Guest Post by Kimberly Hayes
Whether it’s fibromyalgia, IBS, or migraine headaches, when your body is perpetually uncomfortable, you become at risk of depression and, according to Women’s Health, addiction. While you may not be able to make your pain go away completely, there are many non-pharmaceutical practices that can help you better manage it on a daily basis. Here are seven ways to put yourself on the path toward pain prevention:
1) Soak in a warm bath. Hydrotherapy has long been used to treat a variety of issues, including depression, anxiety, and pain. A hot bath has therapeutic potential if done properly. PainScience.com explains that, while a bath can be relaxing, overheating your water can actually kick your neurological responses into overdrive and make it more difficult to sleep, which may intensify your perception of pain.
2) Fill your plate with anti-inflammatory foods. Many chronic pain conditions are triggered by systemic inflammation. Fortunately, there are a number of foods that can reduce inflammation naturally. Shape asserts that eating berries, garlic, fatty fish, and other foods high in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids can inhibit inflammation. Antioxidants protect every cell in your body against free radicals, which are linked to numerous diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and atherosclerosis.
3) Listen to music. Music is soothing to the soul, but it can have a profound effect on the body as well. When you concentrate on music, you use many of the same neural pathways that process pain. Men’s Journal reports that providing your own music therapy is as easy as listening to your favorite tunes. Music that evokes emotion will also divert your thoughts and take your attention off your troubles.
4) Imagine a pain-free world. If you’ve ever caught yourself daydreaming, you’ve experienced the power of guided imagery, which is a form of mindfulness meditation. Guided imagery takes advantage of the brain’s remarkable ability to whisk us away from our worries, can help your body relax while taking you to your “happy place.” You can participate in this practice anywhere, including at home, but be sure you’ve created a calm-inducing, comfortable environment that has soft, natural lighting and ideally, a serene view of nature to reap the most benefits.
5) Relax from your toes up. You’ve no doubt heard the term “mind over matter.” It’s true that the mind has amazing powers over the body. Similar to guided imagery, a process called progressive muscle relaxation makes it possible to reduce your anxiety levels, which can help you retake control over your pain response. Start by laying in a comfortable position. Then, tighten and relax the muscles of your feet and toes. Do the same to all muscle groups, moving up your body until you reach your face. Harvard University suggests performing progressive muscle relaxation in unison with your breathing.
6) Eliminate pain triggers. Depending on your chronic pain condition, you may be able to identify certain actions that cause or exacerbate pain. For instance, walking up stairs may irritate arthritic joints. Keep a journal on hand and make notes each day how you feel and what you are doing when your pain levels fluctuate. Once you identify a pattern, you can alter your routine to avoid behaviors that negatively affect your physical health.
7) Get a dog. Therapy dogs are used to provide emotional support and can help you manage your pain in a few different ways. The act of petting a dog can help you feel calm and relaxed. Caring for an animal will also provide a distraction that can take your mind off pain. Some dogs can even be trained to retrieve medication and summon help when you need it. If you’re worried your pain will prevent you from properly exercising your canine companion, find a pet sitter or dog walking service that can provide a helping hand so you can focus on the therapeutic aspects of pet parenthood.
Note that there is no single activity that can completely eliminate chronic pain. However, when combined with traditional pain management and controlled medications, these techniques can make your pain more bearable so you can live your life on your terms.