As a young woman in my twenties, I never gave much thought to managing pain. Back then, physical activity was a breeze and any injuries, whether sports-related or otherwise, seemed very easy to recover from. Even during periods of relative inactivity, my “muscle memory” would keep my body primed and ready for whenever I was ready to resume exercising. Now in my fifties, I have experienced a bit of a turnaround in my physical fitness. As I’m sure many women my age can relate, between raising children, maintaining relationships, busy work and school schedules - fitness often tends to take a backseat to everything else. Correspondingly, our bodies tend to repay this neglect with chronic aches and pains. It’s certainly easy and quick enough to take an aspirin or some other over-the-counter medicine for these random aches and pains, but many of us prefer to avoid the medicinal route and opt for taking a more holistic and natural approach to managing chronic pain. The 4 following techniques have helped me and many women I know achieve relief from pain due to various conditions or illnesses, even when prescribed or over-the-counter medications have failed.
Meditation / Guided Visualization
Even though I’d done some reading about meditation and mental imagery many times over the years, I didn’t really learn about or fully understand the overall impact they could have on a person when used regularly. One of the biggest reasons that meditation is so beneficial is because of the focus on deep-breathing. Most of us don’t take time during the day to fully use our breath or to apply slow-breathing techniques to center ourselves. When we begin to consciously focus on our breathing and to completely inhale and exhale in a rhythmic fashion, however, we can immediately feel a shift in our bodies. Once we experience that shift, we can start to use the corresponding calmness to spark the visualization which is necessary to address pain issues.
A Quick Guided Imagery Exercise:
Sit or lie down in a quiet area where you will be undisturbed for at least 15 minutes at a time.
Close your eyes and begin the process of deep-breathing: with your mouth closed, breath in through your nose and slowly let the incoming air expand your chest first, then your stomach. If you feel a tightness in your throat or chest, open your mouth and stretch your jaw a few times first, roll your shoulders and neck, and then settle down again to begin deep-breathing.
Once your breathing has slowed to a steady, rhythmic pace, think about the area(s) in which you experience pain.
Mentally scan the whole area around the pain, then imagine a white, healing, light or energy surrounding that pain.
Imagine the healing light soothing the pain, and then imagine the light surrounding your whole body.
As your deep-breathing continues, mentally have the light scan over each part of your body, starting with your head. As the light touches each body part, imagine that part relaxing, releasing tension and letting go of any tightness.
When the light reaches the part of your body where you feel pain, spend extra time on that part and continue to think of healing, soothing words that indicate the pain is disappearing, melting away, dissolving, etc.
Once you’ve scanned each part of your body, imagine the light pulling, or draining any pain from the tips of your toes and away from your body.
Watch the light as it swirls around the pain and then dissolves into the ground and disappears.
Continue breathing slowly in and out as you imagine yourself standing, stretching and smiling with your newly pain-free body.
Slowly open your eyes and take a moment to take in a few more deep breaths and center yourself with a quick stretch before getting up.
Years ago, I visited a chiropractor to deal with an exercise-related injury and after a series of maybe 5 or 6 adjustments, I decided that the treatments were not working. In fact, I felt that they only made my back injury worse.
After years of hearing many people tell me that they had completely opposite experiences than the one I had, I decided to try going to a Chiropractor once again. The second time around, I was pregnant with my first child and referred by my OB-GYN to a Chiropractor who specialized in caring for pregnant women and people who suffered from chronic pain. I was told that this doctor was known for being very gentle with his patients.
I was very happy with the treatment I received and quite impressed that something which seemed so simple and took less than an hour at each session to complete, could bring such relief for the lower back pain I was experiencing during my pregnancy.
Basically, Chiropractic care is a method of diagnosing problems with joints, muscles, bones, and nerves in the body. With the correct diagnosis, Chiropractors can address pains that exist in the affected areas. According to Medline Plus, a service offered by the National Institutes of Health, Chiropractic treatments work best on chronic back pain and neck pain.
I have not personally tried acupuncture yet, but I’ve heard such wonderful things about it that I look forward to scheduling an appointment soon to see why so many people are praising this ancient Chinese pain management technique. From migraines to arthritis and nausea, acupuncture reportedly has the ability to quickly relieve pain and, says The Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Peter Dorsher, when used regularly, it can help rebalance the body’s energy to restore overall health.
Exercise & Stretching
When many people think of exercise, it’s with weight loss in mind. In addition to losing weight, however, exercising offers such great benefits to those who suffer from chronic pain. Exercise does not have to be strenuous to be effective. I have suffered from joint pain due to mild arthritis for the last 5 years or so, and for each exercise routine I’ve tried, I’ve always found ways to modify the movements so as not to aggravate my joint pain. The exercise I’ve found most beneficial is stretching. I feel so much better after I do a complete stretch of my shoulders, neck, lower back, and legs, that I try to remember to do it before I go to bed. This way, I can always count on sleeping deeply and comfortably, without tossing and turning because of back pains or occasional sciatica.
Chronic pain is often something we simply learn to deal with as we age and our physical activity and agility declines or becomes more challenging. If you’re not interested in regular doses of over-the-counter medicine to address minor or serious ailments or injuries, the all-natural techniques listed above can help you to manage your chronic pain in a way that incorporates easily into your daily routine. As with starting any new treatments or medications, however, please talk to your doctor to discuss which options work best for your particular situation.