Pain is a monster
Living with pain chronically can limit your quality of life and even lead to depression. It’s also very personal as every one has a different threshold to the amount they can bare. I’m thinking of one of my musical idols, Prince who recently succumbed to his pain by reportedly overdosing on opioids, a strong and addictive pain killing medicine. There have been many other horror stories in the news lately and even tales of people turning to illegal drugs once prescription drugs are no longer available to them. I often wonder how high was their level of pain tolerance and if they tried other methods to reduce pain before turning to drugs.
I’ve recently been plagued with back pain stemming from arthritis. I know others who are battling discomfort ranging from arthritis to fibromyalgia. Afraid of becoming depended on drugs for relief we’ve tried some of these other methods to successfully fight the battle against this raging monster.
Exercise and movement:
I can’t write enough about how moving is good for the body and mind. There are many studies documenting the benefits of exercise first by strengthening muscles and taking pressure off bad posture or joints that cause pain. Also by increasing blood and oxygen flow through the body to stimulate and nourish those painful areas. Finally, exercise releases endorphins, which is a euphoric hormone bringing feelings of pleasure. It also lowers cortisol a stress hormone that can decrease resilience; something definitely needed when dealing with pain.
Exercise includes any physical activity. It can range from heavy weights in the gym to taking a walk in the park. Find something you enjoy and try to do it on most days. If you’re looking to get the most out of your time, research has shown dance to be particularly joyful and a distraction or remedy especially if done with a group. Swimming or water aerobics is another fantastic form of movement as you can easily get your heart rate up with minimal stress on your joints. Finally, I personally have found great relief from yoga as it’s designed to connect your mind to your body and breath. Be sure to discuss trying any physical activity with your doctor.
After working in the fitness industry for 20 years I can see that most people don’t stretch enough. Whether you work out hard or sit a lot your muscles tense up and need relief. Stretching elongates the muscles and allows increased blood flow to nourish them. After exerting yourself muscles are challenged causing their tissue to break down and rebuild. Stretching and massage is a way to help them recover. After working out it is a great idea to hold stretches for 20-30 seconds while the muscles are warm. Or try a Yin Yoga class where you hold stretching postures for 3-5 minutes without warming up the muscles. This allows the fascia surrounding the muscles and the tendons and ligaments to take on the stretch and receive the increased blood flow and nourishment to heal. Again, listen to your body and discuss new activities with a health professional.
Pain is often a battle of the mind. As I wrote earlier everyone’s pain threshold level is different and what you can tolerate has a lot to do with your head. Meditation is a great way to have greater control of your mind to fight the pain battle. Researchers found that people who engaged in mindfulness-based stress reduction and cognitive behavior therapy more often reported improvement in their back pain than those who took pain-relievers or normal remedies. I wonder if someone dealing with a high level of pain might employ these techniques even if they need to turn to strong medications to lessen their need.
Fire & Ice
All fitness trainers know to suggest R.I.C.E. to treat injuries. It’s stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. I remember when I had an operation on my knee the ice seemed to help relieve the pain better than the prescription drugs without upsetting my stomach. Cryotherapy or applying ice is usually recommended to treat injuries in the beginning. The cold narrows the blood vessels and blood flow. It can reduce fluid buildup and inflammation contributing to pain. While heat or thermotherapy on the other hand is recommended for chronic pain as it helps relax the muscles, reduce spasms, stimulate blood flow and circulate nutrients to the area.
Vitamins, Minerals & Herbs
There is a long list of supplements suggested to treat various types of pain. It’s best to determine the cause and perhaps talk to a holistic or health professional familiar with herbs and vitamins. Sometimes a change in diet can compliment other therapies for pain or at the very least support your immune system to fight the problem.
Some interesting remedies I hear a lot about are capsicum from chili peppers. As a topical it can bring heat to the afflicted area and some relief. Researchers are looking into a link between low levels of vitamin D in pain sufferers. Getting more sunshine can boost levels of D. Finally, turmeric and omega-3 have said to decrease inflammation that can contribute to pain.
If your normal method of dealing with pain is not bringing any relief the best idea is to talk to your health care provider about any of these suggestions before trying strong medications with side effects.
Mediation for pain: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2016/03/22/could-meditation-be-the-answer-to-relieving-back-pain-study-shows-surprising-results/
Exercise for low back pain: https://easydrugcard.com/exercise/low-back-pain-help-davidas-experience/