11 Drug-Free Tips for Living with Chronic Pain
1. Try deep breathing or meditation techniques to relieve pain without drugs.
Meditation and deep breathing allows the body to relax without the aid of opiates, easing pain and tension that tighten muscles.
Try these soothing repetition steps to help you relax:
- Find a quiet spot and comfortable body position
- Imagine a spot just below your navel
- Breathe into that spot, fill your abdomen with air
- Let air fill you from the abdomen up, then let it out, like deflating a balloon.
- Ignore any disruptive or negative thoughts
- Repeat a relaxing word or phrase (a mantra)
2. Reduce negative emotions and stress in your life.
Learn to take control of stress – depression, stress, anxiety and anger can all increase your body’s susceptibility to chronic pain.
Try these drug-free stress-reducing and relaxing techniques:
- Listen to soothing, calming music
- Mental imagery relaxation is a form of mental escape (imagine a calm beach or quiet place)
- Progressive muscle relaxation – alternately tensing and then relaxing muscles can relieve stress
3. Rely on natural endorphins from exercise, not drugs, to boost pain relief.
Exercise strengthens muscles, helps prevent injury & further pain, and releases natural endorphins to help improve your mood while blocking pain signals without the help of drugs. Additionally, by keeping your weight down, you can reduce heart disease risk and control blood sugar levels, important if you have diabetes.
4. Reduce drinking, which increases sleep problems.
Pain can make sleep difficult and drinking can increase sleep problems – drinking less or none can help you with getting enough rest each night.
5. Join a support group for those living in chronic pain without drugs.
Sometimes you need to ask for help – it’s a sign of strength, not weakness. When you’re surrounded by people living with chronic pain, you feel less alone and you can benefit from their wisdom in coping with pain. Or, consider meeting with a mental health professional. Counseling can help you develop a healthier attitude by learning how to cope and avoid negative thoughts that increase pain.
6. Don’t smoke.
Smoking can increase painful circulation problems and your risk of heart disease and cancer.
7. Document your pain level every day.
Try documenting a journal of your daily “pain score.” At the end of each day, rank your pain level on a 1 to 10 pain scale, and document your activities that day. Bring this book with you to every doctor visit, and try reviewing it yourself to see what you can change about your daily habits to decrease your pain score.
8. Learn biofeedback to decrease pain severity naturally without drugs.
Here’s how it works: You wear sensors that let you “hear” or “see” certain bodily functions like pulse, digestion, body temperature, and muscle tension. The squiggly lines and/or beeps on the attached monitors reflect what’s going on inside your body. Then you learn to control those squiggles and beeps. After a few sessions, your mind has trained your biological system to learn the skills.
9. Get a massage to relieve chronic pain.
Massage can help reduce stress and relieve all types of chronic pain and tension, including back and neck pain.
10. Eat a healthy diet.
A well-balanced diet reduces heart disease risk, keep weight under control and improve blood sugar levels.
Try these foods for a low-fat & sodium diet:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Cooked dried beans and peas
- Whole-grain breads and cereals
- Low-fat cheese, milk and yogurt
- Lean meats
11. Distract yourself from pain to enjoy life more – don’t rely on drugs.
Focusing on pain can worsen it. Instead, find something you love to do – a sport or hobby that keeps you busy and thinking about things besides your pain. You can always take control of your own life, even if you can’t prevent pain altogether.