Sim­ple at-home so­lu­tions for com­mon ail­ments

Country Living (UK) - - Contents - Words by june wal­ton


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.


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;


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;


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.

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