Chronic pain affects 1 in 5 people in the United States, making it difficult for those affected to lead a normal life. It is a very subjective experience and cannot be measured. The doctors rely on the patient’s description of the pain to diagnose the underlying problem.
Additionally, one person’s reason for having chronic pain may not be another’s. There are a number of conditions that cause chronic pain, such as fibromyalgia, past trauma, migraines, deficiency of vitamin D, arthritis, and nerve impingement.
For these reasons, the treatment that works for one person may not work for another, which complicates the condition and makes it difficult to find a remedy.
Pain lasting for more than or equal to 3 months (1)
Reduced body movements
Reduced strength, stamina, and flexibility or feeling wiped out
Difficulty carrying out enjoyable or important activities, which can lead to disability and despair
Cognitive problems such as anxiety and depression
Hampered social life, family problems, irritability, guilt, and suicidal thoughts
Alcohol or drug abuse
How to Manage Chronic Pain
Your mind plays an important role in how you deal with pain. While some people perceive chronic pain to be a nuisance that needs to be overcome in order to continue their daily activities.
Others run from it or fear the seriousness of pain so much that it hampers their recovery or pain management.
Using mindfulness meditation techniques, where one draws his/her attention to the present moment with “openness, curiosity, and acceptance,” allows you to refocus your mind and reframe your present experience. (1)
When used adjunctly with traditional medicine, mindfulness meditation has been shown to result in an improvement in pain.
In addition to mental relaxation techniques and healthy diet, certain alternative modalities can be used to help manage chronic pain naturally.
However, it is important to note that, when using these methods, results will vary depending on the reason for your chronic pain syndrome and its severity.
Method 1: Massage
People who experience chronic pain often turn to massage therapies to improve their quality of life, and there is a good reason for this.
When your muscles are stimulated through massage, your nerve cells work to inhibit the nerve fibers responsible for the sensation of pain. (2)
A therapeutic massage spurs blood flow, which helps nourish and heal the soft tissues in the body.
Massage has been shown to provide relief for many chronic pain syndromes, including neck pain, low back pain, and migraines/headaches. (3)
You can try massaging at home, but it is best to find a licensed massage therapist near you, who has experience in treating your condition. Alongside your physician and therapist, discuss a treatment plan that may incorporate this methodology.
Method 2: Ginger Oil
Ginger has been used as a medicinal ingredient for thousands of years by South Asians as a cure for different kinds of pains. It helps relieve nausea, arthritis, headaches, menstrual cramps, and muscle soreness. (4)(5)
It helps to improve blood circulation in your body. Its natural analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties allow it to heal and reduce chronic pain such as joint pain, muscle pain, and back pain.
Things you’ll need:
Ginger essential oil - 5 to 10 drops
Extra-virgin olive oil -2 tablespoons
Single-Step Treatment: Mix ginger oil with olive oil and apply the mixture on the painful area
Mix 5 to 10 drops of ginger essential oil with 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil.
Apply the mixture on the affected or painful area and gently massage it for a few minutes.
Leave it on for 30 minutes and wipe the oil with a cloth.
Repeat this four times a day to get relief from chronic pain.
Method 3: Turmeric
Turmeric is used not only as a spice in the Indian subcontinent but also as a pain-relieving ingredient. Turmeric possesses anti-inflammatory and anticarcinogenic properties that help improve blood circulation in the body and ease the pain of sprains, strains, joint inflammation, and bruises.
It has even been shown to be effective in treating some postoperative pain. (6) The healing power of turmeric comes from the compound called curcumin.
You can also consume turmeric supplements if you don’t wish to use it in your food. It gives you the best results if used alongside regular massages for pain relief.
Things you’ll need:
Turmeric powder - 1 teaspoon
Warm milk - 1 glass
Single-Step Treatment: Add turmeric to milk and drink it
Dissolve 1 teaspoon of turmeric in a glass of warm milk.
Mix the ingredients well and drink up.
Drink turmeric milk twice a day to get relief from chronic pain.
Note: Turmeric alone will not be able to provide complete relief in case of pain. Drink the concoction along with other alternative therapies for complete relief. Also, consult your healthcare professional before starting turmeric supplements.
