woman describing neck pain to doctor
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When to Say When

Pain from injury, accident, or illness can happen to anyone at any time. You can do a number of things at home to feel better. But go to a doctor if it suddenly gets worse or changes -- especially if there’s tingling, numbness, or burning -- or if nothing you try makes you feel better.

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icing ankle sprain close up
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It stands for rest, ice, compress, and elevate, and it’s the go-to treatment for minor sprains and bruising. Ice the injury as soon as possible and put pressure on it with an elastic wrap or bandage. If you’ve hurt an arm or leg, rest with it raised above your heart to keep swelling down. But don’t stay in one place too long -- it’s best to get moving again as soon as you can.

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holding girls arm under water tap
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Use it to clean cuts and scrapes and to treat burns. If you're dealing with a burn, put the injured area in cool water or cover it with a cold compress as soon as you can. If your skin blisters, leaks fluid, loses feeling, or turns black, brown, or white, get medical help right away.

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frozen vegetable ice pack on shoulder
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Multi-Purpose Washcloth

Wrap it around a bag of frozen vegetables or a plastic bag filled with ice cubes for a comfortable ice pack that can help with the swelling and pain that comes with sprains or strains. A warm, damp one also can be used to treat many kinds of infections, like a boil, an infected cut, or a stye -- an infected eyelash that causes a red, sore lump on your eyelid. Or use a cool one to ease the itchiness and pain of pinkeye.

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Over-the-Counter Anti-Inflammatories

These medications include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. They’re often used to treat the pain that comes with inflammation, like sprains. You don’t need a prescription, but you should be careful with them: Large doses can cause stomach pain and nausea, and long-term overuse can lead to kidney problems, ulcers, and high blood pressure. If you have stomach ulcers or kidney disease, talk with your doctor first.

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It’s used for headaches, toothaches, menstrual cramps, and other kinds of pain that don’t necessarily come with inflammation. If you take it only occasionally, it doesn’t usually cause problems. But don't take it in high doses -- that can damage your liver and kidneys. People who have issues with those organs shouldn’t use it without talking to their doctor first.

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Topical Pain Relievers

These are over-the-counter gels, creams, sprays, and patches you put on your skin over the painful muscle, tendon, or joint. They can help relieve pain without serious side effects.

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woman soaking in tub
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Hot Bath

This can be good for all kinds of conditions that affect your muscles, tendons, and bones, such as low back pain and joint pain. Some tips: The ideal temperature is between 92 and 100 F. And don’t just lie there -- warm water can help get blood flow to places that need it, so gently stretch and work those areas.

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Sitz Bath

If your pain is near your behind or genital area -- open sores, anal fissures, hemorrhoids, for example -- a soak of your hind quarters in warm water can help with itching, irritation, and spasms of the sphincter muscle. Put a few inches of warm water in your bathtub, and sit for 20 minutes two or three times a day.

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Whether given by a professional or a friend, or done yourself, this can help relieve certain kinds of pain, like headaches or backaches. Talk with a medical professional about the best ways to target your pain or injury with massage at home.

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These can help if you’re sensitive to light because of migraines or other illnesses. And they can protect your eyes from itchiness and irritation caused by pollen, dust, and mold.

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If your pain lingers, this mental discipline can help you manage it. You clear your mind of thoughts by focusing on one simple thing, such as your breath. It may work alone or in combination with medication.

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Physical Therapy

Often used for chronic pain or after some kinds of surgeries or injuries, this can also treat pain from things like a twisted ankle or pulled muscle. Talk to your doctor about the right routine for you. 

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Aerobic Exercise

People who do regular aerobic exercise -- cycling or running, for example -- are less likely to get certain kinds of pain in the first place. And they’re better able to handle it if they’re injured. Check with your doctor if you’re not sure you’re healthy enough for this kind of exercise.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 12/20/2020 Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler, MD on December 20, 2020


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American Academy of Ophthalmology: “Home Remedies for Simple Eye Problems.”

American Journal of Epidemiology: “Physical Exercise, Body Mass Index, and Risk of Chronic Pain in the Low Back and Neck/Shoulders: Longitudinal Data From the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study.”

American Lung Association: “Stop Smoking.”

Arthritis Foundation: “Warm Water Works Wonders on Pain.”

CDC Injury Prevention: “Burns.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Read This If You Are a Smoker Who Struggles With Chronic Pain.”

Harvard Health Publications: “Physical therapy as good as surgery and less risky for one type of lower back pain,” “Yoga for pain relief,” “Hemorrhoids and what to do about them.”

International Society for the Study of Pain: “Vitamin D Supplements Reduce Pain in Fibromyalgia Sufferers.”

Mayo Clinic: “Cuts and Scrapes: First Aid,” “Dehydration,”  “Have a sprain? Get some R.I.C.E.,” “Self-care approaches to treating pain.”

National Institutes of Health: “Chicken soup inhibits neutrophil chemotaxis in vitro,” “The effects of self-massage on osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized, controlled trial,” “Short-term effects of self-massage combined with home exercise on pain, daily activity, and autonomic function in patients with myofascial pain dysfunction syndrome,” “The Impact of Massage Therapy on Function in Pain Populations—A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials: Part I, Patients Experiencing Pain in the General Population,” “Mindfulness meditation-related pain relief: Evidence for unique brain mechanisms in the regulation of pain,” “Mindfulness Meditation Reduces Pain, Bypasses Opioid Receptors,” “Aerobic training increases pain tolerance in healthy individuals.”

Orthopedics Today: “Home-based rehabilitation can outperform physical therapy for ACL reconstruction.”

Pain Science: “Basic Self-Massage Tips for Myofascial Trigger Points.”


Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler, MD on December 20, 2020

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.