Updated: Jun 27
We can't talk about treating pain without respecting the practice of body literacy. Pain is the body's signal to pay more attention to a certain part of the body. It's a sign to slow down, treat, rest and welcome a limitation while healing or recovering.
It can also be a signal that something more serious is at play and immediate medical attention is needed (this brings to mind the times that I have been around someone with kidney stones or appendicitis- not normal and immediately calls you to action). A huge aspect of locating the right remedy for discomfort is thinking critically about what your body is trying to communicate.
This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you make a purchase after clicking on a link
we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. For more information, click here.
As more and more evidence builds against the use of prescription and over-the-counter medicines for women, natural-minded ladies are looking for alternative pain relief that works. Pain comes in so many shapes and sizes, it's rather daunting to consider covering all types of discomfort, but we will hit on the types of pain that are most common and easiest to treat at home naturally. Shared here are the holistic pain remedies we recommend to the clients in our midwifery practice, and use on ourselves and our own families with great success.
Jump right to the section you are most curious about:
Different Types of Pain Women Have
It makes sense to recognize that women have such specific issues related to their unique set of hormones, physiology and reproductive abilities, but we don't always approach pain remedies this way. Often we are given a random splattering of options that can work for all general experiences of pain with not much thought or regard to how women may experience it. There are four types of pain that women statistically experience more than men:
Musculoskeletal pain: muscles, joints, movement or injury related
Abdominal pain: women are 3 times more likely than men to have gastrointestinal issues and complaints
Headache and neck pain: possibly due to an embodied stress response and hormonal headaches
Pelvic pain: like in menstruation, birth, postpartum, and hormone related issues like endometriosis and fibroids
Pain can be experienced as both chronic and acute. Chronic pain is something that is ongoing, or comes and goes at regular intervals. Women experience this most commonly as menstrual dysfunctions, like getting cramps and bloating at the beginning of each period. Acute pain is a discomfort that is not a regular experience, like a headache from dehydration or a pulled muscle from exercise.
There is also a big difference in treating pain that is internal versus external. Many remedies work on overall inflammation both inside and out, but external pain is going to potentially respond well to topical remedies, whereas internal pain will almost always require an oral remedy to systemically treat.
Prefer listening to your educational content? Catch our podcast episode on this topic HERE.
Why Women Want to Avoid Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen
OTC pain meds are associated with liver and kidney toxicity and organ damage. Taking acetaminophen (aka Tylenol) for just 4 days in a row raises inflammatory markers in labs that signify the start of liver damage. Thankfully these effects can be pretty quickly reversed when only used for short periods, and you ladies already know how to utilize our detox recommendation from THIS post on drainage pathways.
Acetaminophen depletes glutathione levels which is the body's master antioxidant. Glutathione is produced in the liver and helps protect your cells from damage by free radicals. NAC and glutathione supplements are both extremely helpful to curb internal damage and should be taken with any OTC pain meds.
Regular use of acetaminophen and ibuprofen (aka Motrin) is also linked to heart disease, gastrointestinal issues, gut microbiome imbalances, immune system weakening and even linked to some cancer types. For women specifically, we see these medicines create a disruption in healthy endocrine (hormone) function and contribute to issues with cycle problems and infertility.
There are so many reasons to avoid these types of pain medications, but even more benefits to choosing natural remedies- including the experience of considering the root cause of the pain and potentially beginning to correct an entire web of dysfunction in the body.
Natural Remedies for Pain
Foods: Anti-inflammatory foods like green leafy vegetables, animal fats, garlic, ginger and turmeric should be a part of every woman's regular diet. Ginger has been proven in recent research to be as effective as ibuprofen in decreasing pain and inflammation. You'll love to make THIS recipe a staple in your household. Commit to learning what types of foods are notorious for causing excess inflammation and then avoid them- some great places to start can be found in resources that are based off of paleo and autoimmune eating styles.
Herbs: Ashwaghanda is a plant in the adaptogen family that touts a large array of benefits for stress, mood and physical support. Ashwaghanda taken daily over the course of 2-3 months has been shown to play a big role in reducing chronic pain for women. Nettle is another herb, best consumed as a loose leaf tea, that nourishes and protects the body's ability to physically adapt and recover.
Supplements: Omegas are literally converted into a soothing lubrication for almost every process in your body. High in components that combat inflammation and nourish the cell recovery system, THIS supplement takes a place on our top 4 list of Supplements for Women's Health. Magnesium glycinate is another heavy hitter for women as it is essential in muscular and nervous system processes. Magnesium deficiencies can contribute to PMS, headaches, longer exercise recovery and chronic fatigue. Arnica montana is a homepathic remedy that is famous for bumps and bruises. Taken internally it can help with anything related to physical trauma. It's one of our favorites to have on hand for our clients after birth.
Topical: Aside from the more obvious application of hot (heating pad) and cold (ice pack) compress, castor oil packs can be used to soothe, nourish and help break up pesky scar tissue. Epsom salt soaks, whether in a full sized bath or a smaller tub or basin, utilize the properties of magnesium with the benefits of skin absorption. Topical magnesium can also be applied in a spray or lotion. Arnica homeopathy comes in lotions and gels to make topical application easy. Infrared heating pads get rave reviews from chronic-pain sufferers.
Essential Oils: There is truly something to be said about aromatic benefits of oils, but the following have pretty good research to backup topical application for pain as well. Try lavender, rosemary, peppermint or copaiba. We love using these on our kids because they are so quick and easy to apply. Peppermint is especially effective on the temples for headaches.
Hormones: We really couldn't create a single piece of content without mentioning how our hormones are trying to help us in every moment of life. In the case of pain, endorphins released from the brain can increase pain tolerance, and provide a greater sense of well-being and coping as these helpful stress hormones literally block the nerves cells that receive the pain signal. Exercise, sex, massage, laughter and acupuncture produce endorphins in your body.
Extra Therapies: Infrared red light and infrared and heat sauna are wonderful modalities for decreasing inflammation, quickening cell recovery and overall relaxation. Bodywork like chiropractic adjustments, massage, cupping, acupuncture, assisted stretching and physical therapy.
There you have it, ladies. You are well on your way to building a pretty comprehensive natural first aid kit. Our hope is you have increased your holistic remedy repertoire and confidence. Don't slide out of here without our all-time best pain relieving recipe in your hand, click the link below for this free and instant download.
Although we are licensed midwives by profession, we are not YOUR midwives. All content and information on this website is for informational and educational purposes only, and does not constitute medical advice. Although we strive to provide accurate general information, the information presented here is not a substitute for any kind of professional advice. For more information, click here.