Method 4: Heat Therapy
While the overall qualities of heat and warmth have been associated with comfort and relaxation, heat therapy goes a step further by providing relief to joint pain and lower back pain.
Most pains in the body arise due to strains and overexertions that create tension in the muscle and the soft tissues. Such tension restricts proper blood circulation and sends pain signals to the brain.
Heat therapy dilates the blood vessels of the muscles, increasing the flow of nutrients and oxygen to the muscles and healing the damaged tissues.
Heat stimulates the sensory receptors in the skin. This decreases the transmissions of pain signals to the brain and relieves the discomfort partially.
It also decreases the muscle stiffness, making the body more flexible and enabling easy movements of the body parts. Additionally, for arthritic joints, heat may decrease the viscosity of synovial fluid and reduce painful stiffness. (7)
Single-Step Method: Heat a sock filled with rice and give warm compress to the affected area
Fill 2/3 of an old sock with rice and secure the opening either by tying a knot or pulling another sock over the open end.
Microwave the rice bag for 2 minutes to heat it.
Remove it from the microwave and place it over your sore muscle or joint.
Use this remedy as and when you feel pain in your muscles.
Method 5: Yoga
Yoga is a mind-body practice technique originating in the East that focuses on controlled breathing, posturing, and meditation.
It is said to increase muscular strength and flexibility and at the same time improves mental relaxation, thus resulting in pain reduction. (8)
It is helpful for pain reduction in chronic low back pain and many other muscular and joint pain conditions. (3)
Yoga techniques may be learned in local yoga classes and practiced at home daily for at least 30 minutes. Discuss with your physician before beginning.
Method 6: Acupuncture
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine modality that has long been used to treat many pain conditions.
It is shown to be effective in reducing pain for those with chronic low back pain, fibromyalgia, and osteoarthritic joint pain. (3)
Studies have demonstrated long-lasting pain relief results after acupuncture. (9)
Discuss with a licensed acupuncturist their experience in treating your condition and create a plan alongside your physician.
Hilton L, Hempel S, Ewing BA, et al. Mindfulness Meditation for Chronic Pain: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Annals of behavioral medicine: a publication of the Society of Behavioral Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27658913. Published 2017.
Waters-Banker C, Dupont-Versteegden EE, Kitzman PH, Butterfield TA. Investigating the mechanisms of massage efficacy: the role of mechanical immunomodulation. Journal of athletic training. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24641083. Published 2014.
Nahin RL, Boineau R, Khalsa PS, Stussman BJ, Weber WJ. Evidence-Based Evaluation of Complementary Health Approaches for Pain Management in the United States. Mayo Clinic proceedings. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27594189. Published September 2016.
Maghbooli M, Golipour F, Moghimi Esfandabadi A, Yousefi M. Comparison between the efficacy of ginger and sumatriptan in the ablative treatment of the common migraine. Phytotherapy research: PTR. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23657930. Published March 2014.
Bucheli P, Gao Q, Redgwell R, Vidal K, Wang J, Zhang W. Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects of Chinese Wolfberry. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22593925. Published 2011.
Agarwal KA, Tripathi CD, Agarwal BB, Saluja S. Efficacy of turmeric (curcumin) in pain and postoperative fatigue after laparoscopic cholecystectomy: a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled study. Surgical endoscopy. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21671126. Published December 2011.
Chandler A, Preece J, Lister S. Using heat therapy for pain management. Nursing standard (Royal College of Nursing (Great Britain) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12478922. Published 2002.
Wieland LS, Skoetz N, Pilkington K, Vempati R, D'Adamo CR, Berman BM. Yoga treatment for chronic non-specific low back pain. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28076926. Published January 12, 2017.
MacPherson H, Vertosick EA, Foster NE, et al. The persistence of the effects of acupuncture after a course of treatment: a meta-analysis of patients with chronic pain. Pain. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27764035. Published May 2017.
Englund M, Persson J, Bergström I. Lower pain and higher muscular strength in immigrant women with vitamin D deficiency following vitamin D treatment. International journal of circumpolar health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5549824/. Published 2017.