Crazy or Brilliant? Extreme Home Remedies for Pain

Right now — in bathrooms, bedrooms or at the kitchen sink — people across the world are trying rather unusual home remedies to cure their pain.

In Mexico, some people rub potato halves on their foreheads for headaches. In Central America, blowing cigar smoke on a sufferer's back is believed to bring them pain relief. And in the United States, rubbing cobwebs into cuts is believed to stop bleeding and pain.

The following is a list, compiled by pain management doctors, of the most extreme measures people have taken to cure pain — sometimes hitting the jackpot and sometimes just hitting their heads.

Physical Impulse

The primal instinct to get rid of pain can lead to desperate actions, including fighting fire with fire.

"I've personally taken care of patients that hit their head with objects — hammers, boards et cetera — or literally pounded their head on the wall," said Dr. Tim Collins, assistant professor of neurology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.

"One patient had her brother tap her on the head with a hammer, because she felt it made her headache better," said Collins. "Fortunately, he didn't hit her very hard."

Perhaps the hammers and boards stunned people into temporarily forgetting their pain, but Collins said it didn't cure their headaches.

Another case of fighting fire with fire — quite literally — is the people who take a hot poker to the sensitive areas, said Dr. Alan Brewer, director of the pain management program at the University of Colorado in Denver.

"They take these hot iron rods, and just poke it into the skin," said Brewer, of the approach, which, he said, he saw firsthand in Kuwait. But he added that this strategy is also practiced among some groups of Native Americans.

"Obviously, their pain goes away while it's burning, so they forget it for a while and pay attention to the new pain," he said.

Yet, more commonly, people in pain are likely to seek out soothing objects instead of construction tools. Doctors in Pittsburgh had a patient who swore by Irish Spring brand soap. Except he didn't wash with it, he slept with it.

"[He put] Irish Spring brand soap under the sheet and over the mattress cover to treat arthritis pain of the knee," said Dr. Doris Cope, vice president of the anesthesiology department at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

"The patient swore that the Irish Spring -- and no other brand -- helped his arthritic knee pain a lot," said Cope.

Good Logic, Bad Logic

When people try out home remedies concocted by others, they tend to look for more logical treatments than sleeping with soap. But a bit of reasoning in the wrong direction can lead to many more problems.

Ear candling is one so-called logical treatment that is making a comeback in holistic medicine circles.

Ear candles are exactly what they sound like -- candles you stick in your ear. Light the far end, and supposedly the smoke or burning wick creates a weak vacuum in the ear, drawing out earwax and other impurities that cause pain.

But while a burning explosion in a tunnel will suck out the available oxygen, hot air on the end of a cone-shaped candle doesn't suck out anything, according to the popular medical myth debunking site Quackwatch.com, run by Dr. Stephen Barrett.

And it might be a good thing that it doesn't work; according to the Quackwatch site, a vacuum strong enough to pull out ear wax would also rupture the eardrum.

So if hot candle wax doesn't work, what about olive oil?

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