Here’s an excuse to stay in bed this weekend with no guilt:
Logging extra hours of sleep can reduce pain sensitivity and increase daytime alertness, according to a study published in the journal SLEEP. The small study included 18 healthy—but mildly sleepy—adults between the ages of 21-35. Their level of sleepiness and pain sensitivity (how quickly they moved their fingers off a hot source) were measured before and after the study. Half the participants stayed in bed for 10 hours per night for four nights, while the other half continued their normal sleep habits. Not surprisingly, the group who stayed in bed longer slept an average of 1.8 hours more than the other group, which led to increased alertness. But the group who slept in also showed a 25% decrease in pain sensitivity by the fourth day!
How does it work? When you take healthy people and you deprive them of sleep, you increase the amount of pain receptors in the blood system,. This suggests that extra sleep potentially has an analgesic effect, particularly if you can do it in anticipation of the pain. Essentially, being well rested reduces that sensitivity.
So the next time you’re training for a marathon—or just planning for a week of awful cramps—sleep in for a few days. Here, 8 more ways to reduce pain without meds:
Get a massage
Treat sore muscles or back pain with a trip to the spa. A once-a-week massage treatment was found to be more effective at treating pain than regular medication, according to a 2011 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
When your head is pounding, reach for water. Often headaches are brought on by dehydration. You may just need to gulp down a glass or two of water to fight off the throbbing (especially if it’s post-hangover pain).
Do a little yoga
Many people are in pain because their muscles are tight and contracted. So one of the most successful strategies is stretching. Sometimes it takes heat to relax the muscles. So hopping in a hot shower or bath before you get your om on can be even more effective.
Focusing your attention on a difficult task—like reciting the ABCs backwards—can actually inhibit pain signals to the brain, according to a study published in the journal Current Biology. So the next time you’re getting a flu shot, try doing long division in your head for instant relief.
Add ginger to your meals
Ginger has been found to help with menstrual cramps, In fact, it’s as effective as an OTC pain reliever, according to a 2009 study in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Mix it into your meals or add it to hot tea to fight PMS pain.
Focus on your breathing
Meditation can help relieve belly pain associated with irritable bowel syndrome. Take a few moments to bring your breathing rate down to six breaths per minute. That helps your body produce a relaxation response, your blood pressure comes down, and many people find their pain levels to be much more manageable.”
Turn up your music
Listening to your favorite tunes can actually reduce your pain, especially if you’re particularly anxious about it, according to a study published in The Journal of Pain. Freaking out while getting your blood drawn? Pop in your headphones and crank up the music, stat.
Think of it as the less terrifying (and zero needles) approach to acupuncture. “In the last 10 years, a lot of people have been turning to acupressure,” says Bauer. “And many studies show that it’s nearly as effective as acupuncture.” Try one of the most basic pain-relieving moves by squeezing the fleshy area between your thumb and forefinger for one minute.
Millions of people live with chronic pain every day in the US, and they struggle to do basic day-to-day things like getting dressed and going to the shop. Despite their constant pain, their voices are rarely heard by the media because they look ‘normal’ and it is difficult to see the cause of their pain.
Here are 20 things that people in chronic pain can relate to:
We try very hard to look ‘normal’
People often say to us that we don’t look sick, but it takes a lot of effort to look normal. We often have to nap before going out to deal with the exhaustion, and we normally take pain meds before meeting up with people.
The pain won’t pass in a few days or weeks
This isn’t a cold or the flu, and it won’t go away in a few weeks – we may live with the pain for our whole lifetime.
It’s not all in our heads
[Tweet “We are not hypochondriac’s; just because you can’t see the cause of our pain doesn’t mean it isn’t there.”]
We have dreams and goals
Just like anyone else, we have passions and dreams that we would like to achieve in our lives. We are not defined by our illness.
We are not making a big deal for no reason
We are probably in more pain that you think we are in. It can be pretty difficult to understand chronic pain, and we don’t need your sympathy – we just want to know that you understand our situation.
Sometimes it is impossible to get out of bed in the morning
Some days the pain is too bad to get out of bed, but we don’t let that get us down. In fact, we will probably Skype our friends or partners so we can have a giggle to take our mind off the pain.
We hate being called lazy
Every job is twice as hard if you’re experiencing chronic pain, so we don’t feel lazy – we feel super accomplished for getting dressed and going to the shops. Everyone experiences different challenges in life.
Chronic pain doesn’t become less painful with time
Pain doesn’t become less painful over time, but you become better at dealing with the pain. I am still in pain; I’m just not letting it rule my whole life.We don’t always have enough spoons
Christine Miserandino, a woman with lupus, created the ‘spoons’ analogy to describe living with invisible pain.
When you have chronic pain, you start each day with a certain amount of spoons.
Every task, like making a sandwich, takes a spoon away from you. Once you have run out of spoons for the day, you cannot complete