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Surbhi’s mother was plagued with excruciating pain and inflammation in her joints. The physical pain also affected her on a psychological level – she feared the pain would drastically alter her life! No medicines seemed to soothe the painful and burning sensation in her joints…
Her mother was suffering with chronic pain. Unlike acute pain, which is usually intense but short lived and associated with conditions like viral fever or injury, chronic pain lasts much longer. There are different conditions that are characterised by chronic pain, the most common ones being fibromyalgia and arthritis. Some women even suffer from chronic headaches and chronic back pain. This kind of chronic pain can indeed greatly and severely alter the quality of life.
In her quest to help her mother and restore her quality of life to normal, Surbhi tried a number of solutions. She put together her expert knowledge with her love and affection and charted a complete chronic pain management plan for her mom. The solutions indeed worked miraculously and managed to do what even medicines could not!
Chronic pain sufferers often feel that life is more challenging for them. Yes, it is true that chronic pain wrecks your life. It can destroy your happiness and may affect career and relationships too, owing majorly to the limitations it puts on people. It disturbs your sleep and may cause irritability, depression and even lead to suicidal thoughts. With chronic sufferings, our system does not realise that there should be an end to the pain. Pain stimulates chemicals that cause inflammation, leading to other chemicals causing more pain… and so on and so forth it goes.
According to scientific studies, women experience pain more often and more intensely than men. Data reveals that women are 4 to 7 times more likely to suffer from a chronic disease conditions. Unfortunately, their pain is less likely to be taken seriously by doctors. Treatment offered is often aggressive. For women, a long list of biological (pregnancy, childbirth), psychological and social factors (such as issues of family stress, weight gain) can bring about the onset of chronic pain.
Unfortunately, there is no permanent cure for chronic pain. Common anti-inflammatory and pain killer drugs that are prescribed by doctors give only temporary relief. While relieving pain, this drug may destroy the gastrointestinal tract and may produce potentially dangerous side effects.
Chronic Pain Management – A Daughter and Physician’s Perspective
Managing chronic pain can get quite tricky, especially because of how closely it affects a personal mentally/emotionally, along with the physical implications. As a daughter and as a physician too, I have observed the agony of chronic pain up close. I know it affects a person’s mental and physical state so badly.
Here I am sharing a complete guide to natural remedies for chronic pain, hoping it will help others.
Massage is the most common and well-known method that works superbly in reducing the intensity of pain. It works in two ways. First, it increases the level of feel-good hormones (such as serotonin and endorphins) and reduces the level of stress hormones (such as cortisol). In fact, it shows great results in post-operative patients. Apart from reducing pain, massage also helps in significant reduction of anxiety level.
Useful for: back pain, osteoarthritis, tension headache, neck pain, and surgery-related discomfort.
Tips and Caution: it is a must to learn the correct technique and method of massaging. It is also mandatory to understand your disease condition; otherwise, it may cause adverse side effect and worsening of a disease condition.
2. Managing Stress
Most people do not realise that management of chronic pain is very closely associated with stress management. Most people tend to accept ‘stress’ as a ‘part and parcel’ of the modern day lifestyle. However, it need not be so.
It is a scientifically proven fact that there is a direct co-relation between pain and mental stress level. Especially in the case of chronic pain, mind and body management, and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) work really well.
Tips and Caution: There are various stress reduction techniques trending now a day. But not all are suitable for everyone. Pranayama, meditation, and use of creative arts are some of the common methods that work great in reducing stress. But for getting the best result, it is important to understand your disease, the type of pain, and your interest in a particular technique. You may take professional advice if your stress level is too high.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese science, in which thin needles inserted into the body at a particular point help to relieve pain. Even though there is lack of enough scientific evidence, it has been believed that correct placement of the needles helps in correcting the imbalance of energy, known as chi. It also improves the functioning of the nervous system and musculoskeletal system, which is often where the pain originates.
Useful for: a migraine, chronic back pain, sciatica, osteoarthritis, tension/stress headaches and fibromyalgia.
Tips and Caution: Avoid self-treatment. It is recommended to take an expert’s guidance. Results may vary from person to person. It is better to use it as an alternative therapy to other pain controlling methods.
4. Yoga and Meditation
While discussing natural pain management, how could we ever forget our own ancient powerful science of ‘Yoga’? Yoga and meditation have tremendous positive effects on our physical, mental and overall health and well-being. Apart from improving the flexibility of our body yoga has a great neuroprotective effect: people who regularly practice yoga see an increase in their pain tolerance levels in due time. Yogis have better mental health and an increased and improved ability to manage their stress level. And this positive effect helps a lot to people who suffer from chronic pain.
