Today I am in pain and I have been suffering from temporomandibular dysfunction which is basically severe pain in my jaw and inability to open my mouth – which to some, could be seen as a positive.
In order to discover how to lessen the pain I have been researching natural pain relief remedies. It seems the most recommended method is to apply a source of heat, such as a hot water bottle, to the affected area.
Also worth noting
However I wondered why pain is relieved by heat. How does applying a source of heat to a painful area lessen the pain?
Firstly we need to look at what is pain.
What is pain?
In its simplest form, pain is a way of the body telling us that something is wrong. It is a mesage transmitted via the nervous system from the area affected to the brain and it has even been suggested that if you distract your brain enough, the pain is lessened. Although that may not help if you have an obvious injury, such as a compund fracture, because an injury still needs tending to but in terms of simple neuralgia and pain that can be felt and not seen, applying heat seems to work.
For example, there is a compound within cherries known as anthocyanins and these are powerful antioxidants that help to inhibit pain enzymes in exactly the way the same way as an aspirin would.
Why does heat heal pain?
These are the simplest reasons why heat heals pain:
- Applying heat to the surface of the pain increases tissue elasticity thus heat reduces your resting muscle tension and helps to relax those nasty painful knots. Useful for stress related pain.
- Irritated nerve-endings are soothed and essentially anaesthetised by the application of heat. Useful for toothache.
- Heat increases blood flow to the painful area, bringing more nutrients to the injured.
- Your natural metabolic rate is stimulated by heat so there is more energy available to fix any injury quicker.
As heat can be useful to relax muscles, use over-the-counter alternatives such as heat patches and pads instead of a hot water bottle, can be helpful for relieving period pain
So as I sit here with a hot water bottle on my jaw, I can attest to the fact that adding heat to painful area does in deed lessen the pain