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Natural Relief for Chronic Pain

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Updated September 24, 2012

What is Chronic Pain?

While chronic pain often stems from conditions such as arthritis, recurrent headache, back pain, or fibromyalgia, it can also result from a past injury or disease. For some individuals, however, there is no known cause or source of chronic pain.

Chronic Pain Management

Physicians may use a number of approaches to manage chronic pain, including medication, acupuncture, psychotherapy, biofeedback, and behavior modification.

Certain herbs have also been shown to be useful in chronic pain management.

Natural Treatment for Chronic Pain

Since stress can aggravate chronic pain—and because chronic pain tends to increase stress—the regular use of stress-reducing techniques may benefit people with chronic pain. In addition to helping patients cope with their pain, these mind-body therapies may lessen anxiety, enhance well being, and even provide symptom relief:

1) Tai Chi

Tai chi is a gentle Chinese martial art that combines movement, meditation and rhythmic breathing to improve the flow of chi. In a 2009 review of seven studies that used tai chi as the main intervention for people with musculoskeletal pain, researchers concluded that the practice may decrease pain and disability in arthritis patients.

2) Mindfulness Meditation

In a 2008 study of 27 adults with chronic low back pain of at least moderate severity, scientists found that taking on an eight-week meditation practice was associated with to less pain, better sleep, enhanced well being, and improved quality of life.

Meditation has also been found to reduce pain and stress in people with fibromyalgia.

3) Guided Imagery

Guided imagery—a technique that involves achieving deep relaxation by vividly imagining yourself completely at peace—may improve functioning and quality of life in people with chronic pain. One study published in 2006, for instance, found that listening to guided imagery tapes daily for six weeks helped fibromyalgia patients feel more capable of managing their pain. In another study from the same year, using guided imagery for 12 weeks significantly increased health-related quality of life among 28 women with osteoarthritis.

4) Yoga

Known to ease stress and increase flexibility, yoga resulted in a decreased perception of pain (as well as an improvement in balance) among rheumatoid arthritis patients who participated in three 75-minute yoga classes weekly for 10 weeks in a 2009 study.

Published in 2008, a study of 80 adults with chronic low back pain found that an intensive, week-long yoga program reduced pain-related disability and improved spinal flexibility in patients better than a physical exercise regimen.

Sources:

Baird CL, Sands LP. "Effect of guided imagery with relaxation on health-related quality of life in older women with osteoarthritis." Research in Nursing & Health 2006 Oct;29(5):442-51.

Bosch PR, Traustadóttir T, Howard P, Matt KS. "Functional and physiological effects of yoga in women with rheumatoid arthritis: a pilot study." Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 2009 Jul-Aug;15(4):24-31.

Hall A, Maher C, Latimer J, Ferreira M. "The effectiveness of Tai Chi for chronic musculoskeletal pain conditions: a systematic review and meta-analysis." Arthritis and Rheumatism 2009 Jun 15;61(6):717-24.

Kaplan KH, Goldenberg DL, Galvin-Nadeau M. "The impact of a meditation-based stress reduction program on fibromyalgia." General Hospital Psychiatry 1993 15(5):284-9.

Lush E, Salmon P, Floyd A, Studts JL, Weissbecker I, Sephton SE. "Mindfulness meditation for symptom reduction in fibromyalgia: psychophysiological correlates." Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings 2009 Jun;16(2):200-7.

Menzies V, Taylor AG, Bourguignon C. "Effects of guided imagery on outcomes of pain, functional status, and self-efficacy in persons diagnosed with fibromyalgia." Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 2006 Jan-Feb;12(1):23-30.

Morone NE, Lynch CS, Greco CM, Tindle HA, Weiner DK. "'I felt like a new person': the effects of mindfulness meditation on older adults with chronic pain: qualitative narrative analysis of diary entries." The Journal of Pain 2008 Sep;9(9):841-8.

Tekur P, Singphow C, Nagendra HR, Raghuram N. "Effect of short-term intensive yoga program on pain, functional disability and spinal flexibility in chronic low back pain: a randomized control study." Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 2008 Jul;14(6):637-44.

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