CARE2 HEALTHY LIVING | 8 Natural Ways to Control Pain
- By: Zoe Blarowski
- If you’ve ever struggled with acute or chronic pain, you know how disruptive it can be to your life and well-being. And taking pain-relieving drugs can come with many side effects, including potential addiction. The current opioid crisis in many countries has been largely fueled by an increase in prescriptions to opioid medications for pain control.
NATURAL METHODS FOR PAIN CONTROL1. Exercise
Exercise may not be at the top of your list when you’re dealing with pain, but research has shown that physical activity can improve your ability to cope with pain.
A 2014 study examined the pain tolerance levels of volunteers who used a stationary bicycle for 30 minutes, three times a week, for six weeks. Their ability to withstand pain had increased substantially by the end of the study. But, interestingly, their pain thresholds had not changed. They still felt the pain, but it didn’t bother them as much.
Researchers suggested this may be due to changes in the brain that result from a sustained exercise program. It may not physically affect the pain, but regular exercise can somehow change your perception of the pain so it becomes less disruptive to your life.
Related: 6 Best Exercises for People with Chronic Pain
2. MassageScience is unclear on exactly how massage works to relieve pain, but a 2016 scientific review found such compelling evidence to support massage in pain treatment that researchers concluded massage therapy “should be strongly recommended as a pain management option.”
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Studies have also found that massage has psychological benefits for those dealing with chronic pain. It can help you cope more effectively with the emotional aspects of pain, as well as assist with relaxation and stress reduction.
3. MeditationEvidence has revealed that practicing meditation and mindfulness activates unique pathways in your brain that help reduce pain. And you don’t even need much meditation experience to see benefits. Participants in one study had significant reductions in pain intensity after meditating for only four days, for 20 minutes per day. The participants had never meditated at all prior to learning the technique for the study.
A 2012 scientific review found that meditation or mindfulness practices that focus on the present moment are the most beneficial for pain control. The most important aspects of practice to support pain relief are:
- Sustained attention to the moment-to-moment experience of sensory, emotional and cognitive events
- The recognition that such events are fleeting and changeable
- Not reacting to these events and maintaining a lack of emotional or cognitive involvement with them
4. Heat and Cold TherapyHeat or cold therapy can provide effective pain relief, as long as you use the right therapy for the pain you’re experiencing.
Cold therapy restricts blood flow and is typically used to reduce immediate swelling and inflammation. You can use an ice pack on a bruise, muscle strain or an arthritic joint that feels inflamed or hot. A cold pack should only be applied for a short time to prevent any skin damage.
On the other hand, heat therapy helps get blood moving and improves circulation. It can reduce pain from stiff, sore, or tense muscles and joints. Heat therapy works better over a longer period, so try using a hot pack for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Having a long bath or session in a sauna can also soothe pain.
5. Guided ImageryGuided imagery involves generating specific images in your mind that are meant to evoke certain physiologic changes, such as promoting relaxation or relieving pain. It can be done with a therapist or on your own. That said, it’s recommended to at least learn the technique from a trained therapist before using it alone to get the most out of your practice.
Research has shown that guided imagery can be very effective against pain. It can also improve movement and function, as well as reduce the need for pharmaceutical pain medications.
Many guided imagery scripts are available online or in books. A simple imagery exercise you can experiment with is to close your eyes and try to create a visual image of your pain. Give it a shape, color, size, and movement. Next, try slowly replacing this image with a more pleasing one, and then letting that image move away from your body, taking the pain with it.
6. AcupunctureA 2012 scientific review investigated the use of acupuncture for pain treatment. The review examined 82 current studies that looked at acupuncture’s effect on various types of chronic pain, such as headache and osteoarthritis pain.
The review concluded that acupuncture is an effective treatment for chronic pain. It also found that the pain-relieving effects of acupuncture persist over time, and these benefits are not simply due to the placebo effect.
7. Chiropractic TherapyChiropractic treatment is becoming more recognized as a pain reduction strategy. The American College of Physicians even recommends it as an alternative to pharmaceutical drugs for low back pain. Chiropractic care can also help relieve other musculoskeletal-related pains.
Chiropractors manipulate your body’s alignment with the goal of relieving pain and supporting your body to heal itself. A chiropractor can also advise on improving your posture and other biomechanics to further relieve pain.
8. DietInflammation itself can cause pain, as well as make some painful conditions worse. Eating a diet that reduces inflammation will naturally combat pain.
An anti-inflammatory diet typically includes lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and other whole foods, while limiting processed and refined foods. A few studies have also shown a reduction in pain and inflammation when participants followed vegan or vegetarian diets.
Whether you eat a plant-based diet or not, you can’t go wrong by including some of these 16 foods that fight inflammation and pain in your daily meals and avoiding processed foods.
Also, make sure you consult your doctor before starting any new routine to control pain. They can help you design a pain-control strategy that will work best for your current situation.