Reducing Pain and Rewiring the Brain: Delving Deeper Into Natural Pain Relief Alternatives
by Lisa DiFalco
Physicians, nurses and mental health providers are beginning to embrace natural pain relief solutions and suggesting them for their patients. In addition, chronic pain sufferers are looking for safe pain relief alternatives that can improve their quality of life without the chance of addiction or dangerous side effects. The recent article, Saying No to Opioids and Marijuana: What are Natural Pain Relief Alternatives, identified groups that should think twice before taking opioids or medical marijuana, and began to introduce some of the natural pain relief options currently available to chronic pain sufferers and the established medical community. The medical community is beginning to acknowledge natural pain relief alternatives for chronic pain sufferers that can assist patients with living lives with more ease. Explore some natural pain relief solutions to help patients identify which options they may want to pursue on their path to pain relief and recovery.
Exploring Natural Health Suggestions for Pain Relief
Not every doctor is eager to pull out the prescription pad and medicate patients. This group of health professionals is looking to offer suggestions to patients that rely less on pharmaceutical products and returns back to healing with more natural methods. Dr. Ken Redcross, a well-known internist, often prescribes natural options, according to KRQE NEWS 13. Redcross said:
“… I think there’s a lot of ways that we can actually get help in healing without taking a pill.”
For muscle pain, he may prescribe the consumption of turmeric as it has anti-inflammatory properties and has been used for “thousands of years.” Other pain treatment options that may require topical application, consumption or regular practice include:
- A gel with arnica montana for pain with bruising and swelling;
- Glucosamine for joint pain relief;
- Lavender and peppermint oils for tension headaches; and
- Low weight-bearing exercises to build up joints, increase muscle strength and potentially lose weight, placing less pressure on weakened joints.
Any natural health solution should be discussed with a primary care physician, and individuals currently taking medications should be aware that some natural health options may be contraindicated as they interact poorly with certain prescriptions. However, there are those that find that natural health solutions help them when prescriptions have failed and may be of particular use to combat depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions. Chronic pain and suffering can affect all aspects of one’s health, and it is worthwhile to explore the many options available.
Handling Pain that Impairs Movement
In the other article, Cynthia Toussaint was introduced. Once a dancer, she developed complex pain syndrome and experienced crippling chronic pain. Prescribed pain medications did not help her, and it was only guided imagery and Feldenkrais that allowed her to begin the healing process. What are these two therapies and how do they work?
- Guided imagery, a deep relaxation method, uses visualization to help patients begin the healing process. In Toussaint’s situation, the therapist sat by her bedside and helped Toussaint find a calming place. The therapist worked with Toussaint in imagining a ballet class and mentally dancing through various choreography. Her body began to function better and she was able to sit up, walk and even shower without assistance only a month after starting therapy. Her physical sensitivity to touch was greatly reduced and she was able to begin hands-on physical therapy and Feldenkrais.
- Feldenkrais is a movement therapy. Individuals that choose to use this movement-based therapy can experience a number of benefits including reduced pain through the minimization of psychological and physiological stress, improved dexterity, better posture, improved coordination and suppleness. Feldenkrais integrates the power of mind and body to allow people to participate more fully in their daily lives. People that may have positive results with this method include those with orthopedic or neurological problems, dancers and athletes, and others with problems associated with the workplace or aging. This co-therapy has been used to address learning disabilities, muscle injuries, back pain and more and is starting to be used in nursing and sports medicine.
Cynthia Toussaint was able to take back her life and regain control over her body with the use of these therapies that were unusual alternatives at the time. There are other movement exercises that are being offered at pain management centers and empowering patients. These movement exercises include:
- Alexander Technique;
- Qigong; and
- Tai Chi.
Patients and their healthcare practitioners can look into Eastern and Western movement practices to help those with chronic back pain address muscle spasms, improve flexibility and range of motion, develop mind/body awareness and support a calmer and more focused mental attitude. Patients may also experience a reduction in emotional and psychological stress and improve existing musculoskeletal conditions. Patients that are looking to reduce their pain and improve their mood may find Tai Chi, Qigong and Yoga a gentle and soothing path to a better life.
Shifts in Pain Management
Chronic pain acts differently than acute pain. When the body is in the state of chronic pain, it is often more sensitive to threats and can misinterpret the extent of the situation, creating a pain response that is disproportionate to the event itself. In addition, those with repeated pain experience blurred boundaries in pain response, and minor stress can elicit a full-on protective response. The mind-body connection is profound when it comes to reducing pain for chronic sufferers. Visualization, breathing, meditation and other mental exercises and movement-based exercises can assist patients in managing their pain and help the body unlearn an embedded response to specific stimuli. An individual that uses their mind and body to practice a healthier response to pain can effectively rewire how pain is perceived and differentiate previous trauma and pain from what is occurring in their current situation. Patients can be taught to rewire their response to pain with the help of professional and open-minded healthcare professionals.