How to Avoid or Heal from Chronic Pain Naturally

Chronic pain is undoubtedly a difficult thing to live with, no matter where in the body the pain is located. Chronic pain is also very prevalent among the global population. According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, some 1.5 billion people around the world suffer from chronic pain. This means that 20% of the global population is suffering from some pain on an ongoing basis. 

But not all pain is the same.

Acute pain, an essential reaction of our nervous system to injury, warns us that something has gone wrong. Immune cells (neutrophils) are the first cells to arrive at the site of tissue damage and contribute to the painful sensation [1]. This type of pain usually goes away during the healing phase of the injury, often in under 12 weeks. As healing progresses, the pain sensation lessens until minimal or no pain is detected thanks to the production and release of anti-inflammatory cytokines and opioid peptides, such as ?-endorphin, which alleviate the pain [2] [3]. 

Chronic pain is different in this respect: the initial damage has passed, yet the body is still sending pain signals to the brain. When pain persists for over 12 weeks after an injury, and in spite of medications, it is considered chronic pain.

Chronic pain can thus last for several months and even for years, in more extreme cases. It severely limits one’s ability to lead a normal healthy life.

Intense pain becomes persistent as it activates secondary mechanisms that cause hypersensitivity to pain and exaggerated sensitivity to pain. 

These mechanisms, along with inflammation, either previous to the injury or as a result of the injury, transform acute pain into chronic pain. [4,5]

Conventionally, chronic pain is handled with medication, be it over-the-counter or prescription drugs that often do not completely alleviate the pain. Sometimes, surgery is needed.

However, there are alternative treatment methods that often solve the problem just as well, but without the undesirable side-effects (sedation, tolerance or physical dependence for the drug).

In this article, I will attempt to explain how you can naturally heal from chronic pain.

How to Heal from Chronic Pain Naturally

As mentioned, inflammation is a significant factor in the development and persistence of pain.

In foods, there are compounds that have been shown through research to regulate inflammation and secondary mechanisms that influence pain persistence. These compounds are flavonoids, alkaloids, carotenoids, phenols, and terpenes.

Here are 15 foods rich in these inflammation regulating compounds that may help alleviate chronic pain when consumed regularly:

1. The edible brown seaweed, Ecklonia cava, has been shown to have potential analgesic effects when taken in doses of 300 mg/kg daily[6].

2. Hot chili peppers were found to induce pain initially, but after repeated consumption, or taken via injections, was found to reduce pain sensations. [7].

3. Zerumbone, a bioactive compound derived from ginger, was demonstrated to reduce pain even comparable to the drugs gabapentin (20 mg/kgi.p.) and morphine (1 mg/kgi.p.) [8] so consuming ginger daily is an excellent way to combat chronic pain. 

4. Curcumin from turmeric modulates the dopamine receptor and reduces the expression of COX2, which is expressed in inflammation, and thus has been shown to alleviate pain sensations. [9].

5. The Chinese medicinal plant Corydalis yanhusuo is well documented as a pain-relieving plant. Synthetic Dehydrocorybulbine (DHCB) isolated from the plant is very useful in alleviating acute pain, inflammatory pain, and neuropathic pain, without any side effects. This plant can be taken as an herbal tincture to help relieve chronic pain.

6. The essential Clove oil initiates the cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2), a critical receptor that counteracts pain [10].

7. Huperzine-A (HUP-A), a naturally occurring alkaloid, isolated from the  Huperzia Serrata plant, helps inhibit acetylcholinesterase receptors, alleviating pain, without drug tolerance and dependence [11].

8. Quercetin, a potent antioxidant, and an anti-inflammatory compound that was shown to help alleviate pain. [12] This compound is found in:

  • Grapes.
  • Berries.
  • Cherries.
  • Apples.
  • Citrus fruits.
  • Onions.
  • Buckwheat.
  • Broccoli.

9. Barberries are rich in the alkaloid berberine. Berberine is reported to have multiple pharmacological properties for use in several conditions, including pain reduction. Berberine also has an antidepressant effect by modulating dopamine. [13, 14].

10. Genistein, an isoflavone found in soy products, helps regulate the estrogen receptor-? and also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities [15].

11. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a carotenoid that inhibits nitric oxide and reduces pain [16].

12. Citrus fruits are rich in naringin, a flavonoid with anti-inflammatory properties reversing the pain response [17].

13. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are effective against inflammatory pain and have positive effects on mood, as well as analgesic effects [18-20]. Since omega-3 fatty acids do not interact with conventional analgesic drugs [21], one can use it concomitantly with conventional therapy. 

14. The polyphenol resveratrol is a potent anti-inflammatory used to treat pain and many other diseases, cancer, and aging. Injection of resveratrol has been shown to alleviate neuropathic pain [22] significantly.

15. Devil’s Claw, is a plant with widespread medicinal uses as well as treating pain. [23]. Preparations that contained > 50 mg daily dosage of devil’s Claw were found to be most effective.

Now, apart from supplementation and changing eating habits to increase these foods mentioned above, some lifestyle habits help reduce pain.

  • Although counterintuitive to do exercise when in pain, working on surrounding muscles will help heal pain faster. Regular exercise strengthens supporting muscles, helping you sleep better, and helping with mobility, as well as releasing endorphins that are natural pain relievers. [24] Exercise also helps in relaxation that is part of any pain management program. 
  • Acupuncture is often suggested for pain relief and was found to be helpful for most patients. [25]
  • Cannabis can also be used for chronic pain where it is legal, although it may have some side effects in some people. [26]

How to Avoid Chronic Pain

There are several things you can do to prevent chronic pain from developing.

Leading a healthy lifestyle that’s based on proper nutrition, low in inflammatory promoting foods (see The Guerrilla Diet & Lifestyle Program Book chapter 13), regular exercise, and weight management. It’s also imperative to limit your alcohol consumption and to stop smoking to help prevent inflammation and chronic pain. [27]

You also want to strive to get enough sleep as it can help you better manage pain, and helps the body heal itself. [28, 29]

Employ stress management techniques such as meditation, massage, and yoga, which are particularly useful for relieving ongoing pain and reducing stress. [30] [31]

At work, make sure your workstation is ergonomically designed to prevent gradual injury from occurring.

Also, if possible, it is best to avoid participating in dangerous activities like high-risk sports. 

These recommendations all involve a change in lifestyle that is not always easy to do. But everything in life is still a choice that is entirely our own to make every day and every minute of our life.

The Bottom Line

With a proper, healthy lifestyle, you can avoid chronic pain entirely. However, if you do suffer from chronic pain, you can still use a wide range of alternative methods and specific herbs, foods, and supplements mentioned in this article, which will help support your body to heal itself.

References:

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