From arthritis to back aches, chronic pain can become all too real as the body ages. In fact, the latest statistics suggest that around one in four people suffer from some form of chronic pain. While medication can often work wonders, a growing body of research also suggests that natural approaches to pain management are also invaluable.
So what should you start experimenting with? While everything is subjective and different techniques work for different cases, here’s a few concepts to consider:
More than just a bright yellow powder used to spice up Indian foods, turmeric is quickly garnering a reputation as a surprisingly useful pain management solution. The root is loaded with anti-inflammatory properties, with studies finding it particularly effective for patients suffering from osteoarthritis. It also contains curcumin, a robust antioxidant that helps protect the body against free radicals that attack cells and tissue.
The term “mind over matter” is a little flippant when referring to the very sobering reality of chronic pain, but that’s not to say it can’t be a powerful tool. More than just a trivial concept embraced by New Age yogis, studies suggest that mindful meditation can help to decrease the brain’s perception of pain. More research suggests that meditation actively changes the way the brain functions, and champions the idea that you can train yourself not to feel pain.
Looking for an excuse to pop open that bottle of Pinot Noir? Found in red wine, grapes and berries, resveratrol actively suppresses neuropathic pain by balancing pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokine proteins. While some experts maintain that the resveratrol content in red wine isn’t enough to make a difference, a glass or two can’t do any harm.
For centuries heat therapy has been used to quell pain. Just look at the concept of hot stone massages, which have been used by Chinese doctors for over 2000 years. Whether it’s a warm shower, a hot bath or a steamy session in the sauna, heat is shown to relax nervous input from the body to the brain, which can help to relieve pain.
Ever feel like your life revolves around aspirin? Why not experiment with willow bark, an ancient remedy used to ease inflammation. It contains a chemical known as salicin, which is very similar to one of the active ingredients found in aspirin. While people used to chew on the bark to activate relief, today it’s available as a dried herb that you can brew like tea. Add a dash of honey and it’s a fabulous nightcap.
No, we’re not talking about the indulgent spa treatments that get wrapped up for Mother’s Day. Though of course, they are amazing. Therapeutic massage can be incredibly useful when it comes to managing chronic pain, including back aches, tension migraines, fibromyalgia, post-surgery issues and more. You may experience more “ouches” than “ahhs” but ultimately, massage therapy has been shown to work at a molecular level, helping to “switch off” certain genes and nerves that are associated with inflammation. There’s also the matter of working out knots and tension in general, not to mention the fact that massages boost levels of endorphins and serotonin, aka the body’s natural painkillers. What’s not to love about that
While it’s more commonly associated with managing issues like anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, cognitive-behavioural therapy is quickly emerging as an avant-garde technique for chronic pain management. Some experts assert that changing the way you think about your pain can help minimise physical discomfort.
Of course, before altering medication or experimenting with new pain management concepts it’s important to run it past your GP. They’ll be able to independently assess your situation, and whether a solution is right for you.
Do you have any experience managing chronic pain naturally?