According to a new report1 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 50 million American adults are living with chronic pain. And if you’re one of these pain sufferers, I don’t need to tell you it takes a toll on all aspects of your life.
In search of relief, Americans are becoming over-dependent on addictive pain meds, such as opioids, which have led to a national health crisis.
Sadly, chronic pain issues may snowball, leading to other health issues such as anxiety and depression. Those of us in constant pain often find ourselves cutting back on favorite activities like gardening or golf, or giving them up altogether.
It can also wreck your sleep, and bad sleep is a cause of much more serious problems such as cancer and dementia.
For most of us, pills are probably the first go-to solution – whether natural supplements, over-the-counter pain-killers or a doctor’s prescription.
But there are other ways to tackle pain, better ways. You may be able to get by on fewer pills, or none at all. . .
Exercise Your Pain Away
There are many reasons to exercise, but you might be surprised to learn that pain management is one of them — even considering that many of us feel more pain after exerting ourselves.
Regular exercise is critical in the relief of pain because it helps strengthen muscles, increases joint mobility, improves sleep, and reduces overall pain.
In the Ultimate Guide to Conquering Pain, author Robert Kroening offers some insight as to why exercise is a cornerstone of pain management.
“Exercise provides more blood supply to the joints, which normally experience far less blood (and thus oxygen) presence than other bodily tissues,” he writes. “Even if arthritis prevents very much exercise at all it’s important to move the joints if possible. If you don’t, virtually all movement will eventually become too painful.”
Additionally, ligaments, tendons and cartilage are nourished by the additional blood flow, and in turn stay supple. This prevents injury to the joint, reducing discomfort those times when we “make a bad move” and put too much strain on a limb or joint.
So look for ways to gently exercise in ways that don’t stress you – start with stretching, take walks – and gradually increase your exercise regimen as you become stronger.
Food that Fight Inflammation
It’s no surprise that a healthy diet featuring a wide range of vitamins and minerals is essential. But for the millions of folks who face pain caused from inflammation, such as arthritis, it’s even more important to eat certain foods.
Robert Kroening’s book weighs in on the benefits. “Diet has been clinically demonstrated to help rheumatoid arthritis, but few studies have been conducted … why is that?” he asks. “Because treating arthritis with drugs is big business.”
Kroening gives high marks to inflammation fighters such as the spice turmeric and omega-3-rich foods such as flax and cold-water fish, nuts, blueberries and cruciferous vegetables. He also suggests eliminating grains and sugar, as well.
Many people have had success by identifying “trigger foods” that cause them pain. Gluten is a prime suspect, so it’s worth going three months without wheat, barley and rye products to see if pain and other symptoms go away. For an effective test, you have to be very strict and do without gluten entirely – no cheating!
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized room or in a small bed that’s enclosed in an airtight tent. It’s the accepted treatment for decompression sickness, also called the bends, a hazard of scuba diving. But beyond that, most people don’t know about the many other medical applications of HBOT.
While you sit or lie in the special chamber, it’s pumped full of pure oxygen at a pressure three times higher than the outside air. Under these conditions, your lungs can gather more oxygen than would be possible from breathing pure oxygen at normal air pressure.
Here’s Why it Can Help with Chronic Pain …
Your body’s tissues need a steady supply of oxygen to function. When tissue is injured, it requires even more oxygen to survive and regenerate itself. HBOT increases the amount of oxygen your blood can carry. In turn, this increase in blood oxygen temporarily creates high levels of oxygen in nearly all the body’s tissues.
In effect, the high pressure “pushes” the oxygen into places it normally wouldn’t reach. For this reason, HBOT can be very effective in treating stroke patients, in whom parts of the brain are starved for oxygen, resulting in paralysis or loss of other functions like speech. I wrote a book about this subject years ago, and I think it’s shameful the mainstream medical profession STILL doesn’t offer HBOT to stroke patients who have lost speech or mobility.
But, getting back to pain, in a 2016 study2 researchers examined the role of HBOT in 24 different animal and human clinical trials. They found the treatment showed promise in pain relief, although I would like to see more studies to confirm this finding in chronic pain patients. The treatment is safe, and I believe it’s worth a shot for people who can’t seem to get pain relief by other means.
Your conventional doctor is probably not going to help you get hyperbaric oxygen therapy, so your best bet is to consult an alternative or integrative doctor. He or she may be able to give you a prescription and direct you to facilities in your area that offer HBOT.
Curious About Other Alternative Pain Remedies?
The Ultimate Guide to Conquering Pain offers a comprehensive look at the complicated topic of pain. You’ll learn about the different types of pain and the various drug-free options and therapies that can provide real relief.
- Pain Pract. 2016 Jun;16(5):620-8. doi: 10.1111/papr.12312. Epub 2015 May 19.