Chronic pain affects millions of people, and can keep us in a constant state of stress. Whether the pain is big or small, if it never goes away our bodies and brains never have a chance to fully unwind and rebuild themselves. We can become irritable, depressed, and just worn out. But there is much we can do to relieve the stress of chronic pain, with natural remedies for reducing the pain itself.
The problem with painkillers.
We all know how much better we feel after some little pill has made a headache go away. When the pounding stops, our entire outlook changes. Our stress level goes down, and life seems good again. But long term reliance on painkillers does not come without risks.
Research has shown that many painkillers appear to lose their effectiveness if taken over time. Furthermore, some headaches are actually caused by our dependence on the drugs we use to help them. Prescription painkillers can be highly addictive. Acetaminaphen, an over the counter drug that shows up in cough and cold medications as well as popular pain relief brands, has been shown to cause severe liver damage. And NSAID pain relievers can cause stomach bleeding if taken too long.
Still, painkillers have their place, and some are highly effective at relieving the inflammation at the source of a variety of health concerns. By also using other methods to reduce the pain we feel, we can allow pain pills to move back to the occasional use they were intended for.
Moving our bodies can move out the pain.
If you’ve ever sat in one position too long, you know that sometimes simply moving is all it takes to untie your body from the knot it is in. The unknotting is especially vital when you have chronic pain. Movement warms and stretches muscles; helps relieve the stiffness and joint pain of arthritis, and can relax our vascular system so our circulation improves.
Walking is a gentle way to get your blood flowing and relieve stress. I prefer doing yoga after a walk so my muscles are warmer and ready to stretch. Breathing deeply, both while walking and in yoga or tai chi, increases our intake of oxygen. New research has shown that oxygen itself reduces pain, and more and more classes are showing up using yoga and tai chi for arthritis relief.
Of course not all pain is muscle or joint related. If we are experiencing some acute medical condition, however, our muscles may be tighter than usual without our realizing it, while they struggle to keep balanced against what hurts. Gentle exercise can help your body cope with whatever crisis it is under, and allow you to relax and rest.
The little miracle of massage.
I have heard it said that massage doesn’t really cure anything, it just feels good. Well, if you are dealing with stress, feeling good is a pretty big deal. Our bodies need time off to feel good before they can do the healing work they need to do. Pain relief may not occur immediately, but the weight of it lifts after a massage, and you may feel a sense of happy release.
If we don’t have the opportunity for a regular massage, foam rollers are a good way to gently smooth the knots and release stress at home. They come in both soft and firm versions, for different amounts of pressure, and some are sculptured to focus more on pressure points in the body. Most foam rollers also come with DVDs or other instructions to help you roll away pain from your neck and shoulders down to your feet. Look for them with yoga mats and supplies.
Healing music therapy with meditation.
Almost all music can raise our spirits. But there is also specific music designed to assist the healing process. Within the sphere of brain entrainment music, specific frequencies are said to guide the brain toward a state of healing and repair. The music itself may be original new age style, classical, or simply ambient tones, and is sometimes tuned to coincide with the different chakras of the body.
Music therapy for pain relief can be used to help you rest, or as an excellent background for healing meditations. Like massage, music and meditation can help your stress drift off, and keep your pain away from the forefront of your mind.
Check with your doctor about allergies or other causes for your pain.
We generally associate allergies with sneezing or a rash, but allergies can also cause inflammation and chronic pain, especially when they are triggered by something we eat. Lactose intolerance, for example, causes digestive distress, and many people have found themselves sensitive to the gluten in wheat. Chocolate, caffeine, tomatoes, and aged cheese have been known to cause headaches in some people, so tracking what you eat with a food diary could point out patterns between your food and you pain.
Dealing with the stress of chronic pain does not have a one-size-fits-all solution. But using a menu of healthy living choices should help you put together the combination that works best for you.
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