A Holistic Approach to Chronic Pain Management

By Jackie Waters, Founder of Hyper-Tidy.com

In the United States, 100 million people suffer from chronic pain. Chronic pain is not a symptom, and treating pain goes beyond targeting the source. Effective treatments consider the whole person. Just like heart disease, diabetes, or other chronic conditions, there’s no quick-fix solution. A variety of approaches must be combined to help chronic pain management.

Getting Help

When you suffer an injury, it may resolve in a few weeks. If your pain lingers or affects your ability to function, it’s time to see a doctor. However, one in four pain sufferers waits at least six months before seeking medical help, and many people wait more than a year. Waiting to seek help can cause more issues. Long-term pain affects your mind and causes you to become inactive, weakening muscles and stiffening joints, which exacerbates pain.

That being said, medical treatments aren’t always the best solutions. Surgery offers minimal benefits, if any, and it can actually make pain worse due to infection, scarring, and nerve damage. Similarly, while over-the-counter medications and prescription painkillers can offer temporary relief, they can have negative long-term side effects. Opioids can lead to physical dependency, even if you use them correctly. For these reasons, holistic therapies should be sought out in combination with medical interventions. Over time, you can rely more and more on holistic therapies, and eventually discontinue pain medications.

Mental Health Consideration

Brain imaging research has shown that our mental state is intricately tied to how we process and experience pain. When patients with chronic pain were scanned, areas that involved emotion and sensation lit up. This study suggested that emotions greatly influence how people perceive pain, how much distress pain causes, and how pain affects quality of life.

Half of chronic pain sufferers also live with depression. If you believe you are suffering from depression, discuss your symptoms with your doctor. You may benefit from medication, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or a combination of both. CBT has been proven to be beneficial for chronic pain sufferers. It teaches you to better cope with and adapt to your pain, which lessens the emotional stress. In fact, there is more scientific data to support the benefit of CBT than there is for most drugs used for pain.

Relaxation Techniques and Exercise

Relaxation techniques reduce stress, which can minimize pain. They also improve blood flow to muscles, reduce muscle tension, and improve mood and fatigue. Methods include meditation, deep breathing, visualization, self-hypnosis, biofeedback, music therapy, aromatherapy, and more. Try a few out to see what works best for you. No matter which techniques you choose, creating a clutter-free space in your home dedicated to relaxation can encourage you to practice more regularly.

Although exercise may be the last thing you feel like doing when you’re in pain, studies show that it reduces pain by strengthening muscles, lubricating joints, and decreasing the likelihood of re-injuring yourself. Exercise also releases natural pain-relieving endorphins, which can boost your mood and fight painful inflammation. Swimming and water aerobics are both good options for chronic pain sufferers. Low-to-moderate-intensity activities also include walking, yoga, and gardening.

Home Remedies for Chronic Pain

Aromatherapy has been used as far back as 18,000 B.C. in ancient Egypt, India, and Greece for physical and mental health benefits. Aromatherapy uses essential oils that are delivered to the individual through massage, inhalation, baths, room sprays, diffusers, scented candles, compresses, body gels, lotions, and other methods. Several oils are utilized for pain management, including lavender, peppermint oil, rosemary, chamomile, tea tree, eucalyptus, and others.

Acupuncture has been shown to relieve osteoarthritis pain, sciatica, and lower-back problems, while omega-3 fatty acid supplements have provided relief for rheumatoid arthritis sufferers. Also, some lower-back pain patients claim they found relief from herbal therapies, such as devil’s claw, white willow bark, and cayenne. Regardless of which home remedy you try, be sure to check with a doctor to ensure the herb or oil doesn’t interfere with any medical issues you may have or medications you take.

Be Your Own Advocate

Researching your specific condition can introduce you to new treatment options and help you ask more meaningful questions when you visit your doctors. Instead of feeling like a victim of your chronic pain, you can feel a sense of control over your care. Utilize patient advocacy websites and consider joining a chronic pain support group.

Completely eliminating your pain may not be achievable. However, that doesn’t mean you should give up. You can improve your pain to a level that allows you to live daily life comfortably and do the things you love. If you’re suffering from chronic pain, consider holistic approaches for relief that are safe and long-term.

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Latest update: September 14, 2018
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