Living With Pain
You’d be amazed to learn that the National Health Interview Survey of 2012 found that 11.2% of Americans live with daily pain. That’s not intermittent pain. Each of those people in the survey had suffered from daily pain for at least 3 months. Living with pain is something that more than 1 in 10 of us is doing right now.
Two Types Of Pain
There are two types of pain and both of them can be long-term:
- Acute Pain – this kind of pain comes on quickly and it has a very specific cause. Acute pain doesn’t last for more than 6 months and it can be gone in a few moments. Acute pain leaves us when the underlying problem has been treated. So, for example, when a broken bone is mended or when a cut is fully healed over the acute pain caused by the wound is also gone.
- Chronic pain – chronic pain is ongoing and will last for longer than 6 months. While chronic pain may have an underlying cause, it may also persist when that underlying condition has been successfully treated. There are several common conditions which result in chronic pain: cancer, nerve pain, back pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia and even headaches. Chronic pain can be extremely stressful and deeply debilitating.
In both cases living with pain can be a challenge and while there are prescription pain killers available to us, these may not be enough, or they may have undesirable side effects, or be incompatible with your lifestyle.
That means it may be a good idea to explore natural remedies for the pain as either an alternative to the pharmaceuticals or to complement them.
16 Natural Strategies For Living With Pain
We’ve researched some of the best natural strategies for living with pain and we’ve found 10 that may help with all types of pain. We will also be looking at individual types of pain in other articles that may provide additional ideas for your specific condition.
Meditation For Pain Relief
You may think of meditation as something that you do for spiritual purposes but that’s not the only reason to meditate. In fact, the best incentive to learn to mediate is that fact that it helps you learn to control your breathing.
When you have control over your breathing patterns, you can avoid the rapid, shallow breaths that so many of us fall back on when we’re in pain. Unfortunately, this fast breathing doesn’t alleviate pain – it makes it worse because it causes our minds to feel anxious or even panicked.
Deep slow breaths, on the other hand, are calming and many people find that they can more easily distance their mind from the pain while meditating.
If you don’t know how to meditate, that’s OK. It’s easy to learn. One of our favorite books on the subject is:
Meditation: How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind by Pema Chodron which is an excellent beginner’s guide.
Destress Your Life And Reduce Pain
Stress is toxic and sadly, modern life comes with far too much stress. You can’t avoid all your stress but you can often reduce it to manageable levels.
This normally involves looking at the biggest causes of stress in your life and trying to eliminate the causes.
We’d like to recommend 5 Minutes to Stress Relief: How to Release Fear, Worry, and Doubt . . . Instantly by Lauren E Miller as a good place to start learning how to cut down on stress. It has really helped our team focus on the important things and let go of the things that have been worrying us.
Get Regular Exercise To Release Natural Pain Relievers
We don’t want to sound like your nagging physician but it is true that when we exercise, we release endorphins. Endorphins are our body’s natural happy chemicals and they do help reduce the levels of pain that we’re feeling when they’re working their magic.
If you’re not getting enough exercise now; please don’t begin by trying to run a marathon. If you start too ambitiously, you only risk injuring yourself and adding to your pain burden rather than reducing it.
We’ve found that engaging the services of a personal trainer is often the best way to get underway without doing any damage but if you can’t find one then maybe try this video series from CosmoBody to get some ideas.
Stop Smoking To Reduce Your Pain
We know that this is hard. In fact, one of our team has only been a non-smoker for a year but we also know that it can be done. Smoking has a proven correlation with the amount of pain we feel and is a risk factor for chronic pain.
The best way to quit is to talk to a physician and discuss what might work for you.
Going “cold turkey” works for some people but for others, it’s too much and too stressful.
Electronic cigarettes, nicotine gum or patches, hypnotherapy, etc. can all reduce the challenge of quitting. Allen Carr’s Easy Way To Stop Smoking also has a great reputation for helping people quit.
Consider Counselling To Better Manage Your Response To Pain
Many people never consider that talking to someone about their pain might help. The truth is that when we live with constant pain it takes its toll on our overall well-being.
We can become tired, suffer from anxiety, fall into depression or even become angry and unfortunately, all of these things are known to make pain worse. This may trigger a vicious circle in which our pain continually worsens.
Counseling can help us examine what we are doing that may be hurting us more than helping us. It can also assist in facing up to our limitations now that pain is a reality in our lives.
