Chronic pain, defined as pain lasting longer than it should (IASP) or for a minimum of 3 consecutive months (ACPA), is a silent epidemic of the modern age. The numbers are surprising: In Europe, around 20% of adults suffer from chronic pain, with the same number spanning a range from 11.2% to a whopping 30.7% of Americans according to different studies. While it may be difficult to pin down exactly, the bottom line is that Chronic Pain is extremely common. Remember, you are not alone.
What do you do if you find yourself among those hapless millions? The road ahead for a person with chronic pain can be long and winding. For many, attempts at finding relief turn out to have little to no effect at all, which can be terribly discouraging and leave you feeling desperate. If you feel like you have tried everything, but feel like nothing works, take heart and consider giving one or all of these steps a try:
8 Scientifically Proven Means of Relieving Chronic Pain
PART ONE: Physical Approaches
Although pain is not an exclusively physical sensation, it sure feels that way. Therefore, it is just natural to try approaching it from this direction by using your own body to fight the suffering. Actually, modern scientific studies affirm that this may be quite effective!
According to a massive meta-analysis, practicing yoga can lead to an average-to-significant improvement of pain and functional disability in people with chronic low-back pain. Also, the incidence of side effects is extremely rare when the exercises are practiced under the guidance of an experienced instructor. All in all, yoga can enhance your flexibility, boost endurance, and imbue you with a feeling of control over your own body, which is extremely important for anyone coping with chronic pain.
- Physical exercise in general
Picture this: even just a low to moderate workout 2 times per week for 4 weeks can result in significant improvement of pain intensity, anxiety, depression, and general quality of life. It doesn’t matter much or which type of exercises you choose to do, as all forms were proven to be beneficial for matters of chronic pain management. The essential advice here is to approach the matter thoughtfully, progress carefully, pay close attention to the sensations that arise in your body, and keep the exercises and routine regular.
PART TWO: Psychological and Spiritual Practices
Your body is not the only part of you that hurts during chronic pain: the anxiety, depression, and insecurity can be as challenging as the physical aspect of the problem. By supporting the mind, patients with chronic pain can learn to better cope with pain and significantly improve their quality of life.
- Mindful meditation
In simple terms, mindful meditation consists of just being present. You have to stop your mind from drifting away into the ether of memories from years long gone, or from fleeing into one of the possible futures awaiting. You have to accept your existence in the present, with absolutely all of its components including pain. When done properly, meditation can turn a person from a sufferer into a curious observer, relieving the subjective impact of pain on the mind and life. Modern studies have confirmed that mindful meditation sessions are effective for the management of both chronic pain in general and chronic low-back pain particularly.
Although this approach may not be suitable for everyone due to personal beliefs and preferences, prayer can significantly improve subjective pain tolerance and slightly decrease objective pain intensity. Most likely, the specific details of the prayers are not too important either, as current data and science suggests that the act of addressing God for support and relief seems to verifiably provide some measure of relief.
PART THREE: Tools & Methods for Distraction and Relaxation
Another quite effective approach to chronic pain lays in concentrating on something other than the unpleasant sensation. This helps to free the mind from at least part of its condition-related burden while the subsequent relaxation can undoubtedly improve the mood and general quality of life.
- Virtual Reality
Modern technologies are evolving by the hour, and sometimes they bring rather unexpected benefits for mankind. For example, a 2014 study revealed that distraction by means of virtual reality interactions can drastically improve coping with pain. One of the participants of this research stated: “I was so busy playing the game, I forgot about my pain”—and this is exactly the point of distraction techniques. In these terms, virtual reality environments are the most immersive ones, thus providing the highest achievable level of distraction from actual pain.
Since the dawn of time people have been using music as a source of inspiration, joy, and support. Its healing properties are also quite versatile. In terms or chronic pain management, listening to music you like can cause a release of endorphins (“happiness hormones” that have painkilling properties, among others), or evoke memories from the past to distract you from unpleasant sensations in the present. There is no magical music playlist except the one that you make which contains your favorite songs to feel good listening to and enjoy.
some sort of relief in the waiting room. It doesn’t matter if you like dogs, cats, pigs, or turtles, enjoying the company of your animal companion is proven to help.
Essential oils are widely used for relaxation, and an analysis from 2016 states that this technique may be an effective component of chronic pain management. The most common options include rose, lavender, eucalyptus, clary sage, and marjoram. Keep in mind that the most important part of aromatherapy is your comfort and pleasure, so you are not obliged to go with lavender if you prefer lemon. Surround yourself with pleasant fragrances and see how effective this can be in helping you to cope with chronic pain! One word of caution: Essential Oils can be extremely potent, and many should not be applied directly to the skin. Consult the person you purchased them from or online literature to make sure you use them properly.
The Bottom Line
Dealing with chronic pain can be exhausting, especially when it feels like nothing really improves the condition. If so, a good move would be to try something fundamentally new and fresh. Join a yoga group or just exercise at home a couple of times per week. Practice meditation or prayers, have some virtual reality fun, listen to your favorite music, interact with animals, and light up an aroma lamp. Who knows which approach will be extremely effective in your specific case? Try one or try them all, there is hope to put this behind you.
Nothing brightens a mood like fresh perspective, and getting out of your usual comfort zone is sometimes just what the doctor ordered.
These tips are literally the tip of the Chronic Pain iceberg. Sometimes speaking with a real person about your pain is priceless, and this is the very reason Algone exists. Please feel free to reach out to us, and we can be a resource for you directly.
We want you healthy and well, and we can help you get there!
This is the second article in a series dedicated to living a happy and active life with chronic pain. This article is meant for reassurance, a piece of support, almost a promise: you can do it.
Other articles in this series include:
Look forward to all the articles in this 5-part series!