If you live with chronic pain, you know that you’ll sometimes do anything to find relief. And with the opioid epidemic continuing to sweep America, you may be looking for alternatives to pills. Are there any holistic ways to find relief?
Absolutely. While some mind-body practices and alternative therapies have existed for decades, emerging technologies make treating pain without medication more possible than ever before. Here are eight advances that are changing the pain management world and how you can avail yourself of these to find relief.
1. Advanced Beds
Chronic pain is exhausting. Many sufferers find that sleep brings the only relief from their aches and pains — but finding a comfortable position can take all night. This creates a vicious cycle in which a lack of adequate rest leads to more intense flareups, and that pain leads to greater insomnia in turn.
Beds that allow you to adjust the firmness, and softness settings are hardly new, but advances in memory foam technology make today’s beds even more comfortable than ever. They can also help control the temperature, which is useful if you tend to fluctuate between feeling too hot and too cold. Adjustable mattresses make tasks like reading in bed easier on your head and neck.
2. Floatation Therapy
Sensory-deprivation tanks combat chronic pain in two ways. Floating helps bust through stress, which can cause stronger pain flareups in many patients. Studies also find that floating treats tension headaches, muscle aches, and chronic pain.
During a session, you’ll enter a small pool with a few inches of water. For best results, you’ll want to close the lid, although you can leave it open if you experience severe claustrophobia. If you suffer a comorbid anxiety disorder, research indicates that sensory deprivation can alleviate symptoms of this condition.
3. Underwater Treadmills
Exercise is a great way to reduce pain levels naturally. However, for people with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, moving about on land increases pain.
Underwater treadmills allow individuals with spinal stenosis to regain motor function by gently strengthening the muscles of the lower extremities. Did you know that being submerged in water reduces your body’s weight by 80 percent? As a result, aquatic exercise can improve circulatory function and alleviate pain associated with blood pooling in patients with Parkinson’s disease or postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS).
4. TENS Units
(TENS) uses tiny electrical pulses delivered via special pads to stimulate muscles and nerves to alleviate pain. When electricity hits the nervous system, it interferes with pain signals between the fibers and the brain.
You can buy inexpensive TENS units in department stores and online. Your doctor can instruct you on how to place the pads directly on acupuncture points, considered the most effective placement for pain relief. Some evidence suggests using a TENS unit daily decreases the pain-relieving effects, so save this treatment for particularly bad days. Also, use of a TENS unit is counter-indicated if you have heart disease or epilepsy.
5. Radiofrequency Ablation
In radiofrequency ablation, your doctor uses a radio wave to heat up and deaden an area of nerve tissue, blocking pain signals from the area. Unlike surgery, radiofrequency ablation features shorter recovery times and less risk of complications. Approximately 70 percent of patients who opt for the procedure experience relief.
Radiofrequency ablation carries few side effects other than bruising and swelling of the treated area. If you have certain infections, you’ll need to wait before having the procedure.
6. Virtual Reality
Virtual reality enables pain patients to lose themselves in another world. By wearing special sensory goggles, patients explore exotic locations without ever stepping foot on an airplane. They can swim in the ocean or feel the breeze caress them as they sit on a mountainside.
Most patients who try virtual reality experience significant pain relief. Researchers don’t know if focusing on something other than the pain creates this effect or whether the process eases the central nervous system, decreasing the number of pain signals sent to the brain. A combination of factors likely contributes to the pain-relieving properties of this treatment.
7. Dietary Modifications
Certain foods aid in the digestion of others. A classic example? Plants of the allium family, such as garlic and onions, help the body absorb the lycopene in tomatoes. Lycopene boosts eye and neurological function.
By studying food synergy, researchers hope to learn more about how different ingredients aid or inhibit the absorption of certain nutrients. Since vitamin and mineral deficiencies contribute to many pain disorders — for example, inadequate magnesium intake is linked to more frequent migraines — making dietary changes to boost the absorption of certain substances can bring relief.
8. Mind-Body Techniques
In the laboratory, researchers use biofeedback devices to train chronic pain patients to manage their physical selves by controlling their thoughts. But you need not invest in fancy equipment to practice mind-body pain relief techniques.
Certain yoga poses, such as cat-cow, stimulate the vagus nerve, which runs from the base of your abdomen to your brain. If you suffer menstrual discomfort, IBS, or any type of back pain, this pose can help you find relief. You can also practice meditation — you can find free, guided videos on YouTube to start your journey.
Managing Pain Holistically
With the dangers of opioid pain medications now obvious, more chronic pain patients seek holistic relief today than ever before. Hopefully, new technologies will continue making alleviating agony naturally the future of pain management.
Disclaimer: This article doe not constitute as medical advice. Please seek help from a medical professional for all health-related issues.