Managing Chronic Pain: 6 Alternative Treatments
Chronic pain rarely comes on its own and is most often indicative of an underlying disease even if no other symptoms are immediately present. Accompanied by inflammation or, in many cases, anxiety and depression, chronic pain can require a complex treatment or a way to address it that doesn’t negatively interfere with other medications. Because of how hard it is to measure something as subjective as pain, pain management tools are tricky and not every person will benefit from them equally. Different scales have been implemented for different goals so treatment teams can have a better understanding of a patient’s pain but ultimately if you live with chronic pain, no one is going to know exactly what you’re going through.
This September, Pain Awareness Month, we at FindMeCure would like to not only start a discussion about living with chronic pain but also to give you some useful tips on how to manage it. Some of the at-home remedies you can try, however, can interact with your medication, so before you try anything on the list, consult your treatment team and make sure you have a green light from them first.
Your attitude is what makes or breaks a treatment.
If you’re dealing with a chronic disease, you should be number one on your list of priorities. You have the power to decide how you want your treatment to go, who you want to be on your team and what kind of people you want to surround yourself with in your time of hardship. Don’t be a perfectionist when it comes to how good you’re ‘supposed to’ be doing – it’s okay if some days you can’t make the same effort, if physical therapy is harder today than it was yesterday, if you’re feeling exhausted and you don’t have the energy to go to your co-worker’s party. Having unrealistically high expectations for yourself is how you get into burnout and this is not going to make your pain any better.
Essential oils can help
If you’re one of those people who think plant medicine is a new age concept, you maybe need some data to believe this and thankfully there is research to back it up. According to a small 2012 study, inhaling lavender essential oil can relieve migraine pain better than a placebo. Another study, this one more recent (2015) revealed that lavender essential oil also has some anti-inflammatory properties. The study, however, was done in animals and the FDA does not regulate essential oils, so the exact quantity that can produce a beneficial effect in humans is up for debate.
There’s also research into the pain-relieving effects of rosemary essential oil. Apparently, the plant may help treat headaches, muscle pain, fight inflammation and even improve memory. These effects, researchers suggest, are due to rosemary oil acting on the opioid receptors in the brain.
Another essential oil to add to your list if you’re considering trying to treat your pain at home or if you ever find yourself with no alternative is peppermint oil. Applied to the temples and forehead, peppermint oil can relieve tension headaches. It has been used as a topical treatment for arthritis (meaning that people apply it to the painful area) and like the other two essential oils on the list, it shows some anti-inflammatory properties. Peppermint oil should never be applied on broken skin and before rubbing it on the achy area, you should test for any allergic reaction.
Ginger doesn’t only fight the flu
If you’ve ever tried treating the flue with at-home remedies, you probably know firsthand about the healing properties of ginger. Ginger can also relieve pain, according to a 2015 systematic review which demonstrates how ginger can reduce recovery time after exercise and fight inflammation. If you decide to include ginger in your diet go for the real product, instead of resorting to supplements, and consume it raw in smoothies or make tea out of it by pouring boiling water over the grated ginger root.
Acupuncture can be highly effective
Acupuncture can be an alternative treatment for some types of pain like migraine and tension headaches, back and neck pain as well as osteoarthritis. According to a 2018 meta-analysis, acupuncture can be a viable treatment option for chronic pain. So far research suggests that this alternative treatment can relieve many types of pain, not only musculoskeletal or headaches but more evidence needs to be presented.
Adding acupuncture to your treatment regimen can only come with benefits because this needle therapy does not interfere with drugs and is not associated with any side effects. Try at least a few procedures over the course of 2-3 weeks to give acupuncture the time to relieve your pain.
Feverfew can relieve muscle spasms, turmeric fights inflammation
Fighting chronic pain with herbs and spices may not be your first choice but if drugs are not an option for whatever reason, it’s good to know you have nature on your side. A 2011 review found out that feverfew, a plant often used to treat fever, migraine, rheumatoid arthritis and other kinds of pain, has analgesic properties. However, it doesn’t come without side effects such as nausea and increased risk of bleeding, so even though it’s a nature’s remedy, consulting a doctor is a must.
Turmeric, on the other hand, has been researched for its inflammation-fighting efforts in RA patients and other inflammation-related diseases. It’s very easy to include it in your diet as well – just add it to soups, sauces and smoothies.
Yoga and mindfulness practices are underrated
When it comes to managing stress-related pain, the benefits of yoga are worth the initial discomfort of getting into the practice. Although there is no evidence that yoga can help with any other type of pain like headaches, arthritis, fibromyalgia, it does relieve lower back pain. Because of its relaxing effect, yoga can reduce stress and anxiety – conditions that often worsen pain and inflammation in the body.
Research has been focusing on mindfulness meditation for the treatment of chronic pain. According to a 2017 meta-analysis, mindfulness can improve symptoms of pain and depression. Mindfulness meditation is not only safe but also effective, so a lot of chronic pain patients turn to the practice as a natural treatment.
To really understand the effects of mindfulness meditation, however, more research is needed. If you want to help advance chronic pain treatments or try an innovative approach in a controlled environment, consider joining a clinical trial. Clinical trials don’t only test drugs, they also investigate the effects of natural remedies, lifestyle and diet changes and so much more. If you’re interested in giving research a chance, search for a clinical trial on FindMeCure.
That’s a good point that having a good attitude about treatments could be a big benefit. It would make sense that being negative about something would make it less likely for you to stick with it to see results. I’ll have to keep that in mind if I decide to try some alternative treatments for my arthritis.