TO THE POWER OF YOU

 

Welcome to the final part of this quick and easy, chronic pain relief toolkit, made for those experiencing neuropathic, nerve and muscle pain. We wanted to give you a collection of easy to apply tools, based in science and mostly free, to simply apply at home in your times of need.

Here is how the toolkit looks now:

Vitamin D - Temperature & Touch Therapy - Tens Machines - Stretching & Muscle Rolling - Movement - Sleep - KYMIRA - Stress Reduction & Nervous System Calming - Distraction - Pleasure & Oxytocin


Time to read: 5 minutes

Key Points:

  • Tools that are natural, easy & quick to use to provide pain relief
  • Stress Reduction & Nervous System Calming, Distraction, Pleasure & Oxytocin
  • Personal experience of chronic pain
  • Fully scientifically supported & referenced

Part 3: Coping with chronic pain can push you to crisis. A toolkit of scientifically supported pain relief strategies is a must for all sufferers



Stress Reduction & Nervous System Calming

Stress is found to exacerbate neuropathic chronic pain (26) and there is a body of evidence showing chronic pains connection to a chronic activation of the bodies stress system. This is why there is a strong connection to chronic pain activation and the occurrence of an adverse life event,  or period of long term stress within the sufferer. I myself can see this occurrence in my life during and prior to my chronic pain and I wonder if you can too. Unhelpfully, pain itself is a signal to the body that activates a stress response, that something is wrong and requires help. In addition, the adverse lifestyle changes and psychological effects of being in pain, such as fear to undertake normal activities for the worry of worsening your pain, can themselves evoke a great deal of stress.

The total combination activates a perpetual cycle of increasing experienced pain and stress, so it in itself can be both the large stressor experienced and the cycle that supports the continuation of the chronic pain. The acute biological responses of the stress can also make us more susceptible to experiencing chronic pain. Adrenalin released as part of the biological response to pain has been found to make people hypersensitive to pain, increasing the pain experienced by the sufferer (37). Over time the brain and nervous system can become hypersensitised and wired to repeatedly experience chronic pain, and studies show this even in the absence of physical structural or tissue damage. 

Personally, and scientifically supported, reducing stress and activation of the nervous system, is one of the most important aspects of lowering chronic pain. I would suggest this by taking a three phased approach; incorporating an enjoyable self care activities into your routine and lifestyle; adding in routine methods that are scientifically proven to calm the nervous system; and taking some time to identify what your personal stressors are and considering if you can make some lifestyle adaptions to make these more manageable. The first and third methods will be deeply personal to you, so I would encourage you to do this work. 

The second aspect I would encourage you to consider clinically supported avenues such as taking up gentle exercise like yoga, Tai Chi or Pilates that all incorporate deep breathing techniques and are found to enhance physical health and reduce the psychological effects of pain and stress. It is found they can act as a relaxant of the neuro-endocrine system, slowing brain patterns, heart rate and reducing feelings of anxiety and depression, whilst increasing perceived quality of life (24). As previously, exercise in general is found to reduce stress (25), so although the highest results tend to come from those that combine the deep breathing and gentleness, if those avenues don’t seem right for you, general exercise, with the support of your Doctors and therapists, is encouraged. 

The psychological and breath work have been found to be beneficial in their own right. Diaphragmatic deep breathing exercises, such as those encouraged in yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates, are found to calm the nervous system and reduce heart rate (40). The breathing can be undertaken in isolation and are a quick and effective method that can be utilised quickly and in the go to calm your system and bring about a sense of calm. 

Meditation is well documented to reduce feelings of stress (39) and this 2018 study (38), showed meditation actually changed the brains neurological response to pain, as well as sufferers reporting experiencing less pain. 

These methods can be an excellent support for pain spikes and crisis and to help you regulate your pain on a day to day basis. Incorporating these clinically proven stress reducing behaviours into your daily life, has been shown to reduce experienced pain consistently over time, compared to controls not utilising these methods.

Distraction

Giving our attention to our pain has been shown to increase our perceived feeling of pain (41). But pain itself, is attention inducing to the body, with your body trying to call you to action to solve a problem it is experiencing. Like stress, issues with attention can lead to a difficult and self perpetuating cycle of increasing our feeling of pain. Finding other avenues for our attention to focus on, can be incredibly beneficial to reducing our feeling of our pain, particularly in a crisis or spike of your pain. Distraction is shown to reduce brain activation in the areas associated with pain response and perception (41), with the most effective distraction from pain shown to be playing a game.

This would be an excellent time to make a list of all the books you wish you had read, the films you wish you had watched and hobbies, languages and skills you want to develop and find an enjoyable channel to put your focus to, when you need it. 

Distraction is also an excellent method for helping you drift to sleep when in pain, with the use of sound incredibly helpful to give your attention span, something else to gently focus on. Try audiobooks, a film with the screen blackened, soothing sounds of the jungle or ocean or a white noise app.

Pleasure & Oxytocin

For a lighter note, pleasure is thought to modulate a pain response, ie reduce a pain response, as it is activating the same neural pathways in the brain. This means instead of feeling pain, the body can use the same system to feel pleasure instead. This is another reason why incorporating a pleasurable self care regime and activities into your daily life, can reduce your feelings of pain. Pleasure and consequently exercise, release the feel good endorphins, that are independently shown to have a pain relieving effect (16).

Similarly oxytocin, the feel good hormone that is released from touch and close contact to or positive interactions to another, is shown to be a pain modulator with pain reliving effects (14). This further supports the uptake of a therapeutic touch regime into your pain management and is a strong encouragement to be close emotionally and when you can, physically, to your loved ones. The quickest way to stimulate oxytocin is to engage in a 30 second or more cuddle. Furthermore, social interactions and companionship has been shown to speed up the healing time from nerve pain conditions (42), showing the power of their application. 

 

Some of these avenues may seem simple, obvious or easily dismissed but they are repeatedly shown through empirical clinical studies to improve pain and are important tools recommended by other suffers and recoveries like myself. They are all easy to apply, incorporate into your daily activities and can be done quickly and mostly for free, at home.

I would encourage the adoption of as many of these strategies as you can into your daily life, so their accumulating and interlinked effects can begin to support you and help you manage and reduce your pain, as it did mine. Please consult your Doctor if you have any questions or concerns about something appropriateness for you.

Please follow along in due course, for the continuation of our pain blog.

 

Part 2: Easy, Quick & Natural Methods for Chronic Pain Relief & Management - Neuropathic, Nerve & Muscle Focus


Expand For References

References

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