Got pain? Here are 5 methods to try for natural pain relief, in alphabetical order. For some, I know for a fact that there is hard scientific evidence behind the effectiveness of these methods. For others, I have not seen the evidence — which is not to say it does not exist, but just that I cannot vouch for the research behind it.
Regardless, all of these methods have been helpful to one extent or another for myself, as well as for other people in pain. And the way I see it, scientific data is fairly irrelevant to my own body. Even if 98% of people are helped by one method, I may be that other 2%, whereas if 98% of people are not helped by another method, I still may be that other 2%.
As long as a method has very low risk, and as long as we practice it with the utmost safety in mind — ie, as long as we and the practitioners with whom we work really listen and respond to our bodies – then we can check out various options, in the interest of putting together our own personal action plan for natural pain relief.
A lot of pain is caused by inflammation. By increasing the intake of foods and spices that lower inflammation (salmon, flax seeds, tumeric) and by reducing the intake of foods that cause inflammation (most notably, sugar) we can reduce inflammation, and therefore, pain.
Anything that increases our sense of pleasure has the potential to shift our experience of pain – whether by distracting our attention or by taking the edge off the “pain-pain-pain” neuronal pathway in our brain.
Breath is the spirit of life. By becoming aware of where our breath moves freely and where it feels stuck; by visualizing our breath as a warm, gentle mist permeating the hard places in our bodies; and by experiencing our breath as fingers touching and softening areas in pain, breath can help reduce or eliminate our pain levels. In addition, by slowing down our breathing and making our exhales longer than our inhales, we can lower the panic response that often accompanies an episode of intense pain.
Not only has dance profoundly healed my own body, but I have by now met three people who have gone from bedridden or wheelchair bound to walking, through dance. The essential concept to keep in mind is that we never, ever move parts of our body that are in pain, but rather, we move the parts of our body that feel comfortable — even if initially that place is only in our imagination. And so we retrain our brain to experience movement as pleasure, not pain.
In a nutshell, use it or lose it. As with dance, be careful to move in ways that gently expand the comfort zone, instead of barrelling through pain. Among other benefits, exercise increases the natural pain-reducing chemicals in the brain. So the more you exercise (again, safely), the better you can feel.