Are there natural approaches to pain management? A lot of people are suffering with chronic pain, and are on pain-killers. The problem with drugs against pain lies with their side-effects.

I was intrigued by natural approaches to pain relief after I recently came across two articles in the news. One questioned the validity of treating osteoarthritis with corticosteroids. The other talked about how pain is managed in poor countries like Gambia. Poor countries can’t afford the drugs that rich countries have access to. Instead, they resort to more natural approaches, including psychology and physical diagnosis, to help people in pain, and with no harmful side-effects.

Osteoarthritis affects over 5 million Canadians, and until recently it was believed that steroid injection into painful joints offered pain relief. Experts are now calling into question the efficacy and safety of this treatment. A 2017 study published in JAMA  (Journal of the American Medical Association) conducted a double-blind randomized clinical trial that injected steroids into half of a group of osteoarthritis knee patients and a placebo of saline into the others. It concluded there was “no significant difference in knee pain when using steroids.”

Meanwhile, the side-effects associated with steroid treatment of osteoarthritis are serious. They include accelerated progression of the disease, stress fractures in the b-one, and osteonecrosis (death of the joint) due to bone degeneration or destruction.

So, are there natural approaches to pain management?

“Many experimental studies have shown that components of foods or beverages may have anti-inflammatory effects,” says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. If you want natural pain relief consider changing your lifestyle. Processed foods are associated with inflammation. An anti-inflammatory diet is the best place to start when looking for a natural approach to healing from chronic pain.

The “Mediterranean diet” is an example of an anti-inflammatory diet. It relies heavily on vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, fish, and healthy oils. Such a diet also avoids processed foods, especially refined sugar. In addition to lowering inflammation, a healthy diet can have noticeable effects on your physical and emotional health.

An anti-inflammatory diet would likely include these foods:

  • olive oil
  • green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collards
  • nuts like almonds and walnuts
  • fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines
  • fruits such as apples, blueberries, cherries, and oranges

Particularly apples are helpful in natural pain management. Research suggests that eating “an apple a day” lowers levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a key marker of inflammation in the blood.

To learn more about cooking delicious meals that emphasize an anti-inflammatory diet. consider reading this slow cooker recipe book.

How does weight management affect pain management?

Over half of all Canadians are overweight! Arthritis increases to one in 3 among obese people, so chances are, if you’re overweight, you joints are in pain.

Weight loss can definitely help reduce pain. The more you weigh, the more pressure there is on your joints. A study in JAMA noted that adults with osteoarthritis who lost weight through a combination of diet and exercise over a period of 18 months reported less knee pain. In another study, disease activity, function, and quality of life were strongly linked to the inflammation associated with obesity.

The apples study which I mentioned also implicates eating an apple a day for weight loss. It’s the pectin in the apples, a fiber that acts as a natural appetite suppressant. If you haven’t been eating an apple a day, try it consistently. You’ll like it.

For more info about my healthy weight loss coaching, please visit my weight loss coaching page at Ottawa Full Circle Healing.

Can exercise help relieve chronic pain?

Can you believe it; for many years, the treatment of choice for chronic pain was rest and inactivity! Wisdom now prevails, calling for regular physical activity. Proper exercise is known to benefit people with many different painful conditions. A meta-study conducted in 2017 found that exercise can help relieve chronic pain, enhance physical function, as well as boost energy and mood.

How does stress affect pain?

Chronic pain has been found to be linked to chronic stress. Because the brain plays a central role in stress and pain processes, our attitude in life can help us manage pain better. Studies show that mindfulness is an effective way to manage pain and stress. Mindfulness is the ability to be aware of the present moment without too much emotional reaction or judgment.  This awareness can lead to adaptive neural and hormonal responses that relieve chronic pain. For more info about my mindfulness for stress management program, the mindfulness page of my Ottawa Full Circle Healing website.

So, if you’re looking for pain relief with no harmful side-effects, making some basic lifestyle changes can help you manage your pain naturally, helping your body heal itself.