Natural Ways to Help Manage Chronic Pain
With opioids under increasing scrutiny, many seniors are being left to deal with chronic pain. Earlier this year, Medicare cracked down on long-term, high-dose prescriptions of opioids, making it difficult for many seniors to get the pain relief they need. And yet, opioids are highly addictive and cause problems. So what can you do if you’re living with chronic pain? Here are some natural ways that have shown some promise for many people.
Many people living with chronic pain avoid exercise because it’s not comfortable to do so or they fear exercise will cause their pain to worsen. But numerous studies have shown that exercise is very effective in reducing pain. When you exercise, you release endorphins, natural chemicals that reduce your perception of pain, acting similarly to morphine and codeine. For those with limited mobility, exercises such as yoga and tai chi have been shown to have strong pain relief benefits. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people living with fibromyalgia who participated in tai chi classes twice a week for 12 weeks reported less pain than the control group, who participated in stretching sessions and wellness education twice a week.
Physical therapists have a large arsenal of tools and resources to help combat pain, including heat and cold treatments, ultrasound, electrical stimulation and massage, as well as exercises. A physical therapists has the training and expertise to review your specific situation and develop a plan of care that will target your specific source of pain and provide treatments that will help reduce it.
Meditation, in addition to being a powerful stress reducer, has also been shown to reduce pain. In a study conducted at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, researchers found that people who were meditating experienced less pain than control groups when subjected to a painful prod on the back with a thermal heat probe. The study led lead researcher Fadel Zeidan to conclude, “This study is especially significant to those … looking for a nonaddictive way to reduce their pain.”
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese art that has been used to alleviate pain for centuries. Although formal studies have been mixed on acupuncture’s ability to control pain, a report published in the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Journals Library indicated that there was “significant evidence” to demonstrate that acupuncture provides more than a placebo effect for chronic pain.
Other natural remedies
Many natural remedies have been shown to help control chronic pain for some people. In a study comparing fish oil to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, like ibuprofen), research showed that fish oil had an “equivalent effect” in reducing arthritic pain as NSAIDs and appeared to be a safer alternative. Another powerful anti-inflammatory natural substance is turmeric, the yellow spice used frequently in Indian food. Many people have found that turmeric works as a pain reliever for osteoarthritis, headaches and other pain responsive to anti-inflammatory medication. Spicy foods in general, including cayenne pepper and wasabi, have shown some promise in relieving pain.
If your doctor is reluctant to prescribe opioids or other pain relievers for you, have a talk about other possible remedies. Not every potential remedy is going to work for everyone and it may take some experimenting to find the solution that’s right for you.
This article is not intended to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Speak to your doctor if you have questions about your pain relief needs.