Natural Pain Relief
It is hard to feel at peace with nature and at one with the world, or with any one at all, when we are in suffering with pain. Instead we may just feel tired, irritable and unable to function. Pain can be a symptom of any number of injuries or illnesses. It is one way our body can communicate with us that something is wrong, and that something needs to be done to make it better. It’s hard to carry on ignoring pain. We might be forced to slow down, take care of ourselves. Pain is potentially a symptom of serious illness and so should be investigated by a medical professional. Diagnosis and treatment of the source of the pain is vital for our recovery. For those with ongoing pain or regular bouts of pain from a diagnosed source, there are some natural, green remedies to try, as an alternative to pharmaceutical pain medications. These can help to relieve the pain whilst healing is taking place, or to contribute to an overall pain management care plan.
Fresh air and Sunshine
Perhaps we sometimes take for granted the impact of fresh air and sunshine on the reduction of pain and for health. The sun is a great source of vitamin D- According to research by the University of Minnesota, 93 % of 150 people with unexplained sources of pain were actually found to have vitamin D deficiency. We need vitamin D for our bodes to absorb calcium , necessary for repair and growth of bones.
10-15 minutes of sun exposure a day can help the body produce vitamin D. People who got the recommended daily 400 to 800 IU of vitamin D experienced less pain than those who didn’t, according to a Boston University study of 221 men and women with knee osteoarthritis.
Sleep and rest is a natural aid to recovery. Gentle exercise in the fresh air can also help with resting a sleep later on. Exercise releases endorphins which help with pain relief and general well-being. Although it can be difficult to sleep when in pain, a good mattress, such as one made of latex with natural pressure relieving and posture support, and some natural sleep aids could help.
Certain foods can actually contribute to relieving pain as they have anti-inflammatory properties whilst others may need avoiding.
“ Inflammation is the body’s way of healing itself, but when it persists or gets out of control, it can cause damage and unnecessary pain. We all know the importance of eating healthy, but following a specifically anti-inflammatory diet has the power to reduce pain, stiffness and even allergy symptoms throughout the body. Start thinking of mealtimes as opportunities to heal yourself by eating anti-inflammatory foods. Avoid dairy, refined sugars, processed grain products, alcohol and vegetable oils, each of which is difficult for the body to break down and taxing to the immune system. Instead, find ways to include avocado, olive oil, pastured eggs, fatty fish, brightly colored vegetables and spices like turmeric and ginger.”
Heat and Ice
- Heat applied to the painful area can reduce pain, by using either an old fashioned hot water bottle, a wheat bag, electric heat pad or a heat wrap. Not only does the heat increase circulation and therefore blood flow to the area, carrying nutrients and oxygen, it may even reduce or suppress the pain signals to the brain. Preparations such as Tiger Balm rubbed onto the site can also increase heat and provide relief to the painful area.
- A warm bath is also good for pain relief. Try adding Lavender oil or Epsom salts to the bath water. Epsom salts contain therapeutic minerals which can be absorbed through the skins. Regular soaking in a bath of with two cups of Epsom salts, for a minimum of 12 minutes each time can reduce inflammation, soothing muscles and joints and even relax the nervous system and help the body to get rid of toxins.
- Whilst heat can reduce pain, ice packs can also reduce inflammation and therefore pain. Ice also has anesthetic properties. Applying ice to inflamed joints and muscles also slows down the nerve impulses and interrupt pain signals from the painful area to the brain.
A high quality therapeutic massage also helps to increase circulation and heal the body. Massage also releases endorphins, which are powerful pain relieving substances in the body. Various methods of manipulation and massage can reduce pain, by tracing the source of pain and other conditions.
Mediation, Relaxation and Yoga
Relaxing and meditating, yoga or even gentle Pilates exercises can help us to combat pain, and contribute to our well-being Our brains are more powerful than we perhaps realize. Brain imaging has shown that pain is processed much differently during meditation, making it is less distressing and severe. To ease pain using mindfulness meditation, start by tuning into your pain sensations rather than distracting yourself from them. Breath in through your nostrils and out through your mouth, making sure each breath cycle lasts at least ten seconds. Gently coax your attention back to the present if you get distracted, and visualize a wave of relaxation spilling from the top of your head through your body and out the tips of your toes.
Whilst yoga may be seen as form of rigorous exercise, it doesn’t have to be. It is more about connecting the mind, body, and spirit through gentle movements and breathing techniques. Practicing and achieving this mind/body connection is invaluable for those experiencing chronic pain, and contributes to feeling more in control of our mind and body.
According to an article in Spine health, “Pain is not a simple sensation. It is strongly influenced by the ways in which the brain processes the pain signals. In fact, chronic pain can provoke strong emotional reactions, such as fear, anxiety, or even terror, depending on what the individual believes about his or her pain signals.”
Our brains can learn how to manage the sensation of pain using a combination of deep focus, breathing, and imagery techniques.
First, learn how to relax:
- Try putting yourself in a relaxed, reclining position in a dark room. Either shut your eyes or focus on a single point.
- Slow down your breathing. Breathe deeply, using your chest to pull the breath into your stomach.
- After you feel yourself relaxing, begin using imagery techniques.
Once you are relaxed, use the following effective imagery techniques to help control your chronic pain.
This powerful technique involves focusing your attention on any specific non-painful part of the body (hand, foot, etc.) and altering sensation in that part of the body. For example, imagine your hand warming up. This will take the mind away from focusing on the source of your pain.
This technique, also very powerful, is imagining an injection of numbing anesthetic (like the Novocain a dentist uses) into your area of pain. Similarly, you may then wish to imagine a soothing and cooling ice pack being placed onto the area of pain.
Building on the mental anesthesia concept, this technique involves imagining an injection of a strong pain killer, such as morphine, into the painful area. Along the same lines, you can focus on imagining your brain producing massive amounts of endorphins, your body’s natural pain-relieving hormones, and having them flood into to the painful parts of your body.
Use your mind to produce altered sensations—such as heat, cold, or anesthetic—in a non-painful hand, and place the hand on the painful area. Envision transferring this pleasant, altered sensation into the painful area.
Mentally move your pain from one area of your body to another where you think the pain will be easier for you to handle. If you can’t take another minute of your leg pain, for example, mentally move the pain up from your leg and into your lower back. Or you can move your pain out of your body and into the air.
These techniques take practice to become effective for managing chronic pain. Work on pain coping strategies for about 30 minutes 3 times per week. With practice, you will find that your power over the pain will increase, and it will take less mental energy to achieve more pain relief. You may also consider asking a mental health professional for help.”
Chronic pain can be very debilitating. Even short term pain impacts on our lives.
There are some effective pain treatments and remedies available. With the green chemistry movement there are conventional medicines which are now being produced with reduced carbon footprint. Hopefully all medication will one day be produced in this way. There are also a wealth of eco-friendly remedies, and methods to try. Many are freely available; but remember some may require support from a specialist. You must consider the options carefully and how they could work for you, maybe you would need to use a few different solutions before you find one that hopefully can reduce your pain.
I remember when I had my first baby. Despite my original birth plans for a natural birth, following serious pregnancy complications it became clear that massaging lavender oil into my temples, and soaking in a bath with essential oils wasn’t going to work. I was very grateful for an epidural then and went on to have two further deliveries by caesarean. We don’t earn points for being in pain. At the end of the day, reducing pain and improving quality of your life is what matters but at least you have several options to try.