Pain. Everyone experiences it. Some deal with pain chronically, while others may just have an occasional pain. In either case, no one likes to be in pain and filling up on medications is not typically an ideal way to deal with the pain. There have been many studies done on pain management. Below I have compiled a list of some proven, non-drug, alternatives to pain management. Try a couple and see if they help make a difference in your life.
1. Meditation & Yoga. Both are a great form of a mind-body relaxation technique. Focusing on your breath will help ease anxiety, reduce muscle tension, and enhance your stress coping mechanisms. Yoga helps promote both strength and flexibility, while calming the mind and decreasing stress. Reducing stress is very helpful when dealing with pain because stress can make the pain feel worse.
2. Acupuncture. The ancient Chinese healing art where a licensed practitioner places needles into certain points on the skin (know as meridian points) to promote the regulation of movement and to correct any imbalances of energy flow within the body. Not only has it been shown to help reduce pain, but it also helps to improve the functioning of the nervous system and musculoskeletal system, which is often the cause of the pain.
3. Chiropractic. When your source of pain is more structural in nature, chiropractic is a great step in reducing and relieving pain. A chiropractor does manual adjustments to the joints of the spine, as well as other joints and muscles, to realign the body and promote self-healing. When the body is in correct alignment, the physical pain should decrease.
4. Massage. Besides the wonderful relaxation affects that massage offers, it also influences the muscles, circulation, and lymphatic and nervous systems. It reduces muscle tension and boosts the levels of endorphins and serotonin, which are the body’s natural painkillers and mood regulator, and it reduces stress hormone levels. All these affects demonstrate statistically significant reductions in pain, according to the Mayo Clinic.
5. Nutrition & Hydration. Drinking plenty of water is good advice for anyone, but especially those dealing with pain. Dehydration can cause your muscles to tense and it can aggravate chronic pain symptoms such as headaches. Nutrition and diet are extremely important too. Maintaining an easy-to-digest diet, free from processed foods, can alleviate inflammation. Knowing which foods you are allergic or sensitive to, and avoiding those items will help alleviate pain as well. What you consume can dramatically impact how you feel and by fueling your body with the proper nutrients, you can help speed up the recovery and healing process, which will help reduce your pain. For a great link to a nutritional guideline, check out: http://www.naturalpathhealthcenter.com/2010/06/28/five-ways-to-manage-chronic-pain-through-nutrition/
6. Therapeutic Exercises – Range of motion exercises can improve function and lessen pain. Physical exercise programs such as Qigong or Tai Chi can also help control pain. Qigong is an ancient Chinese health care system that integrates physical posture, breathing techniques, and focused intentions. The gentle, rhythmic movements of Qigong reduce stress, build stamina, increase vitality, and enhance the immune system. It has also been found to improve cardiovascular, respiratory, circulatory, lymphatic and digestive functions. Tai Chi originated in China as a martial art, but is sometimes referred to as “moving meditation”. People who practice Tai Chi move their bodies slowly, gently, and with awareness, while breathing deeply. This ancient martial art can be beneficial for emotional and physical ailments, including chronic pain. Both have been shown to help manage and reduce chronic pain.
There are plenty more non-drug options out there for you to explore as well. Our bodies are complex and have the ability to heal itself if we allow it. Consult with your doctors, try some alternative pain management options, and investigate others that I did not list today. Remember, pain management is a lifestyle. You have to commit to adding them into your life’s routine on a regular and consistent basis, especially if you are dealing with chronic pain. Incorporate them into your life and start relieving the pain.
Courtney Truax, LMT is a graduate of East West College of the Healing Arts in Portland, Oregon. She is licensed through the Oregon Board of Massage Therapy and a member of the American Massage Therapy Association. She has her own studio massage practice in the heart of downtown Lake Oswego, Oregon.