Natural Lifestyle Approaches for Relieving Pain

One of the most common problems I hear is “I ache from head to toe,” or “I have constant pain.” This is heartbreaking because chronic pain affects quality of life, may cause impaired sleep and is one of the leading causes of depression. If you have chronic pain, please work with a medical professional to determine and address the cause of your pain instead of merely treating the symptoms. In this post, I will discuss lifestyle changes and therapies that are proven to reduce and eliminate pain. I’ll discuss my favorite supplements for pain in my next post. 

I’ve mentioned much of what I discuss in this post in other posts. Instead of mentioning the title of every post that is pertinent to this post, I’ve merely provided a link including certain words. Click the link to view the post.

Most pain is caused by inflammation, so the most common natural and pharmaceutical pain relievers focus on reducing or preventing inflammation while others work to prevent the production of chemicals in the body that cause inflammation. The most important phase of eliminating pain is to IDENTIFY THE CAUSE. This is a step that many mainstream practitioners kind of skip, opting instead to prescribe pain relievers that mask the symptom but don’t address the cause of the pain.

Lifestyle Techniques for Reducing Pain 

The following lifestyle habits and techniques can be used to reduce pain:

  • The Old Stand-Bys: We all know we should get enough sleep, drink plenty of water and eat healthy food, but each of these lifestyle habits can have a profound effect on pain. I recommend getting at least seven hours of sleep each night, although many people with chronic pain feel better if they get eight to ten hours. I also advise drinking at least half your body weight in ounces of purified water on a daily basis. Dehydration will increase pain, so staying hydrated can have a direct impact on pain levels. Eating whole foods and avoiding processed foods will decrease the toxic load on your body. Many people find their pain levels dramatically decrease when they switch to a predominantly organic, whole food eating style. It is also very effective to follow an eating style that includes anti-inflammatory foods and avoids inflammatory foods.
  • Stay Engaged: Many people who suffer from chronic pain often do not have the energy or the emotional desire to engage in social activities. Staying involved can not only help decrease  depression associated with your pain, but can also help diminish the pain. The simple act of having fun can increase the brain’s production of serotonin, a chemical that is directly related to pain relief. If necessary, force yourself to get out of the house and engage in a fun activity at least once a month. Once you begin having fun occasionally, it will become very obvious how much better you feel when you do. If it’s easier, invite people over to your house instead of going out … and don’t even think about how your house looks or how clean it is … I promise your friends don’t care and won’t notice.
  • Massage: Getting a massage is a wonderful way to relax muscles, eliminate toxins and relax. Although it is a treatment that many consider “pampering,” it does have a proven physiological effect that helps diminish pain levels. Find a licensed massage therapist who is proficient in therapeutic massage. Most people benefit most from two to three sessions per week, but even a single session can provide relief.
  • Identify Food Sensitivities: One of the most common but least discussed symptoms of food allergies and sensitivities is joint and muscle pain. If you have a food sensitivity and eat the offending food, your body creates antibodies that wind up circulating in the blood stream. These antibodies are highly inflammatory and may cause muscular pain and joint pain. I personally know that if I eat dairy, my knees hurt like crazy. I’ve helped many patients and clients identify food allergies who found their chronic pain disappeared once they stopped eating foods they were allergic to. Unfortunately, most mainstream doctors don’t associate muscular pain (or fibromyalgia) with food sensitivities.
  • Visualization/Meditation/Prayer: The simple act of taking time each day to “decompress” and relax can be very helpful in controlling pain. Many people also find that visualizing themselves leading a pain-free life and engaging in activities that pain prevents them from enjoying is very helpful. For those who have a spiritual foundation, prayer that focuses on healing and grace is known to help.
  • Very Gentle Yoga, Tai Chi, or Water Exercise: The key words for these helpful forms of exercise are “very gentle.” Yoga and Tai Chi are forms of exercise that help maintain flexibility, provide relaxation, and help increase the release of mood-lifting serotonin in the brain. (Recent studies have found that people with fibromyalgia and other forms of chronic pain also have low serotonin levels.) Many yoga centers offer classes that are specifically designed for people with chronic pain. Finding Tai Chi classes may be more difficult, but there are many videos on YouTube that provide instruction. I am always happy to see more fitness centers offering water-based exercise classes for folks with chronic pain. Exercising in a swimming pool can be very helpful. It is very low impact and the buoyancy of the water often makes movement easier for those with chronic pain. The most important factor in any exercise technique is to modify the movements to fit your personal abilities. Exercise should not hurt. Choose movements that come easily and don’t try to force yourself to accomplish movements you cannot. The following resources may be helpful: – Body Wisdom Media: Tai Chi for Beginners
     – Yoga for Pain Relief: Simple Practices to Heal Chronic Pain
     – Yoga for Fibromyalgia (A book on gentle, chair-based yoga)
          
  • Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT): EFT was discovered by a psychologist who had an interest in acupuncture and acupressure. He discovered that the body and the mind could be positively affected by this technique which combines gentle tapping on acupressure points with the use of affirmations. I use it in my practice and have had people describe it as “magical.” It is wonderfully effective for negative emotional states, food cravings, addictions, etc., but is also very effective for relieving pain. The technique is so simple that it is easily learned by children. I know several parents who taught EFT to their children who suffer from frequent headaches, nightmares, etc. The beauty of EFT is that it can be effective for emotional and physical issues. It is very useful for pain. To learn more about EFT and download free manuals to learn the technique, I recommend visiting any of the following sites: – Free EFT Manual
     – Free Manual from EFTfree

     – Basic Steps to Emotional Freedom

Alternative Therapies to Reduce Pain

 The following alternative therapies are known to be very effective for reducing and eliminating pain:

  • Acupuncture: Acupuncture is an ancient art, but it  is gaining new popularity among mainstream medical practitioners because it is so effective. It is also gaining new popularity because multiple studies have proven that it works. Many people with chronic pain report immediate results from a single acupuncture treatment and experience a prolonged decrease in or elimination of pain after receiving multiple treatments. The needles used are similar in size to a human hair, so most people experience zero on the insertion of the needles. Acupuncture can be used to decrease inflammation and improve nerve flow, each of which may be helpful in decreasing and preventing pain.
  • Hypnosis: Hypnosis has gotten a bad rap due to its popularity as a stage show. What you’ve seen on Vegas stages has nothing in common with a hypnosis session delivered by a certified practitioner. During a hypnosis treatment, you are fully aware of everything that happens and cannot be “programmed” to do something you don’t want to. (Such as walking around quacking like a duck.) Certified hypnotists work to help the right side of your brain communicate more clearly with the left side. They also help you access and control subconscious thought patterns. Hypnosis can be used to help diminish someone’s perception of pain. It is a good option for someone experiencing pain due to a physical cause that cannot be controlled, but please be aware it will not address the physical cause of the pain. Hypnosis can also help eliminate stress and depression related to pain.

There are many other lifestyle habits and alternative treatments that are known to help relieve pain, but I’ve covered the ones I consider the most effective. What techniques do you use?

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Dr. Pamela Reilly is a Naturopathic Physician dedicated to helping people improve their health and eliminate symptoms using natural, integrative methods. She has over 25 years of experience and has helped men, women and children improve their health using a holistic, client-centered focus. She sees clients in Indianapolis, does house calls, and also conducts consultations via Skype or telephone. Please feel free to contact her or visit her Consultations page for more information. Dr. Pamela speaks nationwide on a wide variety of health topics and welcomes speaking invitations.

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