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Chronic pain can keep you from doing the things you love.
Whether it’s back pain, knee pain or aching and stiffness in your hips, shoulders or other joints, when you hurt, it’s normal to pull back from activities that you worry could make an already bad situation even worse.
This can quickly and permanently put the brakes on a once active lifestyle.
Yet, according to a new study, the lack of exercise and the tendency to sit things out that are so common with persistent pain could actually have less to do with the pain itself and more to do with how people dealing with chronic pain think and feel about their pain.
A phenomenon known as pain catastrophizing
Pain catastrophizing involves feeling an exaggerated sense of helplessness or hopelessness when it comes to pain.
This can involve thought patterns like “the pain is terrible and is never going to get any better” or “I can’t stand the pain anymore.” Thoughts that have a detrimental effect on quality of life.
A team led by Penn State researchers found that when people with knee arthritis fell into this trap, they were less likely to be physically active later in the day and even the following day, contributing to a domino effect of sedentary behavior followed by even more pain catastrophizing.
Basically, you start by avoiding exercise to try to also avoid pain. But putting that exercise or movement off for too long then leads to spirals of depression and even worse pain.
So chronic pain and lack of activity become a vicious cycle that feeds on itself.
One particularly interesting finding of the study was the level to which catastrophic thinking was completely independent of the pain level itself.
“In other words,” said assistant research professor, Ruixue Zhaoyang, “How patients think about their pain, rather than the level of experienced pain, had a more powerful impact on their daily physical activity.”
Alleviating discomfort to stay active
Now, it’s important to understand that this idea of catastrophizing pain doesn’t mean your pain is in your head. How many of us have been made to feel that way, though, by doctors? Or have been let down when their prescriptions didn’t work?
Pain is no easy thing to treat. Think about the opioid epidemic. But also know that the only answer to alleviating pain doesn’t lie in a prescription pad.
Research shows there are other options that can work, including your own outlook on the pain in your life and natural supplements that don’t do near the harm that most pain medications can.
But, of course, movement, as in some sort of exercise, is still an essential part of not only alleviating pain but improving the quality of your life.
So we’re back at the beginning of that vicious cycle the researchers explained. So, for the first step to breaking it, let’s start with guarding your thoughts carefully when it comes to your pain. Ways that can help include:
- Thinking positively — Rather than getting stuck in a loop of hopelessness, focus on positives such as any improvements in your pain or things you can do to feel better, like persisting through a short walk and congratulating yourself for sticking with it. (I’ll be listing several below.)
- Managing your stress — Try activities like deep breathing, yoga, and meditation to ease the stress that can increase negativity.
- Getting plenty of sleep — Too little sleep can leave you feeling irritable, anxious and depressed. It can even cause your perception of troubling things, like pain, to be more pronounced and harder to handle. So be sure to get your eight hours each night.
In addition to avoiding catastrophization, you can also improve your chances of maintaining an active lifestyle by embracing natural options for relieving discomfort, aches and stiffness so that you feel more capable of getting the exercise you need…
#1 — Supplements for muscle and joint comfort
Certain supplements may boost both muscle and joint comfort, help keep inflammation in check and ease stiffness and aches. These include:
- Black cumin seed oil — Rich in thymoquinone and thymohydroquinone, this pure oil provides remarkable inflammatory support by targeting your immune system right in your brain to help calm your body’s natural pain signals.
- Turmeric extract — A 4,000-year-old Indian herb, turmeric helps modulate your NF-kb switch –the master regulator that signals and turns your body’s inflammatory response on and off.
- Ginger extract — According to the National Institutes of Health, “ginger extract and gingerol-enriched extract were each reported to exhibit analgesic and potent anti-inflammatory effects.”
- Vitamin D3 — Researchers have discovered when you boost your levels of Vitamin D3, inflammation is soothed, and discomfort is better managed.
#2 — Capsaicin
Topical capsaicin, from chili peppers, whether in creams and patches, is proven to help numerous types of pain — from muscle and nerve pain, to what researchers classify as “intractable pain.”
Although scientists don’t yet know exactly why it works, it’s possible that the compound lowers skin’s pain sensitivity through its effect on the nociceptor fibers — the nerves that carry pain signals to your brain.
#3 — Essential oils
A number of essential oils have been found to be beneficial for those suffering from chronic pain, like:
- Lavender — Research shows that this oil may help people who suffer the severe pain of migraines.
- Rosemary — Rosemary oil is a triple powerhouse with the power to reduce headaches, muscle and bone pain.
- Peppermint — This spicy oil has been traditionally chosen to combat the pain of arthritis, reduce muscle spasms and ease tension headaches.
The thing I really like about essential oils is that they allow you to indulge in self-care. You can breathe in the aroma, dab a little on your temples or massage into aching joints and muscles (with a carrier oil). That time spent pampering yourself with these lovely scented oils is enough to certainly lift your mood.
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12 natural ways to relieve pain — MedicalNewsToday