You can always ask your physician for a referral to counseling services but it’s also quite OK to approach a counselor direct. Coping with the emotional turmoil of pain can be very valuable to our overall well-being.
Take Up A Hobby To Distract From Your Pain
You might not be feeling like going skydiving, but a new hobby can be a wonderful thing to those of us living with pain. You see when we do something new and interesting we tend to give it our full attention.
When all our attention is focused on something else, we can’t pay very much attention to our pain. Thus, a hobby is a natural distraction from pain. It doesn’t stop the pain, it just makes us less aware of it.
Of course, we can’t tell you which hobby is likely to work best for you – all of our interests are different, but some popular choices include flower arranging, photography, gardening, writing, gaming, etc.
If you want some inspiration for interesting hobbies, you can always check out YouTube videos to see what people are getting up to near you and to get a taste for what it might be like to join them.
Think About CBD For Additional Pain Relief
Marijuana is nature’s foremost pain killer. It’s excellent at managing even the most severe of chronic pain such as that faced by cancer sufferers. Unfortunately, it’s also of questionable legal status in the United States right now.
While several states have legalized pot and others are considering doing so but recent actions by the current President of the United States’ administration have placed big questions over whether this will remain legal, given that these individual state laws contradict federal law.
The good news is that you don’t need to use marijuana to get its benefits. You can try CBD for pain instead. CBD is essentially the cannabinoids from cannabis without the cannabis itself.
Better still, you may be able to get yourself on a trial for CBD which could mean you’d be paid to participate in your own pain relief! It’s also 100% legal.
Develop An Understanding Of Biofeedback To Manage Tension Related Pain
Biofeedback is the science of learning to identify signals from your own body and then manipulating those signals to consciously control how your body behaves.
That might sound like mumbo jumbo but it’s not. The good news is that it’s also very easy to master biofeedback techniques and put them into practice.
Biofeedback won’t help with all types of pain. It’s not a generalist technique but it does help you start to monitor your body for tension. Once you know how the tension is caused, you can work on eliminating by sending different signals to the affected areas of your body.
This, in turn, means that tension related pain is abated through biofeedback. In particular, stressed muscles in the neck and shoulders and also headaches can be completely eliminated through skillful use of biofeedback.
A good place to learn how to use Biofeedback is this book: Biofeedback Mastery: An Experiential Teaching and Self-Training Manual by Tylova et al. It is an expensive text but you can rent it from Amazon before you buy to make sure that you’ll get the most benefit from it.
Spend More Time Sleeping When You’re Living With Pain
We know that it’s often easier said than done to talk about sleep when you’re suffering with pain. Doctors report that one of the hardest things for people with chronic pain is to get into and stick to a sleep routine. Yet, the evidence says that this is one of the simplest and easiest things you can do to get your pain under control.
Sleep deprivation is known to make pain worse. The less you sleep, the more pain you feel. The only way to stave this off is to develop a sleep schedule and then keep to it.
Go to bed at the same time every night, wake up and get up at the same time each day and then try to avoid taking naps in between these times. 8 hours of sleep are vital for people without pain, they’re even more important when you are living with constant pain.
If you’d like some tips on better sleeping, we can recommend: Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to a Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success by Shawn Stevenson.
Stay In Touch With The People Who Matter To You
Last but not least, pain shouldn’t make you lose contact with the people who are important in your life. Not only are your friends and family conducive to your mental health but they can provide support that helps you understand that you are not alone and you do not have to live with your pain all on your own.
It can help to try and keep conversation with these people away from your pain as much as possible. This includes the times when other people want to talk about it.
Just say something like, “It’s best for me not to focus my thoughts on the pain because that makes it worse, would you mind if we spoke about something else?” People will understand when you explain to them why you want to avoid taking about it.
Seek Support From Strangers
This might sound like an odd piece of advice but the truth of the matter is this; if you always take your pain problems to your friends and family – sooner or later they’re going to be as exhausted with your pain as you are.
This might seem harsh but it is how people are. Everyone has their own problems and that can mean that they don’t always have time for your problems.
Instead of complaining about this, go online and seek support from other pain sufferers. You could begin in our Facebook group, we’d love to have you talk about your issues and offer support to others in there. We’ll be around to make sure things stay friendly and civil too.
You could also seek groups with other people with your specific condition or similar conditions. This is “free therapy” because you don’t need to pay for it, you just need an internet connection. It can really offer huge benefits for you.
