Let’s face it — if you have had chronic pain for a while, you probably know what works for you and what doesn’t. While you try to be patient, it’s hard to repress the urge to scream, “Do I look like a camel,” when one more person suggests drinking plenty of water.
However, that isn’t to say that holistic remedies don’t work — they do and without all the potentially harmful side effects of medication. Here are eight ways to deal with chronic pain that have been tried, tested and proven to work.
1. Get Your Muscles Moving
Chronic pain is exhausting. Plus, conditions like arthritis make some movement painful. Who could blame you for feeling skeptical about exercise as a holistic remedy?
However, moving your body promotes the flow of feel-good endorphins, natural opioid-like chemicals that your body produces. Unlike the prescription kind, they won’t make you drowsy, though. Instead, they improve your mood, along with easing pain.
You don’t have to train for a marathon or do HIIT to reap the benefits. Please consider trying aquatic exercise if movements on land prove painful due to pressure on your joints or back. The buoyancy will support you, and you won’t break a sweat.
2. Modify Your Diet
Another realistic and holistic way to decrease chronic pain flares is to follow an anti-inflammatory diet. Doctors implicate inflammation in nearly every illness known.
Protocols such as the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes tons of fresh fruits and veggies punctuated by lean proteins like fish and oils like olive, can drop your levels of inflammatory markers. They can also help prevent flares in folks with IBS, ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s.
Try to avoid foods high in sugar and processed flour. Too much sugar makes your body work harder to produce insulin and can aggravate inflammation. Manufacturers strip the nutrient-rich bran away in making white flour, leaving you with empty calories that pad your waistline while providing little additional benefit.
3. Experiment With Herbal Teas
Some teas have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Others help mitigate the effect of daily stress on your body to help reduce flares.
Turmeric is one of the best anti-inflammatory compounds out there. You can increase its efficacy by adding black pepper — the piperine increases the bioavailability of the curative curcumin by 2,000%. White willow bark is another one to try — it’s the inspiration behind aspirin, and many believe the raw herb works better.
Adaptogenic herbs have potent antioxidant properties to help your body reduce everyday stress on your cells from pollution and poor diet. Ashwagandha is one such adaptogen — try adding it to your other herbal blends to increase your ability to sail over life’s rough patches without flares.
4. Try Acupuncture
Many chronic pain patients swear by acupuncture to relieve their conditions. The ancient Chinese testified that the method worked by stimulating the flow of chi, or vital life energy. Western researchers believe that stimulating the nervous system can affect your pain perception.
When choosing an acupuncturist, make sure to check their credentials — they should, at minimum, hold licensure through the state. Ask your friends for recommendations. They’re more familiar with your condition, and if they are fellow chronic pain warriors, they’ll know the best practitioners.
5. Invest in a TENS Unit
Transdermal electrical nerve stimulation sends a tiny current into your muscles to help them relax. If you tend to get painful knots due to fibromyalgia or another painful condition, they can be a godsend.
The best part? You don’t need a health insurance policy to buy one. You can find units under $100 on Amazon, although you will pay more for higher quality.
6. Practice Yoga
Yoga hasn’t stood the test of time for thousands of years because people enjoy it for physical fitness alone. This ancient practice is one of the best remedies for chronic pain. It keeps your muscles, ligaments and tendons pliable — excess stiffness from remaining sedentary can worsen the ache.
Plus, yoga calms your mind, which shares an intricate link with your physical self. Do you notice that your flares get worse under stress?
You don’t have to go for athletic ashtanga. Gentle yin yoga has you lying on your mat holding static poses for three to five minutes — you won’t burn tons of calories or sweat. However, you will provide much-needed elongation and relief to ligaments and tendons shortened by inactivity.
Before you roll your eyes at this suggestion, consider the scientific evidence that shows it works. A review of research by the National Institutes of Health found a small yet statistically significant improvement in pain outcomes by people who practice the technique. You know any relief is a blessing.
Meditation doesn’t cost a thing except for a few minutes of your time. If you aren’t sure how to get started, search YouTube — you’ll find recordings designed to help chronic pain patients ease their ache.
8. Get Outside
Numerous subjective reports state that getting outside has a beneficial effect on mood and pain levels. Now, science explains some of how the mechanism works.
Plants deploy a chemical defense system called phytoncides that ward off their predators — while benefiting the immune system of the lucky humans inhaling them. Researchers who study forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, as the Japanese call it, found an increase in natural killer cells among those who spent time in nature weekly.
You know that sickness makes nearly any chronic pain condition flare up like a bottle rocket. Why not boost your mood and immune health while potentially staving off agony?
Ease Your Chronic Pain the Realistic and Holistic Way
It’s understandable to react with skepticism when seemingly everyone offers a miracle cure for your condition. However, the eight holistic — and realistic — techniques above will help you ease your chronic pain.