In 2016 an estimated 1 in 5 Americans reported having chronic pain. Health economists report that in the United States we spend $635 billion per year on treating chronic pain. That is more than cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Clearly this is a huge problem in the United States. Now that we have suffered through the opioid epidemic we know that pills are not the answer to our ailments either. Here are 5 easy options to combat pain that anyone can do with little to no money invested and the research is clear….it works!
1) Sleep: A common misconception with people is that they are different than everyone else and don’t need 7-8 hours sleep. For approximately 99% of the population this is wrong and you are depriving your body of much needed healing and rest that is provided by sleep. The power of sleep is well
documented and can decrease many of the problems that people have with pain and restlessness. The sleeping process needs to be taken seriously and not taken for granted. Your body has the tools to recuperate and heal if you will let it. If you are interested in digging deeper into the world of sleep I highly recommend “Why we sleep”. It will blow your mind. Amazon link below.
2) Laugh: It sounds silly, but watching a comedy or getting together with a friend that always makes you laugh can be therapeutic. The reason for this is chemical; people who suffer from pain often are releasing stress hormones in the brain that make the pain worse. Laughing will decrease that stress chemical (cortisol or adrenaline) and thus diminish the pain that your body is sensing. Not only should we laugh more, but we should also minimize the amount of media that is not positive and uplifting. There is generally enough negativity in our daily lives without adding more during our recreation time.
3) Meditate: The release of stress chemicals in the brain is a common contributor to pain, anxiety, and depression. Meditation helps to diminish the release of these chemicals in the brain. This happens through gaining an understanding of the “self.” Meditation does not have to be burdensome or long. Research shows that just 10 minutes of meditation can have the desired effects of decreasing stress and increasing positive feelings around oneself. If you are a newbie to meditation, don’t worry because technology has made it easy and free. Try downloading these two free apps for starting your meditation practice.
Headspace: CLICK HERE
Insight Timer: CLICK HERE
4) Exercise: Exercise releases endorphins that help decrease pain and improve mood. Keep in mind that exercise is relative to the person doing it. If you are someone that does not exercise regularly then you will have to do less of it to
realize the benefits. It does not have to be vigorous to help with the chemical balance in your brain that makes you happy and not hurt. Start with a walking program and if that goes well then you can increase the intensity as
you need. When you start exercising, a good practice is to start tracking what you do in a journal. That way you have a reference for where you started and what has worked and not worked. Start slow and have some success. Success is what will keep you coming back for more. All you need to start is a pair of comfortable shoes and the willingness to start (or restart) something new.
5) Educate: Research has shown that simply educating yourself about pain can have immediate effects in reducing it. I am not talking about the fearful google searching that most people do about their condition. What I am advocating is true education on understanding pain in the body. Pain is an alarm system that your body uses to tell you that something is going on. It doesn’t have to be bad and it doesn’t have to be permanent. Most pain that people are suffering from has no relationship to the amount of damage they have in the given body part that hurts. Education is power and most people that have pain do not spend enough time understanding what the body and brain are trying to tell them. If you would like a great pain educating resource try this book from amazon.
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John Oxley PT,
DPT, OCS, CSCS, Cert. MDT
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