Give Essential Oils A Try
There are two schools of though on essential oils. There are those that swear by them as a therapeutic option and there are those that think they are a joke. I can see both sides’ point but here’s the truth.
Essential oils are nice. They smell good. They are relaxing when applied with a massage by a caring partner or massage therapist. They don’t cost very much. You don’t need to buy any expensive equipment to give them a try.
So, why not try them for yourself. If they don’t work. Never mind, you tried, and you are not any worse off than you were before. If they do work, you’re in less pain. How could that be a bad thing?
It’s worth noting that the placebo effect might just be evoked by the smell of the oil or of a massage. So, while the science may not back up essential oils directly – it might indirectly support their use.
Take A Warm Bath
This might sound like the advice that you’d give to a child but in reality, it’s the perfect way to relax. Firstly, floating in a bath will relieve pressure on your joints and painful areas – that means it should, in theory, lessen the immediate pain (even if not by very much).
Secondly, the warm water is reminiscent of the conditions in the womb. It makes us naturally relax, it’s like being in the ultimate maternal embrace. That’s going to get your endorphins flowing and they’re your body’s natural pain killers.
Finally, it’s a better way to get clean and it’s more environmentally friendly than a long shower. So you can tell you family that you’re doing your bit for the planet while you chill out.
Don’t Drink Too Much
I know how tempting it can be to have a couple of glasses of wine at the end of a long, painful day but it might be the worst thing that you can do.
As you already know, a good night’s sleep can play a really strong role in alleviating your pain. Alcohol and sleep don’t mix very well.
In fact, according to MD Stein and P D Friedman in their paper “Disturbed Sleep and Its Relationship to Alcohol Use” it’s a very bad idea to drink before bedtime for a prolonged period.
They found that for the first 2-3 days a couple of drinks helped to promote sleep. Then they diminish and eventually reverse causing sleep disturbance and poor rest. That means a couple of drinks can cause you more pain in the long run, not less.
Listen To Your Favorite Music
This is one of the best pieces of news that you can get when you’re in pain. Your favorite music can have a substantial effect on your pain!
Now that might sound like tosh to you but in fact a 2011 review published in the Cochrane Libraries demonstrated that music can even help with one of the most severe forms of pain – cancer pain. IT can also help you deal with other pain and anxiety according to the study.
If that wasn’t enough, they also found that it improves our heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure and overall quality of life.
That means, you need to listen to music that you love whenever possible. The science is behind you on this.
So, I recommend at least one Coldplay CD a day but if that’s not your cup of tea, I completely understand. From Bach to the Beatles to Bangla, there’s no wrong form of music for this kind of therapy. Pick whatever you love to listen to and kick back and let it take away your pain!
Keep A Pain Log
A pain log is a diary of how you feel. When you notice that your pain is bad, you write down when and what you were doing. When you are feeling pain free, you do the same thing.
This is a really useful activity for two reasons:
- It gets you to consider your pain in context and that means you can start thinking about what makes you feel better and what makes you feel worse. Then, hopefully, you can start to avoid things that make you feel worse.
- It helps your physician better understand your pain. It’s much harder to understand how you feel when you’re trying to tell them, from memory, everything about the last month in a five minute chat, it’s much easier when you have everything written down.
Your pain log isn’t a moment of morbid fascination but rather a structured tool, to help you better manage your pain and to better communicate the effects of your pain to other people including your doctor.
Living with pain is not easy and 1 in 10 of us will be living with pain, right now. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t effective strategies that can help you cope with pain.
In fact, as we’ve seen there are 16 healthy, natural strategies that you can use to start working on your pain today.
Don’t try and implement them all at once but if you were to introduce a new strategy each week for 15 weeks – you’d feel a whole lot better at the end of that 15 weeks than you did at the start of them.
Don’t try and implement them all at once but if you were to introduce a new strategy each week for 10 weeks – you’d feel a whole lot better at the end of that 10 weeks than you did at the start of them.
If you are dealing with lasting, regular pain and haven’t spoken to a physician, we strongly recommend that you do. We love natural remedies, but we see them as complementary to a medical regime rather than as a complete replacement for one. Plus, pain is your body telling you that something is wrong, it’s a good idea to know what is wrong so that you can pick the most effective pain management techniques.
If you want to talk about your pain’s specific issues, please leave a comment below or join our Facebook group where we can better support you.