Each year there are more than 150 million Americans suffering from chronic pain. This pain is costing the country an estimated $100 billion a year, including $50 billion in lost work productivity and $3 billion in lost wages. I would like to share with you four ways that you can reduce your pain naturally. By incorporating some of these tips into your daily routine you can feel better physically, mentally and spiritually.
Exercise The Body
Exercise is one of the most important things you can do for pain prevention and reduction. It encourages vigorous blood circulation, removes toxins, burns calories, stabilizes blood fats and sugars, improves strength and muscle tone, releases those feel-good hormones and keeps the mind alert.
Brisk walking is the best exercise for many chronic pain sufferers because the impact on the whole body is low. Once a new baseline is set, more vigorous exercises and activities can be enjoyed. Here’s why walking is so amazing:
Brisk walking is an aerobic activity, but since it is low-impact there is little wear-and-tear on the joints and little (if any) triggering of pain from the jarring action of the body as experienced in high-impact aerobic exercise or jogging. Although it is a simple activity, walking actually utilizes most of the muscles of the body to propel you forward and keep you on balance while increasing respiration, heart and lung function, blood and oxygen flow and the “burning off” of blood sugars and fats. It also helps in the removal of toxins and other wastes through sweat and improved eliminative functions.
Eat Pain-Relieving Foods
Food is a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to controlling inflammation and pain. The typical American diet consists of too much fat, tons of sugar, loads of red meat and a frightening amount of processed foods. By switching to an anti-inflammatory diet consisting of healthy whole foods, you can actually decrease inflammation and ease the pain and discomfort associated with it.
Here are eight categories of bad foods that should be avoided if you suffer pain or have inflammation: Animal milk products, hydrogenated oils, nitrates, processed sugars, night shade vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, many species of hot and sweet peppers and eggplant are the most common), fast food, saturated fats and processed white flour foods.
A diet high in fiber and whole foods, low in preservatives and fat and infused with blood-invigorating aromatic spices can help reduce pain and inflammation. Here’s a list to get you started:
- Wild Salmon.
- Fresh whole fruits.
- Bright colored vegetables (except night shades).
- Green or white tea.
- Purified or distilled water.
- Olive oil.
- Lean poultry (skinless).
- Lean beef (filets).
- Nuts, legumes and seeds.
- Dark green leafy vegetables.
- Organic oatmeal (regular, not instant).
- Aromatic spices (turmeric, ginger, cloves, garlic, onion, coriander, ground mustard seed, cayenne pepper).
Get Adequate Sleep
Sleep is not only a fundamental human need, it is a necessity that no one who experiences aches or pains of any kind should ever take for granted. It is so important, in fact, that we naturally fall asleep when our body tells our brain that certain essential chemicals have been depleted and our muscles and ligaments are tired and in need of repair.
Here are some tips to get deeper sleep:
- Do not consume ANY sugar or caffeine after 6 p.m.
- Stop working at least two hours before bedtime.
- Turn off the computer and television at least one hour before bedtime.
- Make sure your sleeping quarters are as dark and silent as possible. Studies have shown that those in darker and quieter spaces tend to sleep through the night more deeply than others.
- Establish a sleep/wake schedule and stick to it.
- Make a set routine out of bedtime. Change into pajamas, brush your teeth, set out clothes for the morning, even jot down any last thoughts, but promise yourself to revisit them tomorrow, then turn off the light… breathe deeply, relax, sleep tight.
- If a racing mind is nagging, slow your breath and focus on the sensation of air as it passes through your nose. This will derail those busy thoughts to help you drift off.
Reduce Your Stress
The negative and lasting side effects of stress are often manifested in the mind/body response. Since the mind controls and constructs perceptions and the emotions act and react toward threatening stimuli, the daily centering of mind and emotions is essential to prevention of psychosomatic illness.
Meditation is one way to do this. There are many benefits to the daily practice of meditation including improved concentration, enhanced focus, calmer emotions, inner fortitude, understanding of the self, objectivity, concentrated decision-making power and peace of mind.
Physiologically, you will experience a decrease in blood pressure, respiration and metabolism; the nervous systems calms; hormones and chemicals balance; and the body is allowed to return to its natural harmonious state of homeostasis. Talk about stress relief!
Here’s how to do it:
- Sit or lie down in any comfortable position that allows your spine to be straight and your head aligned with it.
- Close your eyes and take a few initial deep breaths to ease into the moment and begin to relax.
- Focus your attention on your breath as it passes into and out of the tip of your nose.
- As you inhale, merely OBSERVE, without mental comment, the sensation you feel as air passes the tip of your nose.
- As you exhale, merely OBSERVE, without mental comment, the sensation you feel as air passes the tip of your nose.
- When thoughts enter your mind, do not engage them, do not pass judgment on them. Merely ACKNOWLEDGE that they are there, and return to the task of observing the sensation of the breath on the tip of the nose.
Developing and maintaining a positive mental attitude will go far in helping you reach your pain-free-living goals. Think from the end and believe you are already halfway along your pain-free experience, and you will more easily accomplish the day-to-day things necessary to do just that. Have confidence in what you are doing because you know it will help.
Every time you walk a mile, refuse a milkshake, sleep for an entire eight hours and breathe your stress away, you will know that you are making positive steps in your wellness life.
–Dr. Mark Wiley