural pain category and should absolutely consult your doctor to check or rule out any conditions that need to be treated. To temporarily relieve structural pain, you can try a cayenne pepper and coconut oil salve. Simply mix a tablespoon of cayenne pepper with five tablespoons of fractionated coconut oil and pour into a clean and empty spray or roll-on bottle. When you apply the salve to the painful area, the active ingredient in cayenne pepper or capsaicin will temporarily deactivate nerve endings and block pain signals to the brain.
To prevent structural pain, Fleisher recommends trying the balloon-blowing exercise. For this exercise, you need a hand towel, bath towel, small exercise ball, and an uninflated balloon. To start, lie down on an exercise bench or floor and place a rolled-up hand towel under your head and a rolled-up bath towel under your tailbone. Make sure the bath towel is not under your lower back as the exercise is meant to relax the lower back. Bend your knees and prop your feet against a wall or up on a chair, allowing the pelvis to tilt slightly upward. Place the exercise ball between your knees and hold it there throughout the exercise, engaging your hamstrings. Let your back and hips relax. Once you’re comfortably situated, place the balloon in your mouth and inflate it completely before letting any air out. You can repeat this balloon inflation exercise between five and 10 times and it will work the deep core muscles in your abs, helping release the structural pain in the back.