What can you take to relieve chronic pain that is natural and not addictive? That is one of the most common questions that I hear from my site visitors, such as Kelly’s question below.
I’ve been taking vicodin &/or oxycodone for 20+ years for a back (many discs) problems AND pancreatic scaring. I got off of them on my own. NO MORE OPIATES! No Dr. had a clue, even gave me pain patches (opiate) when I told him I wanted OFF and what can I use to eat and ease the pain of that & back pain. I ask you, please help me. I am looking for a good pain reliever that is NOT an opiate. Thank You, Kelly
First of all, let me say Kudos to you for taking such a wonderful step for yourself. You can take a look at my Natural Pain Relievers page for an overview of many different types of natural options.
However, I would like to emphasize that mindfulness meditation is one of the most powerful and natural methods for relieving chronic pain that you can find. I have used mindfulness meditation for decades to relieve a variety of pain syndromes like migraines, TMJ, myofacial pain, and fibromyalgia.
When using mindfulness to relieve chronic pain, the source of your chronic pain is used as the focal point of your meditation. Here is a simplified step-by-step process.
- Sit or lie down.
- Close your eyes.
- Locate the area where your pain resides.
- Bring your full attention to that spot.
- Outline it with your mind’s eye.
- You can describe it if you like, but not always necessary.
- Do not label it or judge it.
- Just allow it to exist in its entirety.
- Feel it and embrace it completely.
- Take in a deep breath through your nostrils with your mouth closed. Breathe through your abdomen, not your chest.
- When you exhale, imagine that you are pushing the breath into the area of pain. Repeat several times.
- Then just be still and bring your full attention to the area of pain again without the breath.
- Sometimes the pain literally dissolves in seconds. Sometimes it takes 10 or 15 minutes.
It’s important to note that there is a very distinct difference between being preoccupied with your pain and being mindful of your pain. Being preoccupied will increase the pain level while being mindful will reduce it.
There are many studies that have found mindfulness to be effective for relieving chronic pain of all kinds like IBS, cancer, fibromyalgia, arthritis, insomnia and more.
Why does mindfulness work? There are several mechanisms of action occurring simultaneously. First of all, it increases the body’s natural pain relievers, called endorphins. These are our natural opiates.
There are many other activities that will increase your endorphin levels as well, like exercise, deep breathing exercises alone, spending time with nature, laughing, smiling, singing, listening to music, yoga and other similar practices, but I find mindfulness and deep breathing to be the most powerful. However, you should be engaging in as many of these activities as possible, to keep a good flow of endorphins going.
Secondly, all your neurons can go to work on the area of the pain and everything else is tuned out.
Third, mindfulness affects a part of the thalamus that gaits what sensations are allowed into the brain, thus taking your attention away from the pain.
Fourth, mindfulness also increases dopamine and serotonin, other neurotransmitters associated with relaxation, mood and well-being.
These are some pretty amazing benefits from something as simple as breathing and meditating. It costs you absolutely nothing, is completely natural and it can be performed at all times, no matter where you are.
Not only that, mindfulness enhances our emotional and spiritual health simultaneously, by stimulating those neurotransmitters that decrease stress, improve mood and heighten our sense of well-being in the world, thus providing us with a supreme holistic health strategy.