Pain Remedies


When a bee stings...your back aches...sunburn won't let you rest...a stomach flu strikes, you don't have time to wait. You need to stop the pain fast. Now l49 of the country's leading pain management experts tell you how to end the big and little hurts of everyday life in an easy-to-use A to Z format compiled by Philip Goldberg and the editors of Prevention magazine. With this authoritative volume, you can have a doctor's advice at your fingertips, twenty-four hours a day. A source you can rely on, Pain Remedies ...
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When a bee stings...your back aches...sunburn won't let you rest...a stomach flu strikes, you don't have time to wait. You need to stop the pain fast. Now l49 of the country's leading pain management experts tell you how to end the big and little hurts of everyday life in an easy-to-use A to Z format compiled by Philip Goldberg and the editors of Prevention magazine. With this authoritative volume, you can have a doctor's advice at your fingertips, twenty-four hours a day. A source you can rely on, Pain Remedies alerts you when pain is serious enough to call your physician and provides clear instructions for alleviating the discomfort of 77 common ailments.


  • A Chinese healing technique to stop headache pain in minutes
  • A quick move that will limit the pain—and damage—of burns
  • The ingredient in pineapple that dramatically eases inflammation
  • Three tips to end computer eyestrain
  • The secret of steam for sinus pain

    and much more!
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440226550
  • Publisher: Dell Publishing
  • Publication date: 9/8/1998
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 4.22 (w) x 6.96 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Philip Goldberg is the author of The Intuitive Edge and co-author of A Different Kind of Healing and Get Out of Your Own Way. He lives in Los Angeles.

Willibald Nagler, M.D., is the physiatrist-in-chief at the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center and professor of rehabilitation medicine at Cornell University Medical College, and consultant to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, all in New York City. He is also the author of Dr. Nagler's Body Maintenance and Repair Book.

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Read an Excerpt

Back Pain

Speedy Relief for an Aching Back

Most back pain is caused by muscle spasms--abnormal contractions that squeeze the blood vessels in some area of the back, depriving that tissue and muscle of nourishment. The good news is that most back pain responds to self-care. Even better news: If managed properly, most back pain resolves itself within two weeks.

These tips can help you manage your pain.

Turn the pain on "cold." "Ice is especially helpful when the pain is most acute--the first two to three days," says Richard Aptaker, D.O., chief of the department of physical medicine and director of the Spine Clinic at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco. "It helps reduce inflammation and relaxes the muscle spasm. Apply ice to the painful area for about 15 minutes at a time every 2 hours, six to eight times a day."

But don't put ice directly on your skin, advises Thomas Rizzo, Jr., M.D., a physiatrist in the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. "It could cause frostbite," he says. "Put a thin towel between the ice and your skin."

Heat it up--maybe. Not all experts advise heat. "I recommend using ice when back pain is caused by overuse or spasm, and heat if the discomfort is related to stiffness of the joints or muscles," says Dr. Rizzo. "Heat loosens the muscles and makes them more flexible."

And if you're using heat, put your hot-water bottle or heating pad on your back, rather than lying directly on it, says Thomas B. Curtis, M.D., a physiatrist at the Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle. "You don't want to fall asleep and burnyourself."

Wear a corset. "Muscles support the bones, disks, and nerves that make up the spine," says Dr. Rizzo. "Weak muscles put more pressure on those structures. So wearing a soft, elasticized corset can help support the back."

But don't depend on a corset for too long, he adds. "Prolonged use of a corset can make the muscles weaker."

Get into position to heal. When your back hurts, trying the following positions may make you more comfortable, says Dr. Aptaker. Lie on your back on the floor with a pillow or rolled-up towel under your knees and another under your neck. Then raise your arms over your head to give your spine a bit of a stretch.

Or you can lie on your side with one pillow between your knees and another under your head, says Dr. Aptaker. You might also place a rolled-up towel under your waist.

Sit right. Sitting can aggravate back pain, according to Dr. Aptaker. "It's one of the worst things that you can do," he says. If you have to sit, "use a chair with good back support and armrests, which reduce pressure on your back. Also, put a pillow behind your lower back and keep your feet flat on the floor with your knees bent."

