Pain is any unpleasant feeling perceived by the brain and sensory system. Pain is often the body's warning signal and response to injury, illness, or psychosomatic cause. Pain can be a burden and overshadow every aspect of a person's conscious and unconscious life if not properly managed. Pain can vary in location, intensity and perception through the complicated process of cell detection, neuron transmittance, and brain perception. Pain is a good motivator to source its cause and investigate means of reducing discomfort to live a better, healthier life. Here are ways to Naturally Alleviate Pain in 10 Steps:
1. Cleanse Your Diet
We are what we eat and often pain can be linked to dietary factors. Foods, especially the over-processed, calorie laden convenience foods stocked in most grocery stores, can cause an inflammatory response in the body, a host of gastrointestinal and body pain, and further aggravate chronic pain. Many foods can reduce the inflammatory response and alleviate pain symptoms and others trigger them. Many nutritionists advise patients to eliminate sugar, saturated fats, and starches found in corn, wheat, sugar, rice, and potatoes. Increasing foods rich in inflammatory reducing forms, such as pineapples (which contain the enzyme bromelaine which blocks proinflammatory metabolites) and shellfish (which contain glucosamine a component of joint cartilage known to reduce cartilage degeneration). Additionally, proteins found in fish, lean meats, grass fed red meats, nuts, eggs, certain cheeses, and olive oil, contain vital enzymes, muscle building amino acids, and vitamins (including nitrogen, vitamin a, vitamin d, and vitamin k) to vital for energy, tissue and organ repair, to ultimately decrease pain.
2. Avoid Over The Counter and Most Prescription Pain Medicines
Over the counter and prescription medicines have an adverse effect on health and contribute significantly to pain, despite claims to the contrary. Pain medications, in over the counter and prescription painkillers found in non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Tylenol, Advil, Aleve, Vicodin, and Oxycontin, prevent the body from producing prostaglandins, the body's "mediators" between pain and the brain. When prostaglandins are reduced, physiological and brain functions are impaired and users risk feeling worse as soon as the medication wears off. Studies have shown that people who take pain relievers have an increased risk of developing heart disease, stroke, liver damage, gastrointestinal bleeding, driving impairment, sleep difficulties, headache, kidney failure, ulcers, excessive bleeding, perforation of the stomach, drug tolerance, addiction, and even Alzheimer's disease. Furthermore, painkillers only increase inflammation following consumption, and are largely ineffective at permanently alleviating pain.
3. Heat, Ice, Capsaicin Containing Ointments
Heat, ice, and ointments are a great way to manage pain. Studies have shown that heat, from that of a hot water bottle or compress, changes the molecular basis within the body for up to an hour. Heat also deactivates pain at the same levels as pain killers, but with a kick: heat receptors identified as TRPV1, within the body block prostaglandins and pain P2X3 receptors so that the body senses pain is decreased. Ice functions similarly to heat despite being heat's opposite. Icing pain triggers endorphin release, decreases swelling, increases mobility, and reduces tissue damage. Also, applying capsaicin containing ointments, like those found in Tiger Balm, greatly alleviates pain by binding to the protein TRPV1 that is found on pain membranes and heat sensing neurons. Capsaicin depletes the body's nerotransmitters for pain identified as substance P, nerves get overwhelmed, and after chronic exposure, pain is reduced and neurogenic inflammation subsides but no lasting damage results as once capsaicin is washed away, nerves (and pain) return.
Any form of exercise releases endorphins, the body's "feel good" neurotransmitters. People who suffer chronic pain from arthritis, osteoporosis, injury, and even surgery can improve their overall health and decrease pain with moderate, low impact exercise. As an added benefit, exercise increases serotonin supplies which improve mood, fight pain, and increases flexibility of blood vessels. Exercise also improves physical function, increases circulation, increases range of motion, and builds endurance while strengthening muscles and bones. Time, persistence, and perseverance is required as one starts an exercise program, as the long-term pain alleviating rewards of exercise generally require four to six weeks before results can be perceived.
Massage is a great way to alleviate pain naturally. Massage interferes with the body's pain impulses which travel from the spinal cord to the brain in a process best described by "gate control theory." When an area is massaged, it releases endorphins, which act like natural morphine on pain impulses along the nerves, but interfere by "closing the gate" of the pain impulses when the freshly rubbed nerves reach the brain. Massage also promotes relaxation, relieves tension, increases the amount of oxygen in blood circulation, and reduces spasms and stiffness. Stress and anxiety are also decreased due to massage. Massage is an effective and simple way to alleviate pain.
Although pain is generally a symptom of a physical problem, an essential part of alleviating pain is relaxation. Part of managing pain is to apply the phrase "mind over matter" and live accordingly. Meditation works wonders for decreasing pain, as well as alleviating anxiety and stress (which contribute greatly to tension related aches, pains, and ailments.) Scheduling 15 minutes or more daily to train, cleanse, and improve your mindset is a great way to lessen pain. Clinical studies have shown meditation can change metabolism, decrease blood pressure, alter other body functions positively, manage stress, and significantly reduce pain.
Hydrotherapy is a 19th century tradition which still holds water for pain relief and treating illness today. Hydrotherapy has many approaches and definitions and is a staple among U.S. and European spas. Hydrotherapy uses water, at various temperatures and pressures, to stimulate healing, rev up the nervous and immune systems, increase blood circulation, alleviate insomnia, reduce stress, as well as treat or reduce pain. Hydrotherapy can involve full body immersion or arm, hip, and leg whirlpools and is a great way to decrease pain.
8. Take Dietary Supplements
Dietary supplements and vitamins are a great way to bolster health and manage pain. Studies have shown that ginger root, glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin sulfate, S-adenosylmethionine, calcium combined with magnesium, fish oil, and capsaicin assist in reducing inflammation, repairing damaged tissue due to illness or injury, and tremendously increase overall health. Be certain to check with a physician before taking any dietary supplements regarding dosing and possible medication interactions.
9. Avoid Toxins
Toxins, in the form of alcohol, tobacco, food or water supplies, and even cleaning products have a huge impact on pain. Reducing or eliminating exposure to toxins will most certainly reduce pain and increase health. Studies have shown the average person is exposed to at least 80,000 different toxins daily which have disastrous effects on the immune system, endocrine system (particularly the kidneys and liver), respiratory system, and nervous system. Toxins contribute to a variety of illnesses, increase inflammation levels and pain, and dampen or depress the immune system. Eliminating toxins from your surroundings and system will significantly decrease pain and improve health in a relatively short amount of time. Refraining from alcohol, tobacco, sugars and processed grains, and switching to nature based cleaners (like Clorox Green Works or Seventh Generation cleaning products) greatly reduces the likelihood of exposure to toxins.
Getting proper amounts of rest is vital and integral for health, especially when your body is in pain. Pain can worsen with fatigue so often one of the easiest ways to alleviate or decrease pain is through rest. Rest triggers the release of serotonin, the central nervous system's biochemical "feel good," monoamine neurotransmitter. Rest facilitates the release of serotonin and allows the body to repair and replenish. Rest can greatly improve mood and all functions within our cardiovascular, immune, and gastrointestinal systems and may significantly decrease or diminish pain.