When it comes to managing pain, medication and pills are not your only option.
In fact, painkillers and medications may only provide partial relief if you suffer from ongoing pain conditions like back pain, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, or severe headaches and migraines. In some instances, pain medications may also be the cause of unwanted side effects.
Fortunately, increasing evidence suggests that a number of complementary and alternative medicine techniques can provide accessible and effective natural pain relief.
Here are six natural ways to relieve pain that you might like to try.
As well as assisting with relaxation, a high quality therapeutic massage helps to release endorphins – your body’s natural pain relievers. These endorphins trigger feelings of pleasure and satisfaction, and work to block the body’s perception of pain.
Therapeutic massage also stimulates blood flow, which in turn helps to nourish and heal the soft tissue throughout your body.
Massage therapy has also been shown to reduce stress hormone levels in the body, helping to diminish any tension and anxiety that might be adding to your pain.
In one study, it was found that therapeutic massage was especially beneficial in helping to relieve lower back pain, as well as shoulder pain and headache pain.
There are many different types of massage therapy available – Swedish, Thai, Shiatsu, aromatic, deep tissue, remedial, reflexology and sports massage to name a few. Speak to your chiropractor or chosen health professional to find out which method is the safest and best option for you.
Studies have shown that regular yoga practice can help to relieve chronic and recurrent lower-back pain.
In one study, people who took one yoga class a week for three months reported greater improvements in lower-back pain compared to those receiving conventional care such as medication or physical therapy.
Yoga is also an endorphin-producing form of exercise, and has even been shown to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.
There are a number of different yoga styles to choose from. If you are just starting out, it is best to begin with a slow, gentle style of yoga (like Iyengar or Hatha yoga) rather than one of the more vigorous and dynamic yoga styles. Be sure to speak to your yoga instructor about any injuries and pain conditions you are experiencing before you start attending classes.
Mindfulness meditation involves paying increased attention to the body and to the pain you are experiencing – acknowledging the pain and relating to it in a different way – rather than the usual tactic of trying to soldier through it or ignore it.
One study has shown that mindfulness meditation can have positive effects for people suffering from long-term chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia. People who meditated daily for 45 minutes at home for two months reported an improvement in their acceptance of pain (including their ability to engage in activities in spite of pain), and in their general feelings of wellbeing. Participants also reported lower depressive symptoms and a reduction in general anxiety levels compared to those receiving conventional care.
Mindfulness meditation can be learned with a practitioner or on your own using audio books or CDs.
Current evidence suggests that acupuncture may help manage painful health conditions like lower-back pain, neck pain and osteoarthritis.
Dry Needling is the most common contemporary form of acupuncture, and involves the insertion of fine needles into specific muscles and areas of the body known as trigger points.
One study has shown that acupuncture treatments can help relieve pain and improve function when used alongside other conventional therapies. Acupuncture also triggers the production of endorphins – your body’s natural painkillers.
Tai chi combines meditation with slow, gentle, graceful movements, as well as a focus on deep breathing and relaxation.
The controlled breathing and movements of tai chi have been found to help promote a restful state and a sense of mental tranquillity, which in turn works to raise your pain threshold.
In a recent study, patients with fibromyalgia who undertook tai chi twice a week for twelve weeks reported reduced pain symptoms and an improvement in their general quality of life. The same study also found that tai chi had potential therapeutic benefits for patients with other chronic rheumatic conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
We all know the old saying, but a recent study suggests that social laughter can actually work to raise your pain threshold.
The physical act of laughter increases blood circulation and oxygen intake, and also works to activate the endorphin system – your body’s natural feel-good pain relievers.
Laughing along with others has been shown to have the highest positive impact – research suggests that laughter is 30 times more likely to occur in social contexts than when alone.