Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts at least 12 weeks. For some people, it can last for months and even years and can be debilitating. Successfully controlling chronic pain involves a multifaceted approach; diet, exercise, stress reduction, mind-body techniques, emotional support, medications and medical cannabis. We all know that finding the right strains of medical cannabis and the best delivery methods require trial and error. Finding the right pain management plan also requires trial and error. It is crucial that you find strategies to which you will commit in order to achieve long-term pain control. In this article, I will list many different approaches, which is just a sample of what is available.
I must mention two important points about chronic pain:
1. Pain is a very strong indicator that there is a problem. It is in our best interests to try and understand the source of pain. I am not suggesting that you do not treat the pain, but to simply eradicate the pain is potentially very dangerous. You may have a serious condition which is being overlooked and not being addressed.
2. Pain and Inflammation go hand and hand. The more I research painful, chronic disorders, the more I appreciate that by treating inflammation, you are also treating the pain. I am sure you have all heard the adage, “You Are What You Eat.” One of the first steps to controlling chronic pain is to switch to an anti-inflammatory diet.
Drinking filtered water, and lots of it, is one of the cheapest and best things you can do for your body.
What Is An Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
1. Eat Lots of Fruits and Vegetables
They provide essential vitamins, minerals and fiber without a lot of calories. The best choices are dark leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, onions and garlic, mushrooms, grapes, tomatoes and assorted berries. Other anti-inflammatory foods include avocados and dark chocolate and cocoa.
2. Use Lots of Spices and Herbs
The top 8 ant-inflammatory herbs and spices include:
- Tumeric which contains curcumin
- Cayenne and Capsaicin Peppers
- Black Pepper
3. Avoid Processed Foods
4. Replace Red Meat with Oily Fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines
5. Eat Whole Grains
6. Substitute Nuts and Beans for Carbohydrates
7. Eat Healthy Fats such as avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil
8. Reduce Your Carbohydrate and Sugar Intake
Cutting out soda is one of the best things you can do for your body
9. Reduce Dairy
I am constantly amazed at the ongoing debate over stretching; is it good for you or not? I have been stretching on a regular basis for 25 years. I have to tell you that it is one of the most important techniques that I use to keep my aging body in working order. It relieves tight muscles which reduces pain, increases flexibility and joint mobility and it costs you nothing but the amount of time you invest.
I personally use ice all the time to relieve pain, however, many people prefer heat. In fact, alternating cold and hot therapy is the most beneficial; remember to start and end with cold. Ice to numbness which also acts as an analgesic.
The key to success is finding a type of exercise that you can enjoy doing for weeks, months and even years. For some it is walking, for others it is working out with machines at a gym, swimming, kick boxing or playing a sport. If you haven’t exercised in decades, start out very slowly and gradually increase your activity.
Deep, diaphragmatic breathing is used by many people to help relieve pain and control panic attacks. It floods your body with blood and oxygen and can take your mind off the pain as you focus on your breathing. The majority of us are shallow chest breathers and we are not using our lung capacity to the fullest. There are many videos online which demonstrate diaphragmatic breathing.
There are many different techniques available; the massage therapy modalities alone number into the hundreds. Other types of mind-body techniques include:
Reiki, Energy Work, Chiropractic, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Acupuncture, Guided Imagery, Pilates, Chi Gong, Tai Chi, Cupping, EFT, the Tapping Therapy, Ultrasound, Biofeedback, Meditation, Laughter Therapy, Yoga, Relaxation Techniques
Counseling and Talk Therapy
For anyone whose pain results from unresolved trauma, psychotherapy and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) may be key in releasing you from the chronic physical pain that accompanies emotional pain.
If you are passionate about playing an instrument or listening to music, it can be a very effective technique for distracting your attention away from your pain.
Participate in Activities You Love
Immerse yourself in activities and hobbies that take your mind off of your chronic pain, especially those that are hands on.
Join A Support Group
Many people find support groups to be a lifeline when surrounded by those who share their experience.
Herbal Remedies and Nutritional Supplements
Essential Oils; Peppermint, Rosehip, Juniper Berry, Feverfew, Fish Oil, Flaxseed Oil, Glucosamine, Tiger Balm
Over The Counter and Prescription Medications
Anti-Inflammatories, Ibuprofen, NSAIDS, opioids, prescription pain killers
Reduce Alcohol Consumption and Stop Using Nicotine
For those in chronic pain, reducing your alcohol consumption and giving up cigarettes is highly recommended.
Medical Cannabis Treatment
A new study, published in the Journal Health Affairs found that 62.2% of medical cannabis patients are using it to seek treatment for chronic pain-based conditions. Even more important were the findings that the “vast majority of conditions for which people use cannabis have substantial or conclusive evidence of cannabis being an effective treatment.”
A 2007 study, “Cannabis in Painful HIV-associated Sensory Neuropathy,” published in the Journal of the American Academy of Neurology, was conducted by Dr. Donald Adams of the UCSF School of Integrative Medicine. His data spanned a decade and his conclusion was as follows:
Smoking cannabis was well tolerated and was effective in relieving chronic neuropathic pain from HIV-associated sensory neuropathy.
An increasingly common observation by medical cannabis patients is that cannabis doesn’t actually remove the pain, but it provides enough of a distraction so that they are able to ignore it. In addition to its anti-inflammatory properties, higher-THC strains of medical cannabis have sedating properties which improve the quality and duration of sleep.
healthline.com, Tumeric and Other Anti-Inflammatory Spices, Mary Ellen Ellis, Jan 26, 2017.
webmd.com, Pain 18 Treatment Types to Help You Manage Chronic Pain
healthline.com, Why Do Most Patients Use Medical Marijuana? Chronic Pain, Brian Mastroianni, Feb 21, 2019.
webmd.com, Natural Pain Relief: Supplements for Chronic Pain, Kara Mayer Robinson
bustle.com, 9 Essential Oils For Pain Relief That Actually Work, Acccording to Science, May 22, 2018, Kyli Rodriguez-Cayro
medicalcannabis.com, Patients Out of Time, Chronic Pain: Treating Chronic Pain with Cannabis