Simple at-home solutions for common ailments
For such a common ailment, headaches can be very debilitating – they cost the UK around £3 billion a year in days off work and use of the NHS. The most common are tension headaches, which are caused by stress, lack of sleep, skipping meals or not drinking enough water. We often clench our jaw when we are tense, which strains the muscle connecting the jaw to the temples, so resulting in a headache. Simply holding a pencil lightly between your teeth – not biting or chewing – can help reduce any tension, as it activates your ‘smile’ muscles and relaxes your jaw. You can also try rubbing a little peppermint oil onto the forehead and temples. One study found it was as effective as paracetamol in easing the pain of a tension headache.
LOWER BACK PAIN
Digging over the garden at this time of year is a key culprit of lower back pain, which can be triggered by bad posture, bending awkwardly or lifting incorrectly. Doctors used to recommend rest, but now advise that long periods of inactivity are bad for you. Tight hamstrings place additional stress across the lower back and the sacroiliac joint between the pelvis and spine, leading to even more pain. To gently stretch them out, sit on the edge of a chair and stretch out one leg, toes pointing at the ceiling. Sit up straight and roll your pelvis forward, feeling a light stretch up the back of your leg. Repeat with the other leg. At night, place a pillow under your knees if you sleep on your back or between your knees if you sleep on your side – these positions
ease the strain on your spine.
When you’re feeling achy, it’s tempting to just sit down and put your feet up, but the best remedy is the exact opposite. Exercise is vital for anyone suffering from joint pain or stiffness. Not only will it help control weight and so reduce the strain on joints, it will also strengthen the muscles that support them, even if the cartilage is thinning. Start with a brisk 15-minute walk every day and you’ll soon build up strength and stamina. Rosehip extract may also ease pain. Studies have shown that compounds in rosehips help reduce joint pain and stiffness, and improve the quality of life of patients with both osteo and rheumatoid arthritis. Other studies have found that rosehip extract can reduce the production of specific enzymes that break down cartilage. Try GOPO Joint Health (£18.99; gopo.co.uk).
When a cold or flu virus irritates the nerves lining your throat, it triggers a cough reflex that can be very trying, especially at night. If a tickly cough is keeping you awake, try taking a spoonful of honey before going to bed. One study discovered that it was as effective as a common cough-suppressant ingredient.
Suffering from a coughing fit in an important meeting or hushed theatre? Try scratching your ear. It may sound strange, but when the nerve is stimulated, it creates a reflex in the throat that can cause a muscle spasm. This, in turn, should stop any irritation.
A bad cold can lead to sinusitis, where the channels that drain mucus from your sinuses to your nose become blocked and the lining becomes inflamed. This can lead to painful headaches and tenderness around your cheeks, eyes and forehead. Saline therapy – sniffing up a salt-water solution – can help wash out the nasal cavities and soothe the lining. You can make this yourself by dissolving unprocessed sea salt into warm water, or try a ready-made spray, such as Stérimar Stop & Protect Cold and Sinus Relief (£8.99; boots.com).
It goes without saying that toothache should always be checked out by your dentist, as it could be a sign of infection. But while you wait for your appointment, ease pain with an ice cube. According to experts at the Canadian Medical Association, massaging the web between the thumb and index finger of the hand on the same side as the painful tooth with ice can help reduce pain. In one study, the intensity was cut in half for the majority of patients. It’s to do with the way cold signals are transmitted through the body.
Around three-quarters of women experience these uncomfortable rushes of heat during the menopause or while having cancer treatment. If you always start the day with a strong morning brew, try switching to a decaf coffee or herbal tea. Experts at the Mayo Clinic in New York found that 85 per cent of women suffering with hot flushes also drank a lot of caffeine. Reducing stress and learning how to relax can also be helpful in reducing their frequency and intensity. Some women have found that controlled breathing for just 15 minutes twice a day helps: breathe in slowly and deeply for a count of five, then exhale for a count of five. Repeat for the 15-minute period.
This information is not intended to replace the diagnosis or treatment of a doctor. If you notice medical symptoms or feel ill, consult your doctor.