Millions of people struggle with chronic pain, mostly due to long-term conditions like arthritis or joint pain. Given the magnitude of the opioid addiction crisis, which claims the lives of about 90 Americans every day, many of these individuals want a non-addictive alternative that’s also highly effective when it comes to relieving discomfort. That may sound like the impossible dream, but there are some methods available which are proven to either drastically reduce your dependence on opioid pain pills or end their use altogether.
To embrace this Chinese martial art as a form of pain relief, one must first embrace the fact that pain is not just a physical reaction. Instead, discomfort has both a physical and an emotional component. The more you think about pain, the more it hurts. Tai chi addresses both these issues. The slow, controlled movements are ideal for joint pain, because loose muscles feel better than stiff ones. Furthermore, the meditation takes focus away from discomfort, and the mind usually remains focused on other things for at least several hours.
Pain causes stress, which triggers the flight-or-fight sympathetic nervous system and unnaturally high levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that has several ill effects. Meditation helps place the body in rest-and-digest mode. The parasympathetic nervous system effectively masks the pain. It’s still there, but the brain does not acknowledge the pain signals from nerve endings. When meditation is combined with movement, perhaps in yoga, it is even more effective.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation
There are those who claim that studies which tout the benefits of acupuncture, which is still a very controversial topic in pain relief circles, are about nerve stimulation for pain, and TENS is a scientifically accepted alternative pain relief treatment. Nerve impulses are essentially very mild electrical currents, and other similar electrical waves placed at strategic locations block these pain signals. The stimulation also relaxes tense muscles, providing physical relief at the source of discomfort.
Stress has physical consequences. Many people find relief from these consequences, including chronic pain, by making some daily lifestyle adjustments, such as:
- Prioritizing Tasks: Take an honest look at the items on a to-do list, and decide which ones really need to be addressed and which ones can be deferred to another time, delegated to someone else, or eliminated altogether.
- Activity Scheduling: Especially when our bodies are already under attack due to chronic pain, pushing the envelope is normally a bad idea. Instead, consider scheduling short bursts of activity and extend rest breaks in between these bursts. Your guests will understand if you excuse yourself for a fifteen-minute nap during the party.
Always rest on a schedule as opposed to resting when pain flares up, because proactive resting is much more effective than reactive resting.
Hot and Cold Therapy
Warmth increases blood circulation and therefore decreases stiffness. Sometimes, the best hot therapy is a heating pad; other times, a warm bath does the trick. Cold has the opposite effect. It reduces blood flow to reduce inflammation. The cold also numbs nerve endings. Apply ice to the affected area for about twenty minutes.
Pain and lack of sleep go hand in hand. Discomfort often makes it hard to sleep at night, fatigue makes the pain more intense during the day, and things spiral downward. More sleep reverses this spiral. Better rest diminishes daytime pain and makes it easier to sleep at night. Try eliminating naps, avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed, going to sleep at a consistent time each night, and incorporating a wind-down routine into your evening. Aromatherapy often helps as well.
Reach inside yourself to find pain solutions, and you won’t reach into your medicine cabinet as often.