According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain – and this number continues to increase annually.
What is Chronic Pain?
Common chronic pain complaints include headache, back pain, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, and cancer pain.
Chronic pain is not only debilitating for the body physically, it takes a mental and emotional toll as well. People forced to manage pain that never seems to stop have a higher risk of depression and suicide.
Many forms of chronic pain are treated at home with over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen.
These drugs relieve pain by inhibiting the inflammatory and pain response of injured tissue. That’s where they get their name: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS).
While these drugs are useful, they can become harmful when used habitually. Regular use of common NSAIDS can cause liver damage, stomach ulcers, and increased risk of stroke.
Natural pain relief remedies offer a less harmful and more holistic solution for daily aches and pains. Here are a few alternatives to typical OTC pain medications.
- Yoga and Meditation: Chronic pain inhibits many from an active lifestyle. However, inactivity weakens muscles, which may increase stiffness and pain. Low impact exercise is usually a better choice for those trying to relieve pain naturally.Consult your physician before making any lifestyle changes.
Yoga is a great low impact endeavor.It promotes the mental, physical, and spiritual aspects of health with smooth movements that are gentle on the body.In addition to these health benefits, yoga also improves immune function, reduces migraines, improves sleep, decreases blood pressure, and improves fat metabolism. Meditation has proven to be an effective method of natural pain relief. It is used to reduce stress and chronic pain in many physical rehabilitation programs.
- Regular Exercise: For those who are not interested in the yogi life, other types of exercise can provide the same pain alleviating benefits.Light aerobic exercise such as walking, biking, or swimming brings oxygen and nutrition to the muscles, which reduce stiffness.Outdoor exercise adds the benefit of sun exposure. Sunlight provides the body with vitamin D, which aids in the absorption of calcium.
A proper daily intake of vitamin D has been proven to reduce pain while vitamin D deficiency worsens chronic pain.Simply stretching twice a day will improve flexibility, range of motion, and reduce stiffness. Daily activities such as mopping floors, mowing your lawn, and gardening also count as physical activity and provide similar natural pain relief benefits.
- Fish Oil: Fish oil may be a suitable alternative anti-inflammatory agent with fewer side effects than NSAIDS. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil reduce inflammation and swelling similar to popularly used NSAIDS. Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the production of prostaglandins – an inflammatory agent in the body that leads to pain.
Fish oil has also proven effective for lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.Fish oil can be consumed naturally or in pill form. A daily supplement provides an easy way to consume the recommended daily intake of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Turmeric: Turmeric can be used as a natural pain reliever as well as a spice for food. Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory that increases circulation.It is used for skin and digestive issues as well.
It can be bought as a spice or in pill and capsule form. In several studies, curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) performed similarly to ibuprofen. It reduced pain, improved function, and lowered the enzymes that cause inflammation.Turmeric may slow blood-clotting ability in some people so it is not recommended for individuals on prescribed blood thinners but is otherwise a safe and effective anti-inflammatory.
- Antioxidant Rich Diet: Antioxidants can be taken in supplement form but naturally occur in foods that your body can process more readily. Antioxidants remove free radicals from the body. Free radicals are compounds produced in your body, a byproduct of your system that results in mutated cells.Scientists now recognize that an excess of free radicals can lead to an avalanche of health problems.
One of the most dangerous – and rapidly being named a “root cause” for everything from heart disease to cancer to Alzheimer’s – is inflammation.Your cartilage, muscles, nerves, and joints are highly susceptible to this inflammation and this is the place where many cases of chronic pain begin.Free radical levels are stimulated by saturated and trans fats as well as chemically altered foods – processed and refined pre-packaged foods. Avoiding “pretend” foods and adding a variety of dark leafy greens, citrus fruits, coconut oil, berries, peppers, and broccoli will greatly reduce inflammation within joint tissue.
The Goal is Relief of Pain
Not all pain can be treated through holistic practices. However, healthy lifestyle choices and natural pain relief techniques can help you manage pain. I’ve developed the ultimate natural pain relief guide, click here to get the full story.
Treating your body well, giving it the fuel it needs to fight inflammation and disease, and simply keeping it moving will help you live longer and enjoy each of your years to the fullest.