While we all experience pain now and again, some people find themselves battling pain on a regular basis. This may be due to a trauma their body never quite recovered from, or a particular health condition. To say this can significantly impact quality of life is an understatement. Suffering from chronic pain not only affects the body, but the mind as well, increasing feelings of frustration, anxiety and depression. Traditional treatments, such as medications or physical therapy, often offer some degree of relief, but not as much as many hope. Finding natural ways to complement these treatments may be your best shot at maximum pain relief. Here are just a few that may be worth trying:
Meditation has been used for thousands of years as a tool for improving mental and physical well-being, and a growing body of research in the West seems to be confirming what spiritual masters in the East have known for a very long time. Studies have found it may be a good way to cope with chronic pain. First, it may alter the way the brain processes the pain response. Secondly, it helps create calmer, more peaceful state of mind where you can perceive what is happening to your body in a different way. You may still feel the pain, but the degree of suffering—which is borne of our emotional reaction to the pain—reduces.
Get that Vitamin D
While we are always warned of the dangers of getting too much sun exposure, it is important to remember safe amounts of exposure offer many health benefits. The body uses the sun to produce vitamin D, which plays various roles in our health. And, on a somewhat related note, exposure to natural light can improve mood, which may make it easier to deal with your condition. A study from Boston University found people with arthritis of the knee, who got between 400 and 800 IUD of the vitamin daily, experienced less pain. So, get out in the sun for at least 10 to 15 minutes a day. If you want to go the supplement route, it is a good idea to get your levels tested first to know how deficient you are, and the optimal dose for restoring recommended levels.
Acupuncture has been tested for a variety of conditions over the years in the West, and appears to have great promise in many instances. It may be particularly helpful for treating chronic pain, with a variety of studies finding it effective for a variety of pain conditions from back pain to arthritis. Acupuncturists are well-versed in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and can offer helpful information about herbs, dietary changes and other means of improving your pain, and enhancing the effects of the acupuncture treatments.
Experiment with Diet
What we eat can exhibit a profound effect on our health well beyond providing proper nourishment and reducing our risk of developing certain health conditions. Our diet can also play a key role in managing symptoms of various health conditions. While a diet to manage chronic pain is not something that has been firmly established, like it has been for a condition such as diabetes, research and anecdotal evidence suggest making certain changes may help reduce pain.
Cut back on inflammatory foods, such as saturated fats, sugar, refined carbohydrates and omega-6 fatty acids, such as corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, soy oil and mixed vegetable oil. Eat more omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish, flaxseed, hempseed and walnuts.
Experiment with eliminating common food allergens—if you eat foods to which you have a sensitivity, it can cause inflammation and other changes in the body that intensify chronic pain. Examples include dairy, wheat, soy, citrus and eggs. Educate yourself on how to conduct an elimination diet, and see if you notice any difference in your symptoms.
Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who blogs about all things health; she recommends checking out the blog of CanadianPharmacyMeds.com to learn more about managing pain and other aspects of health.