Roughly 30% of Americans experience chronic pain, making it difficult to perform the simplest of daily tasks. Pain can literally strip the joy out of life. But chronic pain doesn’t have to be debilitating. Research indicates that you can get natural relief from chronic pain!
Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts for at least six months and can be associated with a number of conditions. It might be the result of an acute injury (i.e. an ankle sprain), diabetes, osteoarthritis, or even a byproduct of a form of treatment.
But whatever is causing the pain, it can be treated with natural methods. There are a number of proven ways to fight back against chronic pain that will allow you to take control of your life and enjoy your surroundings.
If you’ve had enough suffering from chronic pain, it’s time to regain your power. Here are the top 11 ways to manage chronic pain and recapture the mobility and enjoyment you want:
1. Find Ways to Reduce Stress
Stress is a major contributor to chronic pain. It can not only make existing pain worse, but it can actually make you sore and more sensitive to smaller pains, exacerbating them and turning them into daily battles. Depression, anxiety, stress, anger, and other negative feelings and emotions can lead to all kinds of pain, so finding ways to relax and reduce stress is essential to treating chronic pain.
A few proven techniques to reduce stress include relaxing to soothing music, deep breathing, and mental imagery relaxation. Mental imagery relaxation involves finding a comfortable place to sit, and then closing your eyes and visualizing a happy, relaxing place like a meadow, beach, or someplace else you find soothing.
Exercise is an effective aid for pain relief because it releases endorphins that block pain. It might seem counterintuitive, but once you get moving you’ll notice the pain will begin to fade. And the benefits of exercise don’t stop there; because it gets blood flowing, it can help limit inflammation. Finally, exercise can strengthen the muscles surrounding your joints, thus relieving the pressure from these sensitive areas and potentially leading to less pain.
3. Eat a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet can fight off diseases, fight inflammation, and help manage weight. Inflammation is a major contributor to chronic pain, so eating foods that contain anti-inflammatory properties, like turmeric, salmon, ginger, fruits, vegetables, soy, fish oil, and legumes can really help. Equally important is limiting inflammatory foods that are high in added sugars and salt. The best way to cut painful inflammatory foods is to limit processed food intake and opt for fresh choices.
Taking some time to remove yourself from your surroundings via meditation can also be a significant aid for chronic pain. It provides a useful mode of relaxation and deep breathing, which are proven to help reduce stress and fight pain. Find a comfortable area in your home and dedicate at least 30 minutes per day to meditate.
5. Avoid Alcohol
Getting a good night’s sleep is imperative to pain reduction, and alcohol can severely limit the quality of sleep you get at night. When you don’t get a good night’s sleep, you’re more prone to higher cortisol levels (the stress hormone), which exacerbate pain. Poor sleep also doesn’t provide your brain and body with proper rest and recovery time.
Aside from being an inflammatory, alcohol reduces the amount of REM sleep you get. So even though a drink in the evening may make you feel tired, it actually impairs sleeping.
6. Keep Track of Your Pain
Tracking your pain in a journal is another way to treat it. Writing down when you feel pain and when you don’t can give you and your doctor some valuable insight into possible triggers and treatments. Tracking your pain can show you what might lead to increased pain and what helps prevent it. The more you know, the better you can control how you feel.
7. Do Things You Enjoy
When you’re out doing things you enjoy and your mind and body are occupied, you’re less likely to feel crippled by pain. As much as chronic pain affects the body, it’s also a mind game. When you’re distracted by doing things you enjoy—partaking in hobbies, spending time with friends, playing with grandkids, etc.—you’re not thinking about the pain. Spend some more time exploring your interests and enjoying your days and you’ll likely notice a drop in pain.
8. Keep a Positive Outlook
When you enjoy life, things don’t hurt as much. Conquer your pain by continuing to pursue your interests and partake in the activities you like. A can-do attitude will do more than you might think.
9. Keep Your Weight in Check
The heavier you are, the more pain you’re likely to experience. There is more pressure on your joints, while higher fat content is highly associated with increased inflammation. By eating a healthier diet and being more active, you can launch a multifaceted approach on pain that will also help you keep your weight in check.
10. Set Limits and Schedule Rest Times
As important as it is to go out and enjoy yourself, sometimes you’ll need to rest. Managing pain is all about finding a balance. Sometimes you need to say no. Schedule weekly rest times, massages, and other things that help you focus on treatment, rest, and recovery. Schedule time with your friends and time away. When it comes to treating pain, balance is essential.
11. Get a Good Mattress
A mattress is one of the most important purchases you can make. The right one can help you get a good night’s sleep and relieve unneeded pressure on your body. If you’ve been sleeping on the same mattress for more than 10 years, it’s high time to look into a new one—it can make a real difference.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Johannes, C. B., et al., “The prevalence of chronic pain in United States adults: results of an Internet-based survey,” The Journal of Pain, 2010; 11(11):1230-9.
Rosenzweig, S., et al., “Mindfulness-based stress reduction for chronic pain conditions: variation in treatment outcomes and role of home meditation practice,” Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 2010; 68(1):29-36.
Mior, S., “Exercise in the treatment of chronic pain,” The Clinical Journal of Pain, 2001; 17(4 Suppl):S77-85.
Borigini, M., “Nutrition and Chronic Pain,” Psychology Today web site, April 10, 2011; https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/overcoming-pain/201104/nutrition-and-chronic-pain.
Roehrs, T. et al., “Sleep, Sleepiness and Alcohol Use,” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism web site, http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh25-2/101-109.htm, last accessed August 26, 2015.
“Coping with Pain,” American Psychological Association web site; http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/chronic-pain.aspx, last accessed August 26, 2015.
Steiner, B., “Treating Chronic Pain With Meditation,” The Atlantic web site, April 1, 2014; http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/04/treating-chronic-pain-with-meditation/284182/.