Chronic pain is persistent, nagging, uncomfortable, and life-disrupting. And people with disabilities often experience it. In Western medicine, it is common for medical professionals to treat symptoms of chronic pain with medication without a long-term view of side effects on the patient — a method that has fed into the opioid crisis in the United States. The epidemic resulted in 47,000 overdose deaths in 2017, and 1.7 million people developed a substance abuse disorder in the same year.
As humans we seek immediate relief; however, working to stop the symptoms from occurring through alternative methods may mitigate the need for medication in some cases. Natural treatments tend to take longer to see the results but can be intermingled into treatment plans, even for those who need to continue to take pain-relief medicines. Natural methods can help to lessen the severity of symptoms and work to make you more comfortable over time.
Food as Medicine
Our bodies are incredible healing machines. They have the ability to recover from major accidents, they bounce back from radiation treatments and cancer, and they can take a beating over a lifetime, but still continue work for us. How we treat our bodies has a large impact on how well they continue to work for us over the years. One thing you have control over is what you put into your body.
Using food as medicine is a concept as old as our written history. However, what we are finding is that certain foods cause inflammation within our bodies that can result in pain, autoimmune diseases, and other health issues.
Dr. Fred Tabung, a visiting researcher with the Department of Nutrition at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health says that "a lot of chronic pain is the result of chronic inflammation, and the evidence is quite strong that your diet can contribute to increased systemic inflammation, but your diet is also one of the best ways to reduce it."
Foods to avoid in your diet are as follows:
Processed meats and pre-packaged foods Bleached flours used in bread and pasta Refined sugar Excess alcohol
Replace them with whole grains, lean meats, and fresh fruit and vegetables. In the book Omnivore’s Dilemma, author Michael Pollan encourages you to shop on the outer edges of the grocery store. That is where you will find fresh produce, dairy products, and bread. Try implementing a healthy diet focused on nutrition to reduce inflammation and provide relief to your body.
Natural Herbs and Supplements
In addition to changing our diet, we can also implement herbs and supplements in large doses in an attempt to relieve pain. Continuous use of ibuprofen and acetaminophen can cause harm to your liver. Using herbs and supplements in their proper dosages is easier on your body and can help to achieve the desired effect — pain relief.
The following are examples of supplements that have shown to provide relief when taken consistently:
Turmeric: The active ingredient in turmeric is Curcuma and is proven to be equally as effective as ibuprofen in helping to reduce inflammation in the joints and spinal cord. However, the results are not instantaneous and relief can be expected after consistently taking turmeric for four weeks. Do not stop taking turmeric after you see results as you must maintain the dosage to continue to receive the benefits. In addition to taking turmeric as a supplement, you can also add it to smoothies and recipes for an added boost to your pain management program. Ginger: Much like turmeric, ginger can be added to your meals or drank as a tea. It has been used to help relieve stomach upset and been found to relieve muscle strain in athletes. The relief brought to athletes can also be beneficial to those who experience seizures, which cause muscles to become overworked and strained. Ginger seems to become noticeably effective after one to two weeks of use. CBD: CBD, or cannabidiol, has become increasingly popular nationwide for its medicinal properties and ability to manage chronic pain. CBD can be taken in many different forms such as tinctures, oils, topical creams, and candies. Due to it being relatively new in the stages of scientific research, there are few conclusive findings in its effectiveness. However, users boost of its immediate and long-lasting effects.
There are many other supplements and herbs that have been found to be beneficial. To learn more, consider visiting a nutritionist or naturopath. As with any major changes to your lifestyle, talk with your medical care provider before implementing any new medications into your pain management program.
Mindfulness practices such as meditation, breathwork, and yoga can help to reduce pain by 57%, according to Psychology Today. Those who avidly practice meditation have the ability to reduce their pain by up to 90%, in some cases.
Mindfulness practices work to rewire the brain to decrease the intensity of signals being sent from the pain source. It can help you to cope when going through painful treatments such as physical therapy or spinal taps. Concentrating on your breath allows you to refocus your energy into inhaling and exhaling rather than concentrating on the pain itself.
Yoga is a mindfulness practice that incorporates breath, meditation, and movement. Yoga practices can help your body to stretch and release tension, opening new pathways for blood flow and oxygen.
By realigning your diet to focus on health, implementing herbal supplements, and practicing mindfulness, you may be able to better manage your pain in a natural way. You can choose one or adopt them all. However, do not discontinue the plan set forth by your doctor without first discussing it with a medical professional.
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