Healing is a complicated journey and many of us were taught to rely on doctors for the answers to our pain and illness. But traditional Western medicine is lacking when it comes to providing effective, permanent, natural and safe solutions for pain relief.
So if you’re one of those people who’s fed up with invasive, temporary treatments, know that good, effective alternatives exist and all you need is to begin to explore the many different ways you can alleviate pain without drugs, surgery or other invasive procedures.
It’s taken a long time for alternative to become mainstream, but it’s finally happening. Mostly because the ways doctors try to help their patients are temporary and ineffective; we’re getting tired of that and it’s about time. Now that patients are becoming their own advocates, speaking up to their doctors about what’s possible, and demanding more personalized, holistic and alternative approaches, we’re finally seeing a shift toward that kind of care. Not every approach will help everyone. We know this. And drugs and surgery have their place.
The trick is to not lose hope. I’ve had many clients come in with no hope at all, based on something their doctor said to them, some label they received for their problem or a lack of options present to them. This is probably the worst thing you could do to someone in pain. Pain is complex and necessary. It’s a warning sign. If we’re listening closely and soon enough we’ll be able to address it with ease. If we’re ignoring these messages from our bodies, pain can become a long-standing, chronic problem.
But whatever end of the spectrum you’re on with your pain, I’m here to tell you it’s changeable. What if there’s something you haven’t learned yet that could change everything?
That mindset will create hope. And mindset is everything when it comes to pain. The awareness you have of your body and your thoughts will be one of the keys to shifting pain and getting the relief pills will never give you. Here are 5 alternative solutions for pain relief to explore. This isn’t an exhaustive list.
1. Deep Breathing
Every single one of my clients is taught deep breathing as a cornerstone of their healing practice. If it was the only thing I taught, some part of my client’s issue (all of them) would improve. It’s that important. Deep breathing puts the body and mind into a healing state, oxygenates your cells and relaxes the nervous system. It also positively affects immune function. As babies, we learn this automatically. As we grow up and get stressed out, we adopt bad habitual patterns of breathing which can last into adulthood.
Re-learning how to breathe deeply will help shift your pain. It’s worth exploring with a coach or practitioner. Breathwork is a thing you can Google and you’ll find people in your area that focus only on this! But you can start right now, by getting quiet, relaxing your body, gently resting the tongue on the roof of the mouth and breathing deeply into your belly for several minutes. Like any practice, this should be done daily. And with breathing it can’t be done too much.
2. Myofascial Release
This mind body soul technique both helps diagnose and treat pain. It’s a hands-on treatment performed by a practitioner or on your own and addresses the connective tissue (fascia) system of your body. The fascia is a three-dimensional web of tissue that makes up, surrounds and support every cell and structure of your body. Due to factors such as bad posture, repetitive strain, injury, surgery or inflammation, it can be restricted. Fascial restrictions can put a lot of pressure on pain-sensitive structures such as nerves, muscles, joints, and organs. Myofascial release helps to remove these restrictions and restore health to the body.
The technique itself is a combination of stretch and pressure performed with five-minute holds (or longer). The pressure/stretch creates a physiological change in the tissue. Because pain is a mind-body phenomenon, the causes for it are a combination of physical and emotional. Myofascial release helps address both and can be the missing link for people who’ve only tried physical means to alleviate their pain.
3. Corrective Exercise
There are many forms of exercise that will help teach you how to balance and correct asymmetries in the body. These forms of exercise are important due to the compensations our bodies readily make for pain. It’s a vicious cycle of pain-tightness- more pain.
To break out of those cycles, we need a holistic approach to our body, and corrective exercise is very effective.
If you’ve never heard of or experienced any form of corrective exercise, just know it’s not going to be like what you’ve learned up until now. And part of the challenge to any alternative is helping people understand some of what we (including our doctors) were taught is outdated or simply ineffective. You can research something as much as you want, but if it doesn’t produce results, then I’m moving on to something that does.
Here’s a short list of some alternative and effective corrective exercise resources for you to explore: NeuroKinetic Therapy, Postural Restoration, and Total Motion Release. Each of these theories of movement helps to assess, address and treat asymmetries that cause pain.
4. Your Beliefs
Yes, it’s in your mind. Back in the day when I didn’t know any better, I was offended when I’d hear stories of doctors telling their patients, “It’s in your head.” How dare they tell me my pain’s not real! But now that I get the intimate connection of the mind and body, I understand this idea and look at it differently. If you’re told it’s in your head, you should celebrate. That means it’s not a structural problem in your body, and you have some powerful tools to use to change it.
The things we think and believe are powerful. We give ourselves these messages every single moment, thousands (if not more) times a day. Each thought or belief has an energy. That energy effects us! Each emotion we feel has a physiological effect in the body. Our physical body is intimately connected to what we think.
So if you think you’ll never heal, guess what? You’ll probably never heal. If you think you’ll never find a solution to your pain, guess what? You probably won’t. Awareness and mindset are everything. This mindset is a fierce and disciplined practice. It’s not easy at first. You have to catch yourself in that habitual negativity and choose different ways to think and believe. This stuff is deeply ingrained in us. But it’s worth exploring because the changes can be powerful; transformational even. It behooves us to dwell in possibility while we wait for solutions.
5. Therapeutic Movement
This one is slightly different than corrective exercise. These are ways to learn how to move the body that help it reset or reboot back to it’s original state of learning. When we relearn how to breathe and move, we can get rid of old, compensated, habitual and painful ways we move and replace that with easier, pain-free ways. Here’s a short list of therapeutic movement approaches you can explore: Restorative yoga, Original Strength, The Alexander Technique, the Feldenkrais technique and Tai Chi.
The body was meant to move. Movement of the muscles and joints creates a pumping action that bathes the joints in fluid. When the body hurts and you’re not moving, there’s no natural pumping action and that creates a downward spiral of pain, stiffness, and lack of movement. Therapeutic movement approaches help you relearn healthy patterns, get rid of compensations, and begin to regain your natural movements again.
Many of us were taught the mantra “No pain, no gain,” but what that did was create a whole generation of people who pushed through their pain to meet their goals, totally ignoring the body’s one, best warning mechanism. There’s nothing good about a high pain tolerance. It just means you’re numb to your pain and you’ll eventually get hurt because you’re not listening to it.
One of the best things we can do for pain is practice awareness and feeling. We were taught not to feel, so we push the sensations aside, try to numb them up, or ignore them all together. What we’re left with eventually is a hot, chronic mess of pain. The body has to start to scream at you to make you pay attention.
If we can learn to listen to your body, pay attention to the messages, and then practice self-care in whatever way we need to, we’ll have a powerful way to address pain, and most likely prevent it all together. Using drugs, surgery or other invasive procedures to fix pain is almost always going to backfire.ches to help patients feel better.
Those treatments are Bandaid approaches that don’t address the cause of the pain. To get more permanent healing and relief from pain we’re going to have to start to adopt holistic ways of addressing the mind body soul system. We’ll have to integrate our medicines and approaches to help patients feel better.
When Western medicine starts integrating, offering alternatives, and educating their patients in all the ways they can lead happy healthy lives, then our society will begin to reap the benefits. For now, remember to be your own advocate for that good care. Ask questions, demand awareness from your practitioners and don’t ever give up hope.