For those struggling with chronic pain, it can sometimes seem like you’re running out of options—you’ve tried everything, but your nerves are still on fire.
It turns out you may have more within your power than you think.
Use Food as a Source of Medicine
Foods rich in antioxidants, certain flavonoids, and other bioactive nutrients are proven to fight disease, prevent cell damage, and even relieve pain. Chamomile tea, for instance, contains high levels of antioxidants and relieves both the anxiety and pain associated with neuralgia, sciatica, rheumatoid arthritis, and other chronic conditions. Gallic acid, found in walnuts, apples and flax seed, assists in the metabolization of medications, which can help prescription treatments be more effective.
Spend Time Outdoors
Forest-bathing (which can be done in any green space; parks are fine) is becoming more accepted as having tangible effects on the human brain and body. Looking at trees and being exposed to sunlight increases feel-good chemicals like serotonin while lowering the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, as well as lowering blood pressure and accelerating physical therapy.
Optimize Your Treatment Regimen
Strategically timing and, in some cases, compounding a patient’s medications may be necessary for those suffering from prolonged or intense flare-ups. With the guidance of your doctor or a compounding pharmacist, patients can combine their regular pain management regimen with timed supplementary medications. Transdermal patches and creams have little potential for abuse and are effective for fibromyalgia, CRPS/RSD and neuropathic cancer pain, among others.
Practice Mindfulness & Meditation
Another way to deal with chronic pain is through mindfulness, which focus on some elements similar to those of behavioral therapy, such as replacing or redirecting negative thought constructs with affirmations of gratitude, strength, and resilience. Exercises like yoga and Tai Chi that combine mindful movement with meditation increase the effectiveness of coping strategies by releasing dopamine and activating your brain’s neuroplasticity.
Although they are easily accessed and perfectly legal stress-relievers for many people, tobacco and alcohol are shown to carry extra risks for people living with chronic pain. Cigarettes restrict oxygen flow to bone and tissue, and slow recovery time from illness or injury. Alcohol carries a higher risk of addiction when combined with the opiate-derived pain medications necessary to control chronic joint and nerve pain. Additionally, the acetaminophen used to augment those medications can accelerate liver damage from excessive alcohol use.
Though living with chronic pain can seem like a life sentence, it doesn’t have to be. There are many areas of your life where you can make small changes with big benefits. This multifaceted approach to treatment combines the best of holistic and modern medicine so you can have more pain-free days.