8 Tips to Reduce Chronic Pain (Naturally!)
Many of us suffer from physical pain at one time or another, whether it be related to a sprain or sore muscle, arthritis, or simply age. Doctors may prescribe medications for these types of pains – while useful at helping to alleviate the pain, they can come with unpleasant side effects, be ineffective, or downright expensive. While you should never stop taking any medications without consulting your doctor, there are a number of natural (and cheap!) ways to help reduce pain and inflammation.
- Get Moving! This may sound nearly impossible if you are already in pain, but the more you move, the easier it will be to keep moving. When a muscle is not used for long periods of time, it can stiffen up and cause pain and discomfort. Not sure where to start? No problem! Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous – if you’re able, recruit a friend or family member to take a walk outdoors. Walking is low-impact, but comes with great benefits to your entire body. Bonus: getting outside has been proven to increase endorphins – your body’s natural painkillers, and walking with a partner allows you time to talk and connect, making it more enjoyable.
- Stretch! I’m sure by now we’ve all heard of yoga, but there’s a reason it has become so popular lately. Benefits of yoga include increased flexibility, stronger bones and joints, and heightened mental clarity. When performing yoga, yogis are encouraged to clear their minds, connect with their breath, and focus on alignment. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be able to twist yourself up like a pretzel in order to enjoy these benefits. Check out this article from AARP on simple poses and breathing techniques for any age, or check out our post on Wheelchair Yoga!
- Get Warm! Have you ever noticed how everything seems to become more painful when we are cold? If we are chilly, we tend to curl up – hunching our shoulders, tensing muscles, and avoiding movement. This may have an opposite effect as staying still will only decrease your body temperature. To combat this, try dressing in layers, keeping a space heater in a small room of your home to trap some warmth, and apply a heating pad or hot water bottle to areas that are especially painful. You can also look to exercise, whether indoor or outdoor, as movement is the best way to warm your body naturally!
- Take a Bath! Think about it – when is the last time you treated yourself to a nice, warm bath? If you can’t remember, then it’s been too long! Many of us think of baths as being something for children only, but the truth is they have numerous benefits to individuals of all ages. For one, the warmth of the water will help to loosen up tight muscles and joints, helping to relieve pain. The time spent in a bath can also have great effects mentally, as it provides a time for one to meditate, read a book, or perform a number of other relaxing activities. This time will help to reduce stress levels, thus decreasing physical pain overall. Bonus Tip: add Epsom salt to your bath water – the Epsom salt has additional detoxifying and pain relieving properties. Look for brands with a natural scent like Lavender, which will help you to relax even further. If the difficulty of getting in and out of the tub is stopping you from taking baths, check out 101mobility.com to schedule a free home assessment – making your bath tub more accessible is often much more affordable than you may think!
- Go Outside! Whether talking a walk or simply sitting on your porch, enjoying time in nature has a great deal of proven benefits to overall well-being. 10-15 minutes of safe sun exposure per day will help your body produce Vitamin D, a necessary vitamin that aids in naturally relieving pain. Spending time outside also allows you to connect with nature – a great stress-reliever that can help increase your body’s level of pain-fighting endorphins.
- Hydrate! Water affects every cell and system in our bodies. Many chronic pains can be caused or made worse by dehydration. Without sufficient water, we lose a great deal of flexibility as joints become stiff and tight. Likewise, when you are chronically dehydrated, the body reduces histamines in an attempt to retain whatever water it has, which can lead to increased inflammation (a major cause of pain and discomfort!). Dehydration can also lead to a host of other unpleasant symptoms, including dizziness, blurred vision, hearing loss, weakness, fatigue, and slowed metabolism. The good news? This is an easy fix! Aim to drink at least 64 oz. of water each day. To make sure you are getting enough water, try getting a large water bottle that has ounces marked on the side – then, you can simplify your intake goal to number of bottles full you must drink per day. For instance, if you have a 32 oz. water bottle, it is much easier to remember that you need to drink two bottles full per day to meet your minimum! Bonus tip – room temperature or warm water is more easily absorbed by your body (and helps keep your core temperature up!) increasing the beneficial effects.
7. Sleep! While asleep, our bodies have the opportunity to restore themselves, providing proper hydration to joints, balancing hormone levels, and increasing our overall pain threshold. It makes sense – when we’re not well rested, we can become cranky and more easily irritated by minor aches and pains. However, if you are already experiencing pain, this may make it difficult to sleep through the night. Many of the previous tips, such as exercising, getting outside, and taking a warm bath before bed can help improve sleep quality. Pain still keeping you up? Consider changing your sleeping surface. Lift Chairs look like your average recliner, but many can move from a fully horizontal position to a position that stands you straight up, and anywhere in between. This enables the user to pick the perfect angle for optimal rest, safely and easily get out of the chair when ready, and many come with a heated option to help soothe aches and pains through the night.
8. Check your Diet! As Hippocrates once said, “All disease begins in the gut.” It turns out, more and more research is confirming that what we eat has a huge impact on all aspects of our physical well-being. According to Health.com, individuals with chronic pain can make a few easy changes to help reduce pain levels. First and foremost, aim to fill the majority of your plate at each meal with fresh fruit and vegetables, as the vitamins and fiber help to maintain your overall health. Aim to increase your intake of Omega-3’s, most commonly found in salmon and other fish, as they reduce inflammation and improve brain function (omega-3 supplements can be taken instead if you do not like eating fish). Those with chronic pain should also reduce their carbohydrate intake – eating products such as bread and pasta cause the blood sugar to spike, then crash, causing stress on all bodily systems. Bonus – if you reduce your carbohydrate intake, your vegetable intake will likely increase as an unintended result! We should also try to avoid or limit consumption of chemical sweeteners and additives, such as aspartame found in diet soda. Some of these chemicals have been shown to increase pain sensitivity, among a host of other negative side effects such as contributing to weight gain and depression. The bottom line? Focus on fresh food sources to maximize your body’s pain-fighting abilities. You don’t need to cut out your favorite pasta or sweets entirely, but save those splurges for special occasions – your body will thank you!
Have you tried any of these or other natural methods to help reduce your pain? We would love to hear from you – let us know in the comments!