No one wants to be in pain. But pain is important because it tells you that something might be wrong in your body and needs to be dealt with. Still, it can be bothersome and counterproductive. To those who experience it daily, pain doesn’t only put them in constant agony but renders them inutile, stressed, sad, and sometimes even depressed.
These days, a lot of emphasis is being given for the quick fixes of everyday problems. And in the case of pain, it’s the pill. It is widely known that medications, however effective in the short term, have long term side effects, the most hazardous of them all being dependence.
Fortunately, you don’t always have to pop a pill whenever you are in pain. There are several, mostly simple, ways that can help alleviate pain without taking drugs. Below are some of those methods and how you can use them.
1. Apply breathing techniques. Slow and deep breathing can relax your body. And if the body is relaxed, pain is felt less. One technique is to imagine that you’re blowing soap bubbles. Childhood experience tells you that the more you prolong the blowing, the bigger the bubbles are. So breathe as if you’re aiming for a large bubble. The bigger the bubble, the more pain is minimized. Another way is to visualize a spot at the center of your belly. Take a deep breath as if you’re pulling air from that spot and you’ll feel like your belly and chest are filled with air. Release this air by exhaling as slowly as you can like you re deflating a balloon. You’ll immediately feel relief.
2. Listen to music. Music is said to hinder pain signals from reaching the brain and therefore reduce the severity of painful sensations. It also facilitates more blood flow to the brain which increases energy and improves mood. Some experts say music induces the release of endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers. Start by identifying the kind of music that soothes you most. You can listen, sing, play or hum it. If possible, create a music listening room where you can sit quietly and just listen to music. Otherwise, you can just use a headset to screen out noise from the environment.
3. Get a pet. Studies proved that having pets relieves stress and since stress makes you vulnerable to pain, a pet then is helpful to reduce instances of pain.
Why not. Pets not only serve as companions and make you smile just by being cute, but they also provide you something most of your human friends can’t: unconditional acceptance. So get a pet. Select which animal appeals to you most. If this isn’t possible, you can regularly visit places with animals like zoos and farms. Be warned though that you have to spend considerable time and effort in taking care of a pet. But even that may relieve you from pain because of the added exercise and because you’re able to focus on something other than your physical discomfort.
4. Laugh. Laughter is the best medicine. Or at least it is a good medicine for pain. When you laugh, you lower your blood pressure and your brain produces endorphins, the natural opiates of the body as previously stated. A good laugh also allows you to release anger, frustration, stress, sadness and all mental and emotional states that weaken your body and lower your pain threshold. Thus, make it a habit to frequently watch your favorite comedy film and TV shows, read funny stories and comic strips, and exchange jokes with friends. You might be surprised what good a dose of Conan O’ Brien or I Love Lucy reruns might do you.
5. Exercise. Pain is experienced most in areas where your muscles are weak or tense. Regular exercise can help loosen and energize muscles and therefore strengthen your resistance to pain. Also, exercise is known to stimulate the brain to produce endorphins. Certain exercises are said to be more effective to particular kinds of pain. Your physician can actually recommend specific exercise routine for you. However, a regular light to moderate exercise of 30 minutes every day can promote overall well-being of the body and do wonders to your pain tolerance.
6. Distract yourself. The principle here is basic: you focus your attention on anything other than what you’re feeling and you’ll forget your pain. Usually, what you’re passionate about is what engrosses you. If you’re a painter, paint. If you like writing, write. If you’re good in chess, or at playing cards, ask someone to regularly play with you. Or just engage yourself in common activities; watch TV, surf the net, solve jigsaw puzzles, or read books and magazines. You can also visit friends if you’re able or ask them to come see you. You’ll be surprised at how you’ll anaesthetize yourself with, say, two hours of trek along memory lane with them.
7. Use your imagination. This puts into work the power of autosuggestion akin to meditation and guided imagery. When in pain, transport yourself somewhere else. Imagine yourself relaxing on a beach, lying or sitting on the sand, watching the blue ocean and the sea gulls and clouds hovering over it. Or think that you’re in the forest listening to birds, feeling the breeze, surrounded by trees and flowers. Sometimes, you don’t have to be in a place. Recall a time in your life when you’re happiest. Imagine that you’re in that moment again: your graduation, the birth of your daughter, your wedding, etc. Just like distraction, using mental images keeps your mind off your pain.
8. Try aromatherapy. Aromatherapy or the use of scents in healing is one of the alternative therapies recognized today by health professionals as complementary intervention in pain management. Advocates of this modality say that certain smells affect your parasympathetic nervous system and put you in a deep relaxation state and thus, alter your pain perception. Examples of these scents are peppermint and lavender. If you decide to use aromatherapy, you have to ask your doctor first as there are health conditions where this is contraindicated such as asthma, allergies, and other pulmonary diseases.
9. Practice proper posture. Back pains and joint pains are often results of poor body mechanics. The body is designed to be in upright and neutral position, and should be maintained in it whether you’re moving or not. Doing so prevents tissue injury or stiffening which contributes to pain. Examples of proper body mechanics are pushing objects instead of pulling, placing feet flat on the floor instead of crossing them, bending knees instead of bending waist , keeping ears, shoulders, pelvis, knees and ankles in straight line as well as changing positions frequently when sitting.
10. Get a massage. A recent study showed that hard massage is effective in easing pain, particularly chronic back pain. The researchers said massage stimulates the deep pressure receptors underneath the skin. These receptors then release chemicals called serotonin, which like epinephrine, fights pain. Hence, when in pain, ask someone to massage your back, shoulders and neck. Try listening to music or using imagery while at it and you may be free from pain in no time.