Many have lost their lives in the grip of the opioid epidemic, and as a result we have collectively started to look at how we can help patients with chronic pain in different ways. Natural pain relief techniques encourage healthier living overall, not simply the temporary alleviation of discomfort. Unlike chemical compounds, alternative relief methods do not create addiction, nor do they cause potentially harmful side effects. As an added bonus, nature’s cures often cost far less than their manufactured counterparts.
Individuals who begin supplementing healthier, more holistic approaches to medicine often report feeling more energized and generally healthier. When we take the time to supply our bodies with all of the nutrients, exercise and self-care they need, we often find that our bodies perform much more efficiently than expected. Here are six natural remedies that may be able to provide relief from chronic pain without ever involving the presence of medications.
1. Acupuncture Treatment
Acupuncture has offered pain relief for centuries among those in Asian cultures, and the practice has gained widespread acceptance in the Western world as well. Acupuncturists believe that pain results from a blockage of “chi”, our body’s vital energy force. The insertion of thin needles into different areas on the body’s meridians restores the flow of chi, leading to relief.
When selecting an acupuncturist, make sure the one you choose has completed an accredited certification program and carries a current license to practice. Your practitioner should complete a thorough health screening prior to treatment. Expect to spend anywhere from $50 to $90 per session.
2. Chiropractic Treatment
Many chronic pain patients suffer from back pain. Chiropractic care can realign ribs and vertebrae, bringing relief. Additionally, many insurance companies now cover chiropractic care.
Some chiropractors insist that they can alleviate many conditions unrelated to musculoskeletal injury, so exercise caution when selecting your doctor. Those experiencing pain due to muscle spasms should seek a chiropractor who practices myofascial relief in addition to realigning bones. This allows the muscles to relax, making it easier for your doctor to adjust your spine properly.
3. Spending Time Outside
Both physical exercise and spending time in nature help to alleviate chronic pain. Many patients who suffer from arthritis or fibromyalgia avoid exercise fearing it will increase, not decrease pain. This mindset leads to further agony, as the human body needs to move regularly to avoid muscle atrophy and to allow synovial fluid to flow to inflamed joints.
Those who find moving about on land too harsh on painful joints can seek aqua aerobics classes. The natural buoyancy of water supports the majority of body weight, facilitating ease of movement.
A relatively new pain relief treatment, ecotherapy, involves getting out in nature to alleviate pain caused by chronic diseases such as migraines. Natural sunlight and fresh air invigorate the senses and provide enormous relief. Urban-dwelling pain sufferers need not drive hours to the nearest national forest to experience healing through ecotherapy — a backyard garden patch or nearby park can also do it.
4. Herbal Healing
Many pain patients opt for the healing power of herbal medicine over its chemical counterparts. Since the early days of humanity, people have turned to plants to increase energy and alleviate suffering.
Turmeric, a natural anti-inflammatory herb used frequently in Indian dishes, remedies arthritis pain and helps injured joints heal more quickly. Both turmeric and its active ingredient, curcumin, can be added to foods or teas or taken in supplement form.
Ashwagandha, another Asian herb, helps balance hormonal levels and relieves joint pain. Women suffering from endometriosis often find significant relief from Ashwagandha, and Ayurvedic medicine practitioners often utilize the herb for this purpose.
Damiana, a herb which grows wild in most of Mexico and Texas, helps regenerate damaged nerve function. Patients suffering from multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease or other disorders of the central nervous system benefit from the neuromuscular effects of this plant.
Finally, in cannabis-friendly communities, medical marijuana offers powerful relief for chronic pain patients suffering from a multitude of ailments. It’s practically impossible to overdose on medical cannabis, and many former opioid addicts have used this herb to ease withdrawal symptoms. Like all plants, cannabis contains high levels of terpenes, substances which give flowers their unique scents and which may boost medicinal efficacy.
5. Soothing Supplements
Those suffering from mild to moderate arthritis pain need look no further than the natural food section of their local grocery to find relief. Today’s sedentary indoor lifestyles lead many to develop vitamin D deficiencies. The human body produces vitamin D naturally with exposure to sunlight, but people suffering from joint pain may benefit from a vitamin D supplement, especially if they live in northern climates with short winter days.
People who experience morning stiffness in their backs or joints should consider taking a fish oil supplement before going to bed. Fish oil reduces inflammation and lubricates joints, making it easier to hop out of bed in the morning with a smile.
Sam-e alleviates the suffering of those with arthritis and fibromyalgia, especially when combined with a quality B vitamin supplement to aid in absorption. One 2004 study equated the efficacy of Sam-e with that of the prescription medication Celebrex.
6. A Good, Old-Fashioned Back Rub
Everyone enjoys a thorough deep-tissue massage now and then, but this therapy also offers significant natural pain relief for those suffering from a number of ailments. One school of thought opines that massage rubs away pain by soothing muscle spasms. Others believe massage therapy works due to the way comforting touch relaxes the central nervous system.
A host of different massage techniques exist, from Reiki to deep tissue. Selecting the best form of massage depends on the specific needs of the patient. Those with acute injuries from athletics can benefit from sports massage, while those experiencing fibromyalgia pain can find relief with trigger point massage techniques that relax tender spots.
7. Healthier Habits Overall
In addition to using natural remedies for symptoms, you can also help your body by establishing healthy habits overall. During pain management and treatment, it’s essential to stay hydrated and provide the body with stable sources of dietary energy, not quickly metabolized sugar. Proteins, complex carbohydrates and fats are all essential to having a physically and mentally healthy body.
It’s a good idea to support your clean-living decision by regularly checking in with doctors and continuing healthy nutrition and exercise habits. In addition, people who have suffered from opioid addiction in the past may benefit from attending group therapy or individual counseling to address the mental components of addiction.
Trusting the Natural World
While the opioid crisis reveals the dangers of chemically synthesizing ever-stronger painkillers, it also provides patients and doctors alike with the opportunity to look beyond most prescribing physicians’ options for ameliorative care. Doctors would do well to start with these lines of defense before jumping to prescribe potentially addictive medications to patients, and patients would do well to self-advocate and ask for a different course of treatment if they are nervous about taking medications.
Incorporating alternative healing techniques gives many chronic pain patients a chance to live at least relatively pain-free without the mind-numbing effects of narcotics. Nature provides us with the tools we need to alleviate suffering without causing addiction or risking dangerous side effects.