Alternative Relief for Chronic Pain

Man with Neck Pain

If you are living with chronic pain, such as arthritis or back pain, then you might be craving the joy and freedom that comes from regular mobility and a good night’s sleep. While doctors will prescribe medication that may help relieve the pain to some degree, there are some steps you can take to decrease your chronic pain.

This article will cover how meditation, cognitive therapy, exercise, and healthy eating may be able to help you get relief from chronic pain.

Common Causes of Chronic Pain

If pain lasts longer than 12 weeks, then it is considered to be chronic pain. Pain in the body can be a common side effect of ageing, but can also be the result of underlying an disease. Joints and bones can deteriorate with age, leading to discomfort in the form of arthritis. You may also be experiencing chronic pain as a result of an injury which has failed to heal properly.

Back pain is another common symptom of ageing and can be caused by many years of bad posture or sleeping on a poor mattress. Being overweight can also put extra strain on the back and lead to back pain. There are many causes of chronic pain and sometimes the answer isn’t always straightforward, but it’s always worth it to find the source of your pain. Getting to the bottom of what is causing your pain is the first step to overcoming it.

Meditation and Cognitive Therapy for Chronic Pain

While pain often has a clear physical cause, sometimes pain is subjective. Since pain is actually perceived by the brain, by changing our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, we can also change our awareness of pain. This method for pain relief is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps people identify how they are creating their own experiences, which includes pain. This isn’t saying that the pain is in your head, it is changing the awareness about the pain. CBT helps people notice the variance in their pain levels and helps them develop coping skills to deal with the pain and function better in their daily life. CBT also helps change our response to pain by reducing the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain.

Seeing a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist may be especially helpful if you suffer from depression, which can exaggerate negative feelings and sensations in the body. CBT will help you to overcome negative thought patterns. This won’t relieve the pain entirely, but what remains after resolving the emotions and thoughts, is the physical pain which can be treated using medication and supplements.

Meditation can have similar effects to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as it increases mindfulness. By practicing mindfulness, you can learn how to pay more attention to the pain. Once we are more aware, we often realize that it is less intense than we first thought. Mindfulness-based meditations not only help decrease our sensations of pain, they also help us to focus more on any positive feelings that we may be experiencing.

Regular Exercise Helps Ease Chronic Pain

Since we already know that depression and negative thinking can add to feelings of chronic pain, it stands to reason that anything which improves our mood can help. Exercise has been shown to boost mood and energy, which can help ease chronic pain and get your body feeling more well overall.

Exercise will also boost dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine acts as a natural pain reliever and is shown to ease pain associated with many chronic conditions including Parkinson’s disease and fibromyalgia.

When you get regular exercise, you will also find it easier to sleep at night. Proper sleep can go a long way in easing symptoms of pain.

If you have a medical condition, check with a doctor before starting an exercise regime. And, ease into exercising; start off with a brisk walk rather than diving into something more strenuous.

Supplements And Topical Aids for Chronic Pain

The vitamins and minerals that you get from a healthy diet are essential for pain relief and the overall health of your body. Ensure that you get adequate nutrition by consuming a range of fish, fruit, and vegetables. Healthy eating will also help take off excess weight which may contribute to certain painful conditions.

Capsaicin, found in chilli peppers and cayenne, triggers the release of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin which improve mood and help ease pain. This is great news for spice lovers! However, if you don’t like chillies, you can always take capsaicin in supplement form.

Topical capsaicin is also an excellent pain reliever, especially for nerve related pain and pain from arthritis. Other topical remedies for arthritic pain, use methanol and camphor to produce a cooling effect on inflamed joints.

Other common supplements that have a proven track record for pain relief are glucosamine and fish oil. Glucosamine can help ease painful symptoms of osteoarthritis. Fish oil helps relieve pain that is due to inflammation and is a good alternative to NSAID pain medications.

Living with chronic pain can be managed in several ways. A healthy diet will provide the nutrients you need to fight physical pain, while exercise releases natural pain suppressors and boosts mood. Using mindfulness meditation and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy will help pain reduction by increasing mental well-being and relieving the subjective experience of pain. Even though all these treatments are very helpful in easing chronic pain, it is important to understand the cause of your pain in order to determine the best treatment for you.

Photo: Shakzu

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