Pain that just won’t quit (e.g., chronic back pain or arthritis) is not only annoying, but sometimes painkillers — even prescription medications — are not always enough. They can also have a lot of side effects,Â especially when consumed over a long period of time.
When that happens, or if for whatever reason you don’t wish to take them, try breaking the pain cycle with these self-calming and alternative techniques. Because ongoing pain continually pumps up your levels of stress hormones, it makes your brain think your back pain, for example, is worse than it actually is. Soon you’re in an endless cycle of ever-increasing stress hormones and escalating pain perceptions.
How do you stop the cycle? Here are some easy ways to dial back those pain-boosting stress hormones:
- Listening — really listening — to soothing music. If you’re wound up and stressed out, listening to music will relax and distract your body and brain, thinking about anything but the pain will allow it to settle.
- Mindful meditation. Sit quietly with your eyes closed, and focus only on how each breath feels (in, out, in, out). When other thoughts intrude, keep bringing your attention back to your breathing. After 5 – 10 minutes, begin to notice your surroundings as you quietly continue to breathe. Move forward with your day with this calm feeling and awareness and you should find your joint pain isn’t running you over.
- Movement. Low impact activity can reduce pain sensitivity, be it arthritis or back pain. Water exercises or gentle yoga can help stop your whole body from becoming a pulsing pain generator.
- Massage therapy. Generalized body pain caused by stress and/or bad posture can find immediate relief with a therapeutic massage of warm oil, infused with healing herbs.
- Acupuncture. Easing chronic and acute pain is one of the most common applications of acupuncture. Arthritis, neck pain, back pain, menstrual pain, carpal tunnel, plantar fasciitis, joint sprains and strains, digestive pain, etc., are very commonly helped by acupuncture. If you experience headaches or migraines, relief can be found through acupuncture. If you are interested in learning more about acupuncture, I wrote about the benefits of acupuncture back in February.
- Cold and hot packs. Sore muscles tend to respond well to cold and hot packs. “For best results, alternate between hot and cold packs for a minute each until you begin to experience relief from pain,” says Dr. Jayanardhana Iyengar, a Connecticut-based homeopath and certified massage therapist.
- Pain patches. Another drug-free option is to apply natural pain patches or balms such as Tiger Balm, advertised for arthritis, back pains and muscle aches and strains. The active ingredients in this product are camphor, menthol and capsicum extract.
- Ginger and turmeric. Both have anti-inflammatory properties and help minimize inflammation-related pain. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Arizona and published in the November 2006 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism found that turmeric is effective in treating osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Prepare a simple, healthy drink of ginger-infused tea a day, or dissolve a pinch of turmeric powder in a boiling cup of milk.
If your pain is severe and does not respond to any of the alternative treatments listed above, please consult your doctor to rule out a chronic underlying disease and for further relief.
Photo credit: Greatist