Author: Jackie Waters
Pain is a natural physical response that we all experience from time to time. However, for some of us, the pain doesn’t come and go in the same way that it does for others. When pain lasts longer than six months, it is classified as chronic pain.
When I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in my 20s, I began to learn more about my illness and the pain I knew I’d be dealing with for the rest of my life. What I found out is that chronic pain is a surprisingly common medical condition. In fact, according to WebMD, chronic pain affects 100 million people in the United States alone. For some people, the pain is just a mild annoyance - but for others, it can be excruciating and can interrupt even the most basic daily activities.
Part of the problem with chronic pain is that it can cause long lasting pain signals that remain present in the body’s nervous system for years - or even decades. In extreme cases where the underlying cause of chronic pain is never determined, the constant pain might be permanent.
After my diagnosis, my goal was twofold: To reduce the inflammation in my joints so that I could get back to performing daily activities and to find a way to manage my pain and joint inflammation long-term with as few regular medications as possible.
What is a person with chronic pain supposed to do in order to continue living a somewhat normal, healthy life without relying heavily on prescription meds? What I found through my research is that there are many holistic natural chronic pain treatments that can help you take your health into your own hands.
Here are some holistic natural chronic pain treatments that have provided me relief:
- Yoga & Deep Breathing
- Pain-fighting Foods
- Float Tanks
- Therapeutic Massage
A new study from the University of Southern California found that fasting may actually strengthen our immune systems. It is believed that during the fasting process in its search for nutrients and energy the body is forced to burn through damaged elements that may be causing you illness or pain. While this new study shows promising results, always consult with your doctor before making any major changes to your diet.
Yoga includes a practice of breathwork called pranayama. Individuals who suffer from chronic pain have reported that yogic breathwork has taught them to literally breathe through the pain, and the gentle stretching movements of yoga may also help the body heal itself while reducing overall pain and suffering.
That’s right, reducing your pain can actually be as simple as introducing certain foods into your diet. Ginger is one of them. In addition to helping with nausea, it can also reduce inflammation. Here are some great recipes using ginger. Olive oil also reduces inflammation. Incorporating Mediterranean dishes into your meal plan can be a great way to boost the amount of olive oil you use in your cooking. If you’re looking for a pain-reducing snack food, red grapes are a good choice because they contain a chemical called resveratrol, which reduces pain and inflammation.
Also called “sensory deprivation tanks” or “isolation tanks,” float tanks are light- and sound-proof tanks filled with warm saltwater using a very high concentration of epsom salt. This high concentration of salt allows the human body to effortlessly float, and the sensory deprivation allows for the body to enter a deeply calm, relaxed and almost meditative state.
Although floatation remains more popular in Europe, it has been growing in popularity in America in recent years, too. Even famous athletes like Stephen Curry and entire sports teams like the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks have reported using float tanks to prepare their bodies for strenuous activity.
For chronic pain management, the float tank industry says “floating” can flush lactic acid out of the muscles quicker, thus reducing pain. The floating effect also helps with pain management. Studies and clinical research have shown that reducing the effects of gravity on the human body can actually help muscles heal, speed up recovery and minimize pain.
Multiple studies have shown the healing benefits of massage for chronic pain management. In addition to management of physical pain in the body, massage has also been shown to promote deep relaxation and alleviate the anxiety that is experienced by many patients living with long-term pain or the conditions that cause it. Multiple studies have also indicated that massage is more effective than ice packs for treating traumatic injuries and headaches.
This list is just a few of the various treatment options available to those living with chronic pain. These are just some Eastern and alternative treatments, and this list doesn’t even begin to touch on all the treatment options that are provided by doctors of Western medicine.
In addition to these and other treatments, it’s also important to remember that you should never be afraid to ask for help. Whether it’s asking a friend or family member to do your grocery shopping for you or hiring someone to help with the cleaning, trying to do too much will only make your symptoms worse and could even lead to injury. Explore your various treatment options and use whatever daily, weekly and monthly routine seems to work best for your body. Over time, you might even find that is possible to not only live, but to thrive - even with a chronic pain diagnosis.