10 Things To Do for Pain Instead of Taking Drugs

In the past we only heard about deaths from prescription-related drug overdose when high-profile celebrities like Whitney Houston or Heath Ledger died unexpectedly. But the startling fact we must grapple with today is that drug-related deaths in the US now outnumber traffic fatalities and gun deaths. Data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the death toll due to drugs has nearly quadrupled since 1999 and emergency room visits tied to the abuse of prescription painkillers have jumped 111 percent over a five-year period.

Some experts believe that the use and abuse of pain medications has now reached epidemic proportions, having been fueled by a change in physician prescribing practices over the past decade, resulting in more liberal use of highly addictive narcotics for moderate pain. The US consumes approximately 80% of the world’s opioid supplyPharmaceutical companies, always seeking profitable new markets to tap into, are in the process of developing even more new forms of the addictive opioids.

Clearly, many patients with legitimate pain are becoming unintentionally addicted to the medications they have been prescribed because the drugs are so potent and can cause tolerance and dependence in a relatively short time. But what if you are experiencing chronic or acute pain and don’t want to risk becoming a victim of the drugs that have been prescribed for you? One piece of advice is to use pain medications very sparingly rather than on a regular schedule. Whenever possible try other techniques for coping with pain rather than reaching for a pill:

1. Laugh.  

Laughter causes the release of natural endorphins in the brain, which help increase your ability to tolerate pain. So watch a funny movie, humorous videos on YouTube, or enjoy a laugh with friends.

2. Listen to music.

Music has been shown to be effective at reducing the experience of pain for a variety of reasons including increasing relaxation, causing distraction from negative feelings, and also creating neurochemical changes in the brain. Try various types of music that you enjoy to see which is the most effective for you.

3. Exercise.

Moving the body has been shown to reduce pain by releasing endorphins and improving function. Go for a walk, dance, do yoga or just move any part of your body that you can use without further injury. Check with your doctor or physical therapist first if you have a condition that makes exercise difficult.

4. Get a massage.

Studies have shown that massage can be as effective as pain medications for alleviating discomfort and can also help with inflammation, swelling and stiffness. In addition, massage also causes the release of endorphins, which have already been discussed.

5. Use guided imagery.

 

This form of relaxation/hypnosis has been shown in multiple studies to provide effective pain relief as well as improve sleep, elevate mood and increase motivation. You can listen to audio tapes or CD’s that talk you through the process of guided imagery to get the most benefit.

6. Color.

While it hasn’t been studied scientifically yet, many chronic pain sufferers use coloring to distract them from their pain. These colorists say that creating beautiful designs on paper reduces stress and provides a means for self-expression that makes it easier to live with pain.

7. Practice deep breathing.

Deep breathing helps increase relaxation, reduce stress and improve energy levels. Try it multiple times throughout the day and combine it with other techniques for the most benefit.

8. Love.

Experiencing loving feelings and sexual intimacy can help alleviate pain by releasing endorphins, generating positive emotions and decreasing anxiety. Ask your partner for a massage for added benefits.

9. Pray or meditate.

Prayer and meditation have both been shown to be effective at reducing pain by increasing relaxation, providing distraction and alleviating anxiety.

10. Practice EFT.

Emotional Freedom Techniques, also known as tapping, has been demonstrated to be effective in reducing pain symptoms and studies are now showing that the practice can help reduce cortisol levels and stress. It is a simple technique that can be learned quickly and requires no special tools.

If you have been given narcotic medications for chronic or acute pain, view your prescription as potentially dangerous and use it with caution. By utilizing some of these techniques you should be able to reduce your reliance on drugs and feel calmer, more alert and in better control of your symptoms. Be sure to keep your medication away from children, dispose of any unused medication safely (such as through a pharmacy take-back program) and never share any prescription with another person.

 

About the Author: 

Dr. Karen Wyatt is a hospice and family physician who writes extensively on spirituality and medicine, especially at the end-of-life. She is the host of End-of-Life University Interview Series and author of “The Tao of Death” and the award-winning book “What Really Matters: 7 Lessons for Living from the Stories of the Dying” Connect with her at karenwyattmd.com, on Facebook at fb.com/KarenWyattMD and on Twitter @spiritualmd 

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What I Learned From 40 Early Mornings

 

Last summer I was reading a book of poetry by the 13th century Sufi mystic Rumi when I came across this verse:

“What nine months of attention does for an embryo

forty early mornings will do

for your gradually growing wholeness.”

