Finding alternative ways to combat sickle cell pain at home

Having various forms of relief is crucial, especially as winter approaches

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by Mary Shaniqua |

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Note: This column describes the author’s own experiences with opioids and alternative forms of pain relief. Not everyone will have the same response to treatment. Consult your doctor before starting or stopping a therapy.

Unfortunately, as winter descends upon us here in the U.K., my chances of experiencing pain from a sickle cell crisis go up.

As someone who frequently hurts, I need multiple ways to tackle this symptom. When you’re doing a DIY project, for example, not every task requires a hammer; sometimes you might need a wrench, a saw, or pliers. Similarly, not every instance of pain calls for the same approach.

While opioids are helpful for me at times, I try to limit my intake as much as possible. The rest of the time, I turn to the following types of alternative pain relief.


Heat is one of the most effective tools in combating my pain. Although it doesn’t alleviate my aches entirely, it does provide me some comfort.

I have two electric blankets. One can be wrapped around a specific body part, allowing me to move around freely, while the other I keep under my bedsheet to help with my sore back and hips. I also have heat pads that can be applied to specific parts of my body.

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Understanding the diverse nature of sickle cell pain crises


I’ve found that applying pressure to an area that’s hurting can offer some relief. For example, I was recently experiencing some light pain in my left hip, but when I repositioned myself and lay on my left side, using my bodyweight to apply pressure, it dampened the pain a bit.

I’m not quite sure why this approach helps me, but it does, so I try to do it frequently. But it’s difficult when my pain is more generalized and not in a specific location.

Breathing techniques

Naturally, my body responds to pain with short, rapid breathing. However, this response can exacerbate the hurt while also increasing my anxiety and making me dizzy.

Focusing on taking slow, deep breaths helps calm my mind and body, which I find reduces the severity of my hurt.


Sickle cell pain is generally caused by reduced blood flow to a specific body part. Because massage can help improve circulation, the therapy can be a helpful tool in combating or preventing this issue.

If I’m already hurting, I’ll massage the body part with either clove oil or poppy seed oil, which are thought to possibly have pain-relieving properties.

With all of these strategies, they tend to work only if my pain isn’t too bad. I therefore try my best to be proactive and use these therapies as soon as I start hurting.

However, I don’t rely on these methods over my prescribed medication or hospital attendance when my pain does become severe. Delaying treatment for an acute sickle cell crisis can cause even more issues, so it’s crucial to know my body.

What home remedies help you navigate your sickle cell pain? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Note: Sickle Cell Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sickle Cell Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sickle cell disease.


Dayo avatar


I have found that acupressure pads help my pain a lot, as they greatly increase circulation to the part of the body I'm using it for. Same with a heated massager (I have one that's for neck and shoulders but can be used on my back and legs). I was able to get each of these from Amazon for less than $30 USD each, and if I use them at the start of pain they really help.


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