Medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and opioids are the most widely used treatment option for pain. But new federal guidelines are making it harder for chronic pain patients to get narcotic painkillers. And the FDA has strengthened its warning about the health risks of taking NSAIDs. Both of which make it important to learn to manage chronic pain without medications.
Living with chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia can be challenging. It can become increasingly difficult to fight the pain. The things that give your life joy and meaning no longer seem possible. You may even start to lose hope. But, chronic pain doesn’t have to ruin or take over your life.
I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2002. Many medications including painkillers are not an option for me. First of all, I am allergic to opioids. Secondly, I cannot take medications that are hard on the liver (most are). I have no other choice than to use natural ways to control my fibromyalgia symptoms. I have some simple strategies I use every day to manage chronic pain.
Good sleep is critical for reducing chronic pain and improving energy and mood. Sleep disturbances are common in fibromyalgia. The presence of chronic pain with fibromyalgia makes falling asleep and staying asleep more difficult. Sleep deprivation, in turn, can make people more sensitive to pain.
Some researchers believe that fibromyalgia does not lead to poor sleeping patterns, but that sleep disturbances come first. A new study suggests that sleep deprivation is associated with an increased risk of developing fibromyalgia.
Improving sleep should be a top priority in a treatment plan for fibromyalgia. There are many herbal remedies, over-the-counter and prescription medications that can help with sleep problems. No one drug is consistently helpful for treating sleep in people with fibromyalgia. You may have to experiment to find what works for you.
Regular exercise has proven to be one of the best treatments for fibromyalgia. Even though exercise can make you feel worse short term, the lack of it can make your symptoms more severe long-term. Gentle, low-impact exercises are best. Yoga, Pilates, and tai chi can be particularly helpful to improve flexibility, strength, balance, and feeling of relaxation.
Massage may be helpful in reducing tension and pain. It improves blood flow and encourages relaxation. Self-massage is the most convenient and effective treatment to manage chronic pain.
Trigger point massage is used to treat tender spots within the muscles or fascia. A trigger point is a tight area within a muscle tissue that causes local pain and referred pain to other parts of the body.
The easiest way to perform self-massage is to invest in a few simple tools. I regularly use a foam roller and tennis ball to relieve tight and aching muscles. How-to videos, pictures, and articles for treatment routines are available online for free
Both heat and cold can help reduce pain. Cold works well for acute pain or a new injury with swelling.
Heat is best for chronic pain. Heat increases blood supply. It stimulates the elimination of toxins. It also relaxes soreness and stiffness. Moist heat is best.
Treating chronic pain with heat includes heating pads, heat wraps, and hot baths, and showers.
Capsaicin is the ingredient found in chili peppers that give the peppers their spicy kick. Capsaicin is thought to decrease substance P, a neurochemical that transmits pain. Capsaicin provides temporary relief from joint, muscle, and nerve pain. It can be used 3 to 4 times a day to provide prolonged pain relief.
If you are using the cream, gel, lotion, or ointment:
- Do not put the medicine on wounds or irritated skin.
- Apply a small amount of medicine and use your fingers to rub it in well so very little or no medicine is left on the skin.
- Wash your hands with soap and water after applying the medicine to avoid getting it in your eyes or on other sensitive areas of the body.
Magnesium deficiency is common with fibromyalgia. Some studies have found that magnesium supplements can help with pain caused by conditions like migraines, muscle spasms, and fibromyalgia. Magnesium helps relax muscles and eliminate spasms.
Studies also show that magnesium is not easily absorbed through the digestive tract. Magnesium is easily absorbed through the skin, which brings us to Epsom Salt. Epsom salt baths help relieve stress and soothe your muscles while improving mineral and sulfur balance in the body.
As the bathtub is filling with hot water, add:
- 1 – 2 cups Epsom Salts
- 1/2 – 1 cup Baking Soda (helps neutralize chemicals, primarily chlorine, as well as increase mineral absorption)
- 5 – 10 Drops of Lavender Oil (helps you relax and fall asleep) or Rosemary Oil (soothes tired and achy muscles)
Soak for 20 to 30 minutes. Add more hot water as the bath cools.
Despite the benefits, Epsom salt baths aren’t for everyone. They generally aren’t recommended for people who have conditions such as heart problems, high blood pressure, or diabetes.
More than 100 plants are known to have pain-relieving properties and are good alternatives to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to help manage chronic pain. These are my favorites:
- Ginger reduces the production of pain-causing cytokines. Ginger helps relieve nausea, arthritis, headaches, menstrual cramps and muscle soreness. Spice up your sautéed vegetables by adding freshly minced ginger or make ginger tea.
- Turmeric relieves pain and inflammation. The healing power of turmeric comes from its active ingredient curcumin. Turmeric appears to be just as effective as an over-the-counter pain and inflammation reducer. Turmeric has a peppery, warm and bitter flavor. It also comes in supplement form.
- Rosemary is a member of the mint family. It has been used to help alleviate muscle pain, improve memory and boost the immune and circulatory system since ancient times. Rosemary can be used to flavor a variety of dishes, salads, soups, baked vegetables, and meat dishes. It can also be made into a tea.
Be cautious when buying herbs and supplements. Some can be risky for people on certain medications or with certain medical conditions. Supplements should be taken under the supervision of your doctor.
Being able to distract the mind away from the pain is a valuable self-management skill. Any activity that you must focus on can be used for distraction. Reading, listening to music, coloring, or working on a hobby are ways to distract yourself from the pain.
I love to read, so getting lost in a good book always works for me. Spending time with the family, your children or grandchildren, or with a pet can be good distractions.
Relaxation techniques can help you cope with everyday stress and chronic pain. Relaxation techniques include:
- Deep breathing
- Mindfulness Meditation
- Movement meditation (Yoga or Tai chi)
- Music and art therapy
Music therapy may provide a less invasive treatment option for people who are battling fibromyalgia. A study from researchers in Mexico, Denmark, Finland, the U.K., and the U.S.A. reveals that music can have a positive impact on patient health. Pleasant music helped fibromyalgia patients reduce their pain levels compared to a control group.
Aromatherapy is the practice of using the natural oils extracted from plants to enhance psychological and physical well-being. Aromatherapy is a widely used term for a range of therapies that use essential oils. The essential oils are either absorbed through the skin or inhaled.
There are many essential oils for chronic pain relief, these are just a few:
- Chamomile oil helps to relieve muscle pain and spasms, low back pain, headaches and pain caused by PMS.
- Sweet marjoram oil helps to relieve muscle pain and spasms, stiffness, rheumatism, osteoarthritis and migraine .
- Lavender oil is probably the most well-known essential oil for pain relief and relaxation. It has anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and sedative properties. It helps to relieve muscle tension and spasms, joint pain and headache .
- Peppermint oil is good for muscle and joint pain, headache and nerve pain.
- Rosemary oil has analgesic and antispasmodic properties. It is good for relieving back pain, muscle and joint pain and headaches.
- Sandalwood oil relieves muscle spasms. One of sandalwood’s uses is to sedate the nervous system, so it helps to reduce nerve pain.
These are the strategies I use to manage chronic pain. Have you found something that works? I would like to hear from you, so please leave a comment.
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