Chances are if you do not suffer from chronic pain you know someone that does. It could be chronic back pain or some form of nerve damage. And although there are many medications to treat chronic pain the end goal for any pain management plan is to move away from them. Natural pain relief techniques will help those that suffer from chronic pain. And, relaxation exercises can calm your mind, relax your muscles, reduce the stress hormones in your blood, and elevate your general sense of well-being. Using them on a regular basis can lead to long-term changes wthin your body to offset the harmful effects of stress.
This is not one size fits all, and no method is the “right” method. Choose whatever relaxes you: music, gardening, going for a walk, prayer, talking with a friend. Also remember that these ideas may work for some and may not work for others, but they are easy to try, and hopefully one will work for you or your loved one.
Here are some techniques to try:
- Let loose your inner endorphins. Endorphins are your body’s natural pain relievers (and they really can be as strong as many pain relievers!). They block pain signals from reaching your brain. Endorphins could also help improve anxiety, stress, and depression – conditions that often go along with and intensify chronic pain. Releasing these endorphins is easy to do – any activity that gets your blood pumping (for a sustained period of time) will release them into your system.
- Treat with heat. Try a electric heating pad, hot water bottle, or even a hot bath. The benefits of heat therapy are twofold: it will suppress the pain signals that are sent to your brain and it will increase the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the painful area.
- Cool it with ice. Many painful conditions also come with some level of inflammation, and ice is a perfect, and natural, way to reduce that inflammation. Ice can also help by acting as a local anaesthetic – to “numb” the painful area. Cold therapy will slow down the nerve impulses, which then interrupts the pain signals that are sent to the affected area.
- Breathe deeply. Breathe so deeply that your abdomen will expand and contract like a balloon. Inhale to a count of four, hold for a count of four, exhale to a count of four, then hold to a count of four. Repeat this breathing (and counting) for ten cycles.
- Guided imagery. Start with the breathing technique above. Then, imagine a calm, tranquil scene in which you feel completely comfortable, safe, and relaxed. It could be the woods, the beach or any other scene that makes you feel this way. Remember to include colors (the color of the trees), sounds (the sounds of waves crashing against the shoreline), smells (flowers in the garden), and your feelings (happiness). Practice five to ten minutes every day.
- Self-talk. Change how you think about your pain and yourself. For example, change “Pain prevents me from keeping house the way I used to — I’m a failure” to “No one will die if the house isn’t perfect. I can get a lot done by breaking down tasks into baby steps.”
- Hypnosis. Hypnosis involves manipulating the subconscious mind to change your inner way of thinking. In so doing, it will enable you to change the way you think about that pain, which will also support your body in the healing process. The human body has an unlimited ability for healing, and this is just one technique that could be helpful for you or a loved one.
- Mindfulness meditation. Meditation comes in a wide variety of forms, some complex, others very simple. My own favorite is just to find a sound that is pleasing but has no particular meaning (could be something like “om”), then close your eyes, sit still and comfortably. Keep repeating that sound in your mind. When notice your thoughts wandering, simply notice that they have wandered and then return to your sound. When you feel your pain, notice that pain and then return to your sound.
- Acupuncture. The ancient Chinese healing practice of acupuncture is still not totally understood, but it has been proven to reduce certain types of chronic pain in medical trials. For those that have not yet tried it I urge you to try it. The needles are very thin and not painful.
- Massage therapy. A therapeutic massage (by a registered practitioner) works to get the blood flowing (which supports the healing process of the body). Massage also releases endorphins, which are powerful pain relieving substances in the body. Plus it makes you feel wonderful – a great side effect!