1. Endorphin Release: Endorphins are the natural pain relievers produced in your body. They work by binding to the opioid receptors in your brain to block the perception of pain, similar to the opioid pain medications such as oxycodone or morphine. By encouraging increased production of these natural hormones you can substantially reduce your pain. The trick then becomes how to choose an activity that you can do for a sustained period so those endorphins can be released. But how can you exercise if you’re in pain? My advice: yoga or swimming. These offer minimal impact as well as being able to modify them for your own capabilities. Another one that comes to mind is Tai Chi.
2. Oh, those Essential Oils: Aromatherapy can be helpful. Use essential oils in massage therapy. Some have analgesic effects, such as: peppermint oil, rosemary and lavender. You can add some to the tub, pressure points or even dab some on sheets to help with sleep.
3. Soak in a Tub: I was never much of a bath person. I prefer showers. But Epsom salt in the water, a blend of Eucalyptus and peppermint oil and you might mistake it for heaven. Seriously, it is the most amazing thing ever. It helps with muscle pain and spasm and arthritis. You can try a soak before exercise too! It will limber you up and make it less stressful, especially if you have not been active in a long time.
4. Heat Therapy: This can be a hot water bottle, a hot bath or one of those microwavable pads. Let me tell you, it helps. There was one night I was on my couch with no less than three heating pads. Bliss, darlin’!
5. Get a Little Sun: I’ve always had a love/hate relationship to the sun. I have photophobia which only gets worse when I have a migraine. My family thinks I am a vampire because I have to dim the lights all the time and I hate those LED lights that shine like daylight. As it is, I can only do small amounts of outside light, but I know from my time in the North East that I struggled with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Those long, gray winters were dreadful. But studies show that 10-15 minutes of sun exposure a day can help the body produce Vitamin D and many people who have chronic pain seem to be deficient in Vitamin D. So drink up some sunlight. Even if it’s a little bit.
6. Om Your Way Through Pain: There is something to be said about the effect of meditation on pain. The sound you make when chanting ‘Om’ or any other pleasing sound of your choosing, is both a focal point to keep you on track and specific to relieving pain. Studies have shown that ‘Om’ and even other sounds like singing bowls can have a positive effect on the brain and alleviate pain. Start with a few minutes each day and work toward 30 minutes.
7. Ice it Down: It seems ridiculously obvious, and I promise I’m not trying to insult your intelligence, but- inflammation to some degree, contributes to chronic pain and so reducing that inflammation can help. Use an ice pack or ice to relive areas of pain giving you most grief. Ice acts like a local anesthetic by slowing nerve impulses which interrupts pain signals.
Next time we will continue on this chronic pain journey. This week has been particularly bad for me given no sleep, migraine and then an allergy flare up that has me wanting to crawl under a rock and not come out. I am looking forward to our holiday in up north, though I am hoping my allergies don’t go crazy given we are going to be in woods central. It’s also going to be my first time traveling with chronic pain. Keep your fingers crossed. But I will have to more posts before I leave and just so you know, feel free to drop me a note on my Twitter or here! I want to hear from you. I have at least one reader out there so bring it on! And not related, in case you are wondering, the images I have been posting are of carious places in India. It is my hope and dream to go there one day! I just thought they made beautiful back ground images. Stay strong!
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