Living with chronic pain can affect you not only on a physical but also on a psychological level. The impact of reduced mobility performing daily tasks, potential loss of income or independence, all cause emotional stress which in turn results in depression and other illnesses. It is very frustrating for patients living with chronic pain to either not know the underlying cause of their pain or know that the cause cannot be resolved. Many of my patients have to rely heavily on daily intake of NSAIDs or narcotics as a pain killer solution. But we all know how bad the side effects can be not mentioning high risks of addiction. Fortunately, there are natural ways to manage pain and help improve quality of life that are just as effective.
I would like to share 7 Chinese wisdoms with you:
1. Get Acupuncture treatments weekly
Chronic pain patients constitute at least 70% of my practice and yet I do not cover pain management topic that often. It is probably because I take it for granted as Acupuncture is mainstreamed in the West as a pain management therapeutic modality. Pain management has been the most researched aspect of Acupuncture and shows positive outcomes in patients with chronic pain. Inserting needles into Acupoints triggers release of neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that communicate with neurons and effector cells. Endorphins constitute big portion of neurotransmitters released during Acupuncture treatment. These are natural painkillers in our body. Acupuncture also triggers release of vasodilators bringing more blood flow to the affected area of the body drawing more nutrients to the injured part getting it to repair faster. Another effect of Acupuncture on pain is body release of cytokines – anti-inflammatory agents helping your body fight local and systemic inflammation. Outside of chemical cascade reaction in the body, Acupuncture has a simple mechanical effect on local tissue as well. When performed on affected muscle, Acupuncture needles can stimulate tight muscle fibers causing mild muscle spasm followed by muscular release. It is a so-called trigger point therapy that is very useful technique in the treatment of chronic pain.
2. Stay Active
In Chinese Medicine there is a very famous saying “不通則痛” bu tong ze tong, which translates “if it is unable pass through, it causes pain”. Essentially, it is understood that pain is a result of stagnation of Qi and Blood. Acupuncture opens up a flow of Qi and Blood and thus relieves the pain. But you do not need to turn to Acupuncture for that. Movement is one way to promote better circulation and improve overall function. That being said, being physically active can be hard for people living with chronic pain. Keep in mind we are not talking about extreme boot camps or high intensity training, or any type of exercise that would put too much strain on your body. The intensity of exercise should be tailored to individual based on their injuries, physical condition, and level of pain. Generally low to medium intensity exercises have shown to improve chronic pain symptoms. Therefore simple exercises such as walking, yoga, swimming, Qigong, Taiji or stretching are all recommended for people with chronic pain. Some physical activities are not considered as exercise but can be very helpful as well. Dance for example improves pain in patients with fibromyalgia. Research has found that 60-120 minutes of dance once or twice a week for at least 12 weeks results in reduction in pain levels, improves depression, anxiety, physical function, and quality of life. The best part of this pain management technique is that it is safe and nearly cost-free since low resistance training can be done in the comfort of your home or by taking a walk around the neighborhood.
3. Laugh more
You know that saying, “Laughter is the best medicine”; well it is backed up by some medical studies. Laughter increases the body’s pain tolerance by enhancing the brain’s sensitivity to endorphins causing muscle relaxation, reducing hypervigilance and numbing central pain pathways, improving mood and reducing reactivity to pain. Laughter also has a direct effect on muscle pain management. While laughing some muscles contract and when laughter stops, muscle relaxation occurs for a period of time, which reduces the muscles sensitivity to pain.
4. Think positive
Living in constant pain takes a toll on an emotional level making it hard to focus on the positive in life even if it outweighs the negative. As hard as it can be,