Living with chronic pain is emotionally and physically draining. Chronic pain can restrict your activities, make it difficult to get enough sleep, and leave you with little energy. Those who live with chronic pain are also three times more likely to develop depression or anxiety than those who do not.
Traditional methods of managing chronic pain are, unfortunately, often inadequate. Medications can be addictive, expensive, and riddled with unpleasant side effects. Plus, with the CDC’s recent crackdown on opioid prescriptions, chronic pain patients who have been managing their pain with opioids may no longer be able to access these medications.
While it is important to discuss your options with your doctor before making any treatment decisions, holistic methods for dealing with chronic pain provide an alternative. There are countless holistic options for chronic pain, and they are non-intrusive, non-addictive, and often safer than pain medications. Further, these healthy practices can ultimately reduce long-term care costs. If you’re trying to manage chronic pain, these holistic methods might help you to find a solution that works for you.
Meditation and Yoga
Relaxing and minimizing stress in your life is important in dealing with chronic pain. Stress and tension in your body can aggravate your pain. Limiting the stress in your life and finding some time each day to relieve stress can reduce that pain.
Meditation is a helpful way to relieve stress. You can learn to meditate from books, websites, videos, and even apps. Find a quiet place, a comfortable position, and focus on your breathing. Remember, this time is important for your health, so make time for daily meditation.
Yoga can also be helpful both in relieving stress and in promoting slow, gentle stretching to help you deal with pain. You might want to start by enrolling in a yoga class or consulting with a yoga teacher who can give you some specific poses that work with any limitations that chronic pain creates in your body. Alternatively, there are plenty of yoga DVDs and online videos that can guide you through daily sessions right in the comfort of your own home.
Certain essential oils are known for their anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Oils can be diffused into the air or applied topically, and a small jar of essential oil lasts a long time. Some types to consider include:
- Lavender can help to relieve pain and anxiety.
- Rosemary may relieve both pain and inflammation.
- Peppermint is also suggested to have anti-inflammatory properties and is often used to relieve arthritis.
- Eucalyptus is also sometimes used to relieve pain and inflammation.
Use essential oils with caution. They are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and some, like eucalyptus and peppermint oil, should not be used around pets. Discuss the safety and proper use of essential oils with your doctor before you try them.
Changing your diet can also help you to manage your chronic pain. Because inflammation makes pain worse, it’s important to modify your diet so that you avoid foods known to increase inflammation. These foods include trans fats, processed foods, and foods that contain added sugar or vegetable oil. Because many of these foods are unhealthy, they often contribute to weight gain, which can make chronic pain worse.
Modify your diet by eliminating refined, processed foods. Instead, eat beans and whole grains, along with fruits and vegetables. Try to eat fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables, and avoid canned products. The goal of your diet is to eat nutrient-dense foods while avoiding empty calories.
Juices and sodas contain lots of sugar and sodium, and they aren’t beneficial for our health. Instead, drink more water, and add lemon or cucumber slices for flavor variety.
Additional Holistic Options for Chronic Pain
In addition to the holistic methods above, there are many other ways that you can manage your pain. Blending spiritual and patient-centered care allows providers to focus on promoting emotional wellness for patients with chronic conditions. You may want to seek out a doctor who supports your use of holistic therapies and respects your spirituality as you make decisions about managing and living with pain.
Open-label placebos have also been effective in managing chronic pain. While these medications have no active ingredients, five research studies revealed that chronic pain patients who received placebo had a “measurable effect” on their conditions. This effect was present even when the patients were aware that they were receiving placebos and not medication. While placebos aren’t effective or appropriate for all patients or conditions, some patients do respond favorably to them.
Even exercise plays an important role in pain management. Appropriate exercise can help to reduce inflammation, improve your strength, and relieve pain. Your doctor can recommend some low-impact exercises, like swimming, and advise you about the appropriate activity level for your condition.
The good news is that there are many different holistic methods for dealing with chronic pain. Always check with your doctor to make sure that a holistic method won’t interfere with any medications you’re using and that it’s safe for your health. Finding the right holistic method, or combination of methods, can take time, but many people successfully manage their chronic pain holistically.