After, oh, age 8 or so, you no longer get away with wailing when you get stung by a bee or stub your toe. But unfortunately — whether it’s a much-needed bikini wax or your annual mammogram — pain is a part of our everyday lives. It turns out, though, that you don’t have to rely only on your aspirin to get relief. Research reveals some quirky but effective natural ways to reduce aches without popping a pill.
• Shout a four-letter word.
Next time you take a spill, don’t hold your tongue. Swearing can increase your tolerance for discomfort, found researchers. People could keep their hands submerged 35-percent longer in a tub of ice-cold water when they repeated an epithet in lieu of a more acceptable word. Swearing may trigger a series of physical and hormonal reactions that ease the sting of an injury.
• Flip through photos.
Scanning your iPhone for loving faces before an uncomfortable test like a mammogram may make it more bearable. Women who viewed pictures of their partners during a lab test reported less pain than those who looked at inanimate objects or strangers. A loving face may spur the release of chemicals that shut down pain-processing areas of the brain.
• Drum up a steamy fantasy.
Let your mind wander to a sexy encounter to offset acute aches and pains. In one study, participants could withstand more pain and experienced less anxiety during a lab experiment when their minds meandered to something sexual, compared with other people who thought about more vanilla topics. Such fantasy distracts you from the pain, and it also reduces anxiety and relaxes you.
• Sniff a green apple.
Feel a headache coming on? Munch on an apple or light a similarly scented candle. In one study, when people in the midst of a migraine attack sniffed test tubes containing a green apple smell, the pain improved more than when they sniffed tubes that had no scent. Researchers say it could be a matter of distraction, or it could be that the smell of green apple actually reduces muscle contractions in the head and neck, reducing headache pain. Earlier studies found that the smell of green apples helps reduce anxiety.
• Visit Van Gogh.
Gazing at works by your favorite painter may help ease pain, say researchers at Italy’s University of Bari. They delivered stinging sensations from lasers to the skin of 12 healthy subjects who were looking at paintings they had previously rated as beautiful, neutral or ugly. Reported pain was about one-third less intense among subjects who gazed at art they found pleasing; conversely, the pain was more intense when they saw pieces they didn’t like.