Tips and Caution: Avoid over enthusiasm. Start slowly, learn perfectly and then practice regularly. Try to make it a part of your everyday life.
5. Use of Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Use of anti-inflammatory foods and avoiding ‘trigger’ foods (food that may cause allergic reaction or increase in pain) is the key to reducing chronic inflammation. Experts believe that certain chemicals in the food we eat can trigger the release of neurotransmitters and may increase pain and inflammation.
Second important thing that can cause pain is allergic reaction to food. Wheat, corn, eggs, soy, nuts, citrus foods and dairy products are some of the common foods that may cause allergic reactions. Learning to avoid these foods is a good place to start for avoiding inflammation and pain caused thereof.
Diet for Pain Management
Pain management through food is a revolutionary approach towards healing that can help a lot. Nutritional elements that fight chronic pain are:
1. Foods rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
There is evidence that Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce certain types of chronic pain and may even decrease the long-term need for anti-inflammatory drugs.
Best source of Omega-3 : Flaxseed, canola oil, walnut, eggs, wheat germ, chia seed, seafood and spinach
2. Anti-Inflammatory Foods
As explained above, anti-inflammatory foods can significantly ease chronic pain. Some of the foodstuffs you can try are:
- Garlic: Garlic has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. It also can boost our immune system and helps in reducing swelling and inflammation.
- Ginger: It is one of the oldest roots that used in ancient Ayurveda treatment for its great benefits. The substance called gingerols is responsible for its anti-inflammatory properties. It is believed that it can work like anti-inflammatory drugs without any side effects.
- Whole Grains: Of course, whole grains are the good source of fibre and have higher nutritional value than refined carbohydrate, but one surprising benefit of whole grain is that it can reduce the level of C – reactive protein. C-reactive protein is a marker that increases in various inflammatory diseases like in rheumatoid arthritis. So whole grains can be a good natural remedy for pain management.
3. Foods Rich in Antioxidants
Antioxidants are the substance that neutralize the free radicals and prevent the cell damage. It is believed that free radicals may contribute to chronic pain. If left unchecked, these excessive free radicals can further damage the already inflamed tissues. Apart from neutralizing these free radicals, antioxidants increase our immunity and improve the overall health. So, it is wise to include in our diet to reduce pain and inflammation. Best sources of antioxidants:
- Green tea: It is an excellent source of polyphenols which are great antioxidants and help to reduce free radicals in the body which can cause pain and inflammation.
- Berries: Cherries, raspberries, strawberries all had an exceptional nutritional value. Anthocyanins are the chemical component present in these fruits that have excellent antioxidant properties and work much like aspirin in the body!
- Cayenne: Capsaicin is the active compound in cayenne that makes it a profound antioxidant agent and helps in reducing inflammation.
- Green Leafy Vegetables: We already know of the multitude of benefits of dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and collard. However, what many people don’t know is they are excellent food for pain relief. They contain an abundance of carotenoids – the antioxidant that protect cells and play a vital role in reducing inflammation.
- Turmeric: If we are talking about anti-inflammatory foods, we simply cannot skip turmeric! It is an important component of ancient Ayurvedic medicine and is used extensively in Indian cuisine. The curcuminoids in turmeric are the active and powerful ingredient that can be as powerful as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in fighting inflammation! The best part of turmeric is that it can be used as a part of our regular diet too, let alone diet for pain management.
4. Herbal and Homeopathic Remedies
Last but not the least, using herbal and homeopathic remedies form a time honoured approach natural pain management. However, these medicines work best according to individual symptoms. It is recommended to seek proper medical advice before trying any kind of natural remedies for pain management.
Any kind of diet for chronic pain sufferers can – or rather should – include a good amount of the above foods. This is a lifestyle change and will take a while for the benefits to kick in. But it will be worth the ‘pain’!
How These Remedies Helped My Mother
So, back to my mom’s story: I wanted to help her as a daughter and as a physician too. As a step in that direction, we included the above great anti-inflammatory foods in my mom’s diet. She has given up unhealthy and processed food such as French fries, refined carbohydrates, etc. She also started a regular exercise routine. Lastly, she also paid constructive attention to her mental stress. We also tried accupuncture.
As we all know, “Hard work always pays in life.” And it did for my mother too. Her joint pain improved remarkably; the mobility in her joints increased. For me, it was one of the best moments of my life… I was amazed to see the healing power of these natural methods.