Consider a pain reliever. Most experts recommend an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) for back pain. "Take two 200-milligram tablets of ibuprofen, no more than three times a day," says Dr. Aptaker. While an NSAID can relieve pain quickly, "healing the inflammation can take 10 to 14 days," he notes.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

If you suspect that you have carpal tunnel syndrome, see a doctor immediately, say experts. If the condition is caught early enough, treatment may be as simple as wearing a splint or modifying habits that are aggravating the injury. If these remedies don't work, your doctor may recommend injecting corticosteroids into the carpal tunnel to reduce the swelling.

If steroid treatment doesn't help, you may need surgery, says David Rempel, M.D., associate professor in the division of occupational medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine. But surgery is considered the last resort, he says.

Taming the Tingling

If you have CTS, your doctor has most likely recommended that you stop or modify activities that involve repetitive wrist motion. But you can do more than keep the injury from worsening: You can reduce or stop the pain. Here's how to find relief.

Put the ache on ice. Fill a plastic bag with ice, wrap it in a thin towel, and vigorously rub it over the top of your wrist, suggests Leon Robb, M.D., director of the Robb Pain Management Group in Los Angeles. "The ice helps reduce fluid retention around the ligament that covers the carpal tunnel, which reduces the pressure on the median nerve," he says.

Keep your wrist in neutral. Wear a wrist splint, suggests John F. Lawrence, M.D., assistant professor of hand surgery at the University of California, Los Angeles, UCLA School of Medicine. You will find wrist splints in any drugstore.

Make sure that the splint you buy keeps your wrist absolutely straight, says Dr. Lawrence. "When you rest your splinted hand, palm up, on a table, it should lie flat, with your wrist in line with your forearm," he says. Wear the splint at night, too. Many people with CTS flex their wrists when they sleep, irritating the median nerves.

Try B6 Take 50 milligrams of vitamin B6 twice a day, suggests Dr. Robb. Some studies suggest that people with carpal tunnel syndrome tend to be deficient in this vitamin, which is associated with nerve function. "Some people with CTS can get dramatic relief with B6," he says. Nerves seem to respond to this specific vitamin, although we're not sure why."

Note: Consult your physician before taking this much vitamin B6. High dosages of the vitamin can cause numbness in the feet and uncoordination when walking.

Reach for the sky. Keep your hands above the level of your heart as often as you can, says Ken Meadows, a physical therapist with the Portland Hand Rehabilitation Center in Portland, Oregon. Accumulated fluid in your hands can increase the pressure on the median nerve. "When you sit on your couch, for example, rest your elbows and hands on top of the backrest rather than keeping your hands in your lap," says Meadows. "Also, raise your hands two or three times a day for a few minutes to help prevent numbness and tingling."

Lose Weight--And the Smokes

Here is yet another reason to exercise, watch your diet, and stop smoking. People who smoke or are overweight are more likely to develop CTS, says James Stark, M.D., a physiatrist in the Center for Sport Medicine at St. Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco.

"Studies indicate that a couch potato will more frequently develop CTS than someone who is in good shape and of normal weight--perhaps because they tend to retain water," says Morton L. Kasdan, M.D., clinical professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the University of Louisville School of Medicine in Louisville.

Smoking can damage the median nerve as well. "Smoking causes blood vessels to constrict," Dr. Kasdan explains. "If the vessels that feed the nerve contract, it won't get enough circulation."

Ear Pain

If the last time you had an ear infection was back in the second grade, consider yourself lucky. While most of us do get our earaches out of the way in childhood, there are times when adults get them. One bad cold can trigger ear pain that can make even a grownup cry.

Ear pain comes in other forms besides earaches, such as swimmer's ear and "airplane ear." And sometimes what you think is ear pain can be traced to problems with your mouth, teeth, jaw, throat, or sinuses. So the first thing that you have to do is figure out what's up. Here are some of the possibilities.

"Airplane ear." The bane of frequent (or any) fliers, this ache occurs when the eustachian tube, which runs between your mouth and middle ear, can't equalize the change of atmospheric pressure. A vacuum is created inside your ear--and that pulls at your eardrum, triggering pain.

Ear pain that isn't. Your "ear pain" may actually be caused by a dental condition, a sinus infection, neuralgia (a sharp pain in a nerve or group of nerves), or the aching-jaw condition known as temporomandibular disorder.

Middle-ear infection (otitis media). Children are most likely to develop this kind of ear pain. But adults can develop these infections, too, especially when they have bad colds. You most likely have a middle-ear infection if you feel pressure deep in your ear--like you're talking in a tunnel--if you swallow and you hear water pop or you can't clear your ear, says Barry C. Baron, M.D., associate clinical professor of otolaryugology at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine.