As someone who is constantly seeking to grow emotionally and spiritually, I resonated with Rumi’s words. The rest of his poem talked about how we must proceed with growth slowly and have patience with “small details.”

In that moment I knew that I had received guidance for the next spiritual practice I was to pursue. I would spend “forty early mornings” watching the sun come up each day in order to nurture my own growth, like an embryo in the womb.

For the next forty days I rose before the sun and found a place to sit outside where I would be able to see the “ball of fire” as it appeared on the horizon. I meditated while I waited for the arrival of the sun and then wrote a few notes in my journal about the inspiration that filled me during the process.

I immediately became aware of the power of the sun, particularly in the early morning against the backdrop of the fading night. The contrast between dark and light was a reminder of the cycle of life and death on this planet and that new life always follows the darkness of death. In addition the intense heat of the sun’s rays was especially noticeable in the cool air of the morning. By the time my forty-day experiment was completed I felt like a new person in several key aspects of my being. Here are some of the lessons I learned:

Maintaining a spiritual practice is challenging but powerful

It takes discipline to awaken from deep sleep and get out of bed every morning but the rewards of the practice are great. As physical beings we function well with routines and daily rhythms and in fact the entire Universe flows in just such predictable patterns and waves. Once I established a routine my body and mind began to cooperate so that arising early and preparing for meditation became much easier.

Simple is best

At times in the past I have tried to follow rather elaborate daily rituals with exercise, yoga, meditation, prayer, tea, journaling, reading, and candle-lighting all included in the process. But it was too time-consuming to become a reliable daily routine and I was not able to be as consistent as I wanted. The early morning sunrise practice consisted of just that—watching the sun come up and then writing 1 or 2 sentences in my journal. The simplicity of it helped me be consistent and I eventually found it to be just as profound and inspirational as every other practice I have tried.

Sunlight has a powerful effect on the human body

I’ve read articles recently that show how sunlight activates the pineal gland, which is responsible for producing melatonin, the “sleep hormone,” at night. The sunlight helps set the body’s circadian rhythm, which coordinates endocrine and neural pathways. This exposure to natural sunlight early in the day seemed to help my body settle into its natural rhythm and I felt the benefits throughout the day, including improved sleep at night.

Embracing the darkness is essential

Starting each day in relative darkness showed me how much I tend to avoid “the shadowy” parts of life in my preference for “light and love.” But over the forty days I became very comfortable with the darkness and recognized the profound calmness that I experienced when shapes were soft around the edges and features were dim. There was comfort for me when light was lacking and I grew to love those quiet moments before the sun became visible. The darkness is rich with creativity and possibility—when we embrace it and make space for it in our daily lives we can deepen our growth and substance.

The light illuminates what we fear to see

The gradual rising of the sun brings with it excitement and anticipation but removes the ability to hide in the darkness. In the light of the morning sun I could suddenly see with honesty the painful truths I had been covering up and avoiding in my life. I wrote “The light reveals my own Shadow so I can finally embrace it with love.”

The sun’s light is “love made visible”

Each morning as I stood within the rays of light that were pouring down from the sun at the start of a brand new day, I felt love entering me and filling me completely. While the light showed me my Shadow issues, it also filled me with the love I needed in order to address them. Then for the rest of the day I continued to glow and shine with the “love energy” I had received in the morning.

Rumi was correct in his poem that the most profound growth can unfold in such a subtle way that we may not recognize it is taking place. At the beginning of my new practice I wasn’t sure it was making a difference. But in looking back now I can see that my forty early mornings brought me to deeper awareness of the love that constantly surrounds me and helped me show that love to others through my presence, rather than just tell them about it.

By starting my day with this powerful exercise of connecting with the sun’s early morning light and allowing it to illuminate every dark space, I could became a beacon of light for the rest of that day. I could shine for others and show them their own beauty and worthiness. Now that’s a spiritual practice I will continue to follow!

About the Author:

Dr. Karen Wyatt is a hospice and family physician who writes extensively on spirituality and medicine, especially at the end-of-life. She is the author of “The Tao of Death” and the award-winning book “What Really Matters: 7 Lessons for Living from the Stories of the Dying” Sign up for her online interview series End-of-Life University or connect with her at karenwyattmd.com, on Facebook at fb.com/WhatReallyMattersWithKarenWyatt and on Twitter @spiritualmd

 

 

 

 

 

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