In an episode of HOUSE, the lead character says at one point, “Pain makes us make bad decisions; fear of pain is almost as big a motivator.” Anyone who has ever experienced a chronic pain condition knows just how debilitating pain can be. It’s hard to explain to someone who has never experienced chronic pain how different chronic pain is compared to a pain that is expected to go away, such as an injury or an accident.
Chronic pain wears the body down, stresses the adrenals and kidneys, puts emotional and physical stress on the body and mental stress on the brain. Unfortunately, the predominate way of treating chronic pain in a medical setting is to use medication, many that are quite harsh and have undesirable side effects, or to use nothing at all, leaving the patient in pain.
For those suffering from chronic pain, there are some ways to reduce pain and manage it, without resorting to medication, or ways to manage pain while limiting the need or dependence on pain medication.
Massage Therapy for Pain Management
Pain can be caused by any number of things, and while it’s true, basically, that all pain is nerve pain (in that it’s nerves that send the signals to the brain that we feel pain), there are distinct types of pain: nerves, muscles and skeletal. Knowing which type of pain you’re experiencing, or whether it’s a combination of different types of pain, helps with treatment. Massage therapy is an excellent pain management tool for those with muscle or nerve pain, but doesn’t work so well on skeletal pain.
Massage therapy, from a licensed or registered neuro-muscular massage therapist, can help purge toxins from muscle that might cause aching, helping to move oxygen and flush fluids from in and around the muscle tissue. Muscle ‘knots’ and tightness can be reduced, inflammation can be reduced, and relaxation is promoted. Relaxation is a great way to help with pain management as well.
Mental Distraction for Pain Management
A while back, I wrote this article about video games being used for pain management. The idea is that concentrating on something that doesn’t take too much mental focus while still taking the focus off the pain can help with managing pain. When my chronic pain is bad, but I’m not wanting to dull my senses with pain pills, games like Bejeweled Blitz and mindless point and click time management games sometimes help take my focus off the pain. The article goes more in depth on the studies performed to determine the pain management benefits of video games.
Grey’s Anatomy did an episode where a man was allergic to most opiate pain medications, so his doctor prescribed pornography in order to relieve his pain. Not only does the pornography help take his focus off the pain, but it also helps to release endorphins, which are natural pain relievers.
Working puzzles, reading, or doing other things that stimulate and activate the focus parts of the brain won’t necessarily take your pain away, but during a bad pain episode, these activities can help take the focus off the pain long enough to find some relief and to relax.
Sexual and Physical Activity for Pain Management
As stated above, sex and sexual activity help release hormones and endorphins in the body that help relieve pain naturally. Additionally, light physical activity is often able to help manage pain, such as stretching, light exercise, and isometrics. Sexual activity, with a safe and trusted partner, can help enhance a relationship, increase intimacy and feelings of emotional well-being and also help relieve pain physically too. All of these benefits help manage long-term chronic pain.
Working with a partner you trust, you can do stretches, light exercises, and have a little fun afterward too, and you just might find you can get several hours of pain reduction or even pain relief.
Also, if you go back to the massage therapy for pain management, a good neuro-muscular massage therapist can also perform the appropriate stretches to help release trigger points, stretch and strengthen tendons, and helps support the muscles and bones, all of which can reduce pain.
Meditation and Relaxation for Pain Management
As mentioned earlier, relaxation is a big component of pain management. Tense muscles, tension, frustration, anxiety and the like all increase pain sensitivity and perception. Learning to relax, deep breathing, meditation and focus can all help relax the body, ease tensions, and help reduce pain. Prior to or during any of the alternative pain management techniques, deep breathing, relaxing and meditation can all help increase the pain relief benefits of the activity.
Try some deep breathing while playing a mind-numbing video game, or perform some light stretching while breathing, then take your partner into the bedroom for a little pain relieving fun. Whatever combination of these activities, if you take just a few moments to enjoy them, you might find your pain medication needs are reduced and your quality of life might just improve overall too.
After all, relaxation, medication, light exercise, mind stimulation and good sex are all great for anybody, whether we deal with chronic pain or not!