If you are suffering from chronic pain, you know how difficult it can be to engage in the daily activities you once loved. You may be physically limited, or your discomfort itself may prevent you from moving in ways that are necessary to carry out basic or desired life functions.
Many people prefer to avoid using drugs for their pain entirely and chose to use alternative methods for managing pain. Alternative pain management methods include holistic medicine, stress relief techniques, and being sure to get adequate sleep.
Numerous studies have shown that acupuncture can benefit patients with musculoskeletal pain (such as lower back and neck pain) and headaches (tension and migraine). EHE physician, Dr. Fatima Hussain further suggests that, if your pain does not interfere with the balance and movements required for yoga, then the mindfulness and stretching techniques taught during this form of exercise can help with relaxation of muscles and alleviate chronic pain. Massage therapy conducted once a week for 60-minute intervals is also known to be beneficial for many conditions producing pain including osteoarthritis of the knee.
Reducing your stress levels after the onset of pain symptoms can also help to manage discomfort. In fact, chronic stress is known to contribute to pain levels. Surprisingly, emotional and social factors of various kinds can magnify physical pain; these situations can induce the fight-or-flight response in people causing additional pain. When your body feels it is on high alert, your muscles tense up for prolonged periods of time, and prolonged muscle tension often worsens physical pain symptoms. Choosing any relaxation technique works best for you is imperative during times of mental or emotional stress. Whether deep breathing, listening to music or light exercise helps you to feel calm, it can go a long way toward reducing your stress and, subsequently, your chronic pain.
Never underestimate the power of sleep when it comes to treating your pain symptoms. Unfortunately, the pain that you experience during the day tends to impact how well you sleep at night, and a poor night’s sleep can worsen your symptoms the following day. Whenever possible, do your best to wake up at the same time every day and set a consistent bedtime. Establish a routine before bed so that your body is trained to know when sleep is on its way. When you have trouble sleeping, for example, you have been lying in bed without sleep for 20 minutes, get up and engage in a non-stimulating activity until you feel tired, like reading a book.
What is happening in the brain when you naturally treat pain? Why does it work? According to the American Psychological Association, the benefits of some treatments, like acupuncture, massage, and yoga, are due to the stimulation of the pressure receptors in the brain. This is likened to hitting your humerus (funny bone) and then instinctively rubbing your arm to ease the pain. This reaction helps you to feel better because the pain message from your elbow to your brain is slower than the signal of the pressure you are applying to your arm. As a result, you stop feeling the pain after a bit of rubbing. Yoga, massage and other holistic treatments work similarly and are healthy and safe alternatives to opioids. Holistic pain management strategies, finding new ways to reduce stress, and making sure you are getting proper sleep are some of the best tools you can add to your pain management toolbox.