If you follow the news, then you know opioid addiction is nothing short of an epidemic. And while there are certainly countless patients who require pain medication and use it correctly, the substances can be troublesome for some and overused by others. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, 1.9 million Americans over the age of 12 were addicted to opioid medications in 20141.
So what’s there to do? How do we deal with aches and pains in a more natural way? Supplementally Speaking offers holistic options for relieving pain safely without the use of prescription medications, but urges you to always discuss natural remedies with your doctor before using them at home.
Regular exercise can be beneficial in managing some types of chronic pain, most specifically, according to studies, low back pain and the discomfort associated with fibromyalgia2. Exercise can also produce hormones and endorphins that elevate feelings of well-being and mood. Depending on the cause of your pain, regular movement can be an inexpensive, but highly effective way to decrease pain. Talk to your doctor about the best type and duration of exercise for you.
To increase blood flow and flexibility in painful areas, try a warm compress or heating pad. Increased blood flow can lead to faster healing, and the heat promotes decreased inflammation and a temporary reduction in stiffness. In contrast, short periods of icing can provide temporary pain relief and decreased swelling. Ask your doctor about the recommended application periods for applying heat and ice.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, experts say meditation and mindfulness can play a role in providing pain and anxiety relief for chronic pain conditions, such as arthritis.3 The regular practice of mindfulness allows pain sufferers to focus on more positive aspects of life, thereby taking the focus off of pain. If you’re interested in learning more about this ancient practice—according to the 2015 National Health Interview Survey, 8 percent of U.S. adults practice it4—look for local meditation classes through yoga studios or park districts. Or, try your mind at some of the many online guided mediations to get started.
With so many supplements in the news and on the market, it can be difficult to know which ones may be effective at treating pain. The National Institutes of Health reports fish oil to have an anti-inflammatory affect comparable to ibuprofen.5 The Arthritis Foundation reports anti-inflammatory properties and immune system responses from turmeric as well.6 Before beginning any supplemental regimen, talk with your doctor about complimentary medicine and associated dosages.
The most common sense advice, but hardest for most of us to implement, is plain old rest. When you’re hurting, stop pushing yourself and take the time you need to recover. This is especially important when your pain is caused by injury. Muscle strains and sprains can linger when ample healing time isn’t allowed, so don’t beat yourself up when downtime is a must. The sooner you take the time to heal, the sooner you’ll be back to 100 percent.
1http://www.asam.org/docs/default-source/advocacy/opioid-addiction-disease-facts-figures.pdf.PDF file opens in a new window.
2http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11783835.link opens in a new window
3 http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/treatments/natural/other-therapies/mind-body-pain-relief/meditation-eases-symptoms.php.link opens in a new window
4https://nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/NHIS/2012/mind-body/meditation.link opens in a new window
5http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16531187.link opens in a new window
6http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/treatments/natural/supplements-herbs/guide/turmeric.php.link opens in a new window