Swimmer's ear. This painful condition starts when water gets stuck in the ear canal, which creates an ideal breeding ground for fungus and bacteria. First, your ear feels blocked and itchy, but soon it becomes red, tender, and swollen.

Soothing Strategies for Any Ear Pain

Ear infections usually don't go away on their own, says Thomas J. McDonald, M.D., chairman of the department of otolaryngology/head and neck surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. So when you have ear pain, it's wise to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist (otolaryngologist). Until you do, here are some ways to get relief.

Keep your head high. Sit up rather than lie down, says Dr. McDonald: "Reclining can make ear pain worse," he explains.

Apply a warm pack. Wring out a washcloth in warm (not hot) water and place it over your ear, says Dr. McDonald. Apply the packs for 10 to 15 minutes every 2 hours. You might also place a cotton ball that has been soaked in warm water into the little crevice between the earlobe and ear opening.

Drop in some drops. Warm some mineral oil or baby oil and, using an eyedropper, gently drop the oil into your ear canal, says Dr. McDonald. Don't use drops if you see or feel drainage from your ear, he says. "Drainage is actually a good thing," he explains. "It means that your eardrum has ruptured and the pus can drain. Seeing your ear drain can be a bit alarming, but the pain is relieved, and you'll feel better quickly."

Go for the garlic. When you have ear pain, eat a clove or two of garlic a day, says Julian Whitaker, M.D., founder and president of Whitaker Wellness Center in Newport Beach, California. "Garlic has natural antiviral and antibiotic qualities that kill many of the germs that cause earaches," he says. If you're not a fan of fresh garlic, try garlic supplements, available in most health food stores and many drugstores.


Try an antacid. "An over-the-counter antacid will provide symptomatic relief," says David Peura, M.D., associate professor of medicine at the University of Virginia Health Sciences Center in Charlottesville. But it is not to be regarded as a cure, he stresses.

Ban the booze. If you're taking antibiotics for your ulcer, refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages during your treatment, advises Dr. Peura. Certain antibiotics can interact with alcohol.

Don't blow smoke. "Studies have shown that smoking is associated with the delayed healing of ulcers," says Naurang Agrawal, M.D., professor of medicine at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine in Farmington.

Take steps to destress. The discovery of H. pylori has blurred the relationship between stress and ulcers. One thing is for sure: "Any time you have a chronic condition, stress can make your symptoms worse," Dr. Friedman says. "So it would be wise for anyone with ulcers to learn to manage stress better."

Choose ulcer friendly fare. Certain foods can aggravate your symptoms. So until your ulcer has healed, "if some food bothers you, avoid it," says Dr. Peura. The usual suspects include spicy cuisine, coffee, and citrus juices.

Also, forget about traditional ulcer remedies such as bland foods and milk. They were never really effective, Dr. Peura says, and now they have fallen out of favor.

Favor fiber. Increasing your intake of dietary fiber with foods such as whole grains and vegetables may help prevent the recurrence of ulcers, says Melvyn Werbach, M.D., a physician in Los Angeles who specializes in nutritional medicine and the author of Healing with Food. There is no evidence that fiber can promote the healing of an existing ulcer, he adds.

Go sour on sweets. You may want to cut back on your consumption of sugar, says Dr. Werbach. "The more refined sugar in your diet, the greater your risk of developing an ulcer--probably because sugar stimulates the secretion of stomach acid," he explains.

Eat earlier. Ulcer patients often wake up in the middle of the night with gnawing pain in their guts. "Researchers have found that the secretion of stomach acid during the night can be reduced by eating dinner earlier in the evening," reports Dr. Werbach. "Less acid secretion should mean less ulcer pain overnight--and perhaps faster healing."

Follow an Eastern path to healing. In Ayurveda, the traditional medical discipline of India, the presence of an ulcer indicates an imbalance of pitta, says Brian Rees, M.D., medical director of the Maharishi Ayur-Veda Medical Center in Pacific Palisades, California. Ayurvedic practitioners believe that pitta is one of three basic qualities, or doshas, that determine an individual's constitutional body type.

Dr. Rees recommends following a diet that pactfies pitta. That means cutting down on foods with salty, sour, or pungent tastes as well as foods that are fermented or fried.
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