Pain is an uncomfortable feeling that is designed to alert you to the fact that something is not right within your body. It may be steady, throbbing, stabbing, aching, pinching, mild, severe or debilitating.
Pain can also bring about other physical symptoms, such as nausea, dizziness, drowsiness or weakness. And it can cause an emotional reaction, like anger, depression, mood swings or irritability.
Chronic Pain Vs. Acute Pain
Acute pain has a specific cause—usually inflammation, a disease or tissue damage. It often lasts for a particular amount of time and fades as the problem is healed or dealt with appropriately. It also has a purpose: to warn you that something should be done to stop the pain. And if you can’t do that or the cause of the pain is difficult to treat, that acute pain may become chronic.
In fact, chronic pain can go on for months or even years. However, the official definition of chronic pain is pain that lasts for three months or longer and doesn’t go away entirely in response to treatment. In addition, chronic pain doesn’t last for a specific, predictable amount of time, and may have no apparent cause, or a very easily-identifiable one, such as a disease like osteoarthritis, nerve damage from shingles virus, multiple sclerosis or diabetes, or even a sports injury.
There are many types of chronic pain disorders.
Chronic Pain Disorders
There are three types of chronic pain disorders: neuropathic pain, mixed pain, and nociceptive pain.
Neuropathic Pain Disorders
These pain disorders may be caused by a stroke, spinal cord injury, and diseases like diabetes and HIV, which can affect your nerves.
Mixed Pain Disorders
Low back pain, multiple sclerosis pain, phantom limb pain, migraines, chronic daily headache and fibromyalgia, fit into this category of pain disorder.
Nociceptive Pain Disorders
This type of disorder includes mechanical low back pain, sports or exercise injuries, sickle cell crisis, chronic inflammatory conditions, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
1. Herbal Remedies & Essential Oils
Turmeric is highly anti-inflammatory and especially good for arthritis. What about making an anti-pain smoothie in the morning that contains mango, turmeric, and ginger?
You could also mix together two teaspoons of turmeric, one teaspoon of grated ginger, honey and a little black pepper to help with absorption, and swallow that first thing in the morning.
Turmeric can help boost your general health, sharpen cognitive function and reduce pain. Ginger has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for pain for thousands of years and also helps lower inflammation.
More inspired by external remedies? Peppermint, rosemary and lavender oil are all known for their analgesic effects. Some people directly inhale their aroma, while others add a few drops to massage oil. Peppermint and eucalyptus oil are specially helpful for joint pain, thanks to their cooling menthol effects.
2. Exercise & Stretching
Did you know that endorphins bind to the opioid receptors in your brain to block the perception of pain, much like opioid pain medications?
As a result, activating the release of your inner endorphins can substantially help reduce pain, and get you a nice dose of pleasure, satisfaction, and better-quality sleep to boot.
Any exercise that gets your heart pumping for a sustained period will release endorphins into your system.
One of them includes yoga, which is good for lower-back pain, arthritis, and migraines, but it also helps with stress and the emotional side of pain.
It’s not necessary to force yourself into a “human pretzel” to do yoga. In actuality, a principle rule of yoga is to respect your limits, breathe and enjoy the experience. Just begin with a beginner’s class after getting the thumbs-up from your doctor, as with any new exercise program.
Other types of exercise that are great for joint pain and staying active include swimming, water aerobics, cycling, using an elliptical machine and walking. The stronger your muscles and joints become, the better chance you have of feeling better about yourself and your life, and releasing more of those endorphins.
Qigong and tai chi, which both originate in the East, have been shown to be great for arthritis, lower-back pain, and fibromyalgia. Experts say that these slow-as-molasses-type movements may be as effective as prescription painkillers for some patients, mainly when used in conjunction with meditation.
Stretching, which is often involved in yoga, qigong and similar types of exercise, has also been shown to benefit those with chronic pain. If you’re not able to exercise for some reason, what about adding some gentle static stretching into your routine?
3. Meditation, Hypnosis & Guided Imagery
Meditation is often recommended for chronic pain reduction and symptom management. And with good reason: specialists say it can really help lessen your perception of pain by interrupting pain signals to the brain.
Just breathing in through your nose for a count of four, holding it for a count of seven and then slowly exhaling through the mouth to a silent count of eight can be a great place to start. Try doing rounds of four a couple times per day.
It’s recommended that you meditate twice daily for chronic pain. Another method is finding a sound that’s pleasing to you but has no particular meaning (such as “soom” or “rool”), closing your eyes in a comfortable position and repeating the sound in your mind.
If your thoughts wander away from the sound or you feel pain, notice them and then go back to your sound. Try this for a few minutes per session, and build up to 30-minute sessions.
Hypnotherapy is now among the recommended treatments for lower back pain. Guided imagery, where you are guided to concentrate on images in the mind’s eye may affect the body physically.
All these disciplines are well worth trying out for your pain issues. Meditation alone has been shown to be at least as effective a painkillers in relieving chronic pain.
4. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy & EFT
Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, can help you identify and change self-defeating thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that trigger pain. This problem-solving approach can alter brain activity and reduce pain levels, and a study showed it to be significantly more effective than standard treatments for those body-wide pain.
EFT, Emotional Freedom Technique—or just “tapping”—is thought to send a calming signal to the amygdala in the brain, turn off the fight or flight response and speed up healing.
EFT also works with the connection between physical problems like pain and trauma. One study found it helped people with chronic pain caused by fibromyalgia and severe fatigue feel better in as little as one month. The technique involves lightly tapping rhythmically on points on the face and upper body and is very easy to learn.
5. Acupuncture & Massage
Acupuncture seems to work well for people suffering from a wide range of conditions that can cause pain; it is recommended for chronic back pain, migraines, tension headaches, sciatica, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and osteoarthritis.
The reason behind why this ancient practice is so effective remains relatively mysterious. Tiny needles are inserted into specific points on your body during an acupuncture session, and it’s thought that the needles may affect the activity of adenosine, an amino acid that becomes active after an injury to ease the pain.
The jury is still out on a scientific explanation of its effectiveness. However, many practitioners are able to induce incredible effects in their pain patient’s lives with acupuncture. What’s more, it improves the functioning of the nervous and musculoskeletal system, strengthening general health and inducing a palpable feeling of well-being.
Massage has been seen to boost endorphin and serotonin levels, reduce stress hormone levels and potentially turn off the genes associated with inflammation. Why not enjoy the benefits?
6. An Anti-Inflammatory Diet & Hydration
According to many experts, the easiest way to prevent pain long-term and help the body heal from pain naturally is to change your diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids in foods like cold-water fish, chia seeds, and walnuts help lower inflammation. Organic, fresh fruit and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants that can give you a great start on reducing pain.“The Mediterranean diet” has also been shown to reduce pain sensitivity. It involves consuming plenty of legumes, olive oil, fish, nuts and fruit and vegetables while cutting out sugar, processed foods, trans-fats and other inflammatory foods.
When your stomach is empty, are you getting enough water into your diet? Water can help with pain because it helps your body carry healing nutrients and oxygen to your cells, prevents constipation (a side-effect of many painkillers) and helps flush out toxins. It can also be extremely beneficial to those with joint pain and back conditions.
7. Grounding And Sunlight
Grounding is a phenomenon that involves connecting yourself to the electric field of the earth to neutralize positively charged free radicals and short-circuit the inflammatory process.
That’s why walking barefoot on a natural surface like grass, sand, clay or stone for around 20 minutes per day or using an Earthing device may help relieve pain.
While you are walking barefoot outdoors, you will probably also be exposed to sunlight, helping your body produce vitamin D, which could be very important.
In a recent study, people who got enough sun to produce the recommended daily 400 to 800 IU of vitamin D experienced less pain than those who didn’t. And 93% of those with unexplained persistent musculoskeletal pain in another study were deficient in this critical vitamin.
So, make sure you expose your skin to sunlight for around 10 to 15 minutes per day, whether you’re grounding or not.
If you’re not able to get into nature and enjoy the outdoors when the sun is shining, it may be beneficial to take a vitamin D3 supplement.
Next, explore proteolytic enzymes. Studies show these types of enzymes help you digest protein, which is needed to repair damaged tissue; they can help reduce inflammation and recovery time after exercise and reduce swelling and the causes of pain.
Electrolytes (like Potassium and Sodium) are needed to reduce muscular pain, help the body detoxify and control the fluid retention that can worsen joint pain. They can also help speed up healing. Most Americans are deficient in potassium due to eating few fruits and vegetables, so be sure to fill up on enough coconut water, avocados, sweet potatoes and leafy greens, or take an appropriate supplement to make sure you’re getting what you need.
As mentioned above, magnesium deficiency is rife, and it could affect your health considerably if you don’t get enough. Consider adding a high-quality magnesium supplement to your anti-pain strategy, as well as making sure you’re eating magnesium-rich foods like leafy greens, daily.
Bonus Method: Get Properly Assessed
If you’re struggling with pain and don’t feel like you’ve found natural solutions that work, or feel like you’re well taken care of, getting your pain and situation carefully and thoroughly assessed could be life-changing.