Roughly one-fifth of the world population lives with chronic pain, yet current levels of understanding and acceptance of natural pain relief therapies remain low. This lack of awareness persists even despite everything health professionals know and suspect about the consequences of long-term pharmaceutical pain management therapies. Consequently, it often falls to chronic pain sufferers themselves to discover natural pain relief methods to help manage and diminish pain and/or increase the efficacy of traditional pain relief therapies.
Though not every natural pain relief therapy works for everyone, following the steps below can help individuals discover the interdisciplinary combination of natural pain relief methods that works best for them.*
Neuroimaging studies of brains of people with painful conditions find evidence of both anatomical and neurological changes. Though people who experience severe, chronic, or recurrent pain absolutely want to find effective means of pain relief, these changes can diminish their motivation to do so. Consequently, taking action to find pain relief and committing to other health-promoting behaviors — even envisioning a pain-free future — becomes more difficult.
Recent research shows that the brain’s natural processes reduce pain while individuals work to discover methods of pain relief. This is more than just being “distracted” or experiencing a “placebo;” for people suffering from severe or chronic pain, pain relief seeking behaviors can trigger the body’s natural, endogenic analgesic/pain relief systems.
Deep breathing exercises, yoga, tai chi, and mindfulness can all yield some natural pain relief via the “relaxation response”. Additionally, meditation provides pain relief that is even greater than that elicited by the relaxation response in other mind-body practices. Nevertheless, though meditation is the best mind-body pain relief practice, all other practices can still support and preserve emotional, physical, and spiritual health in the face of chronically painful conditions.
Generally speaking, isotonic exercise (where a muscle contracts to lift/resist a weight) may elicit a reduction in the intensity of painful sensations even in uninvolved parts of the body. Resistance exercise may provide more reliable natural pain relief than aerobics, as aerobic exercise may induce pain-causing inflammation.
Some manual pain relief therapies — like massage and chiropractic adjustment, as well as acupuncture — can provide natural pain relief without the adverse side effects of pharmaceutical intervention. These therapies can be especially effective in combination with exercise.
Having perhaps the longest history of use as natural pain relief therapies, certain foods and natural supplements derived from edible materials may help control and diminish pain.
For example, flavonoids, terpenes, alkaloids, phenols, carotenoids, and capsaicin demonstrate a significant capacity to reduce the inflammation often associated with chronic pain. Likewise, food containing omega-3 polyunsaturated acids may be natural analgesics and have health-promoting properties that help resolve the psychosomatic symptoms of chronic pain (including depressed mood).
Some of the best foods and herbal supplements to eat for pain relief include hot peppers, saffron, watermelon juice, turmeric, garlic, caffeine, ginger, cinnamon, and black tea.
*Consult your health care provider before supplementing or changing pain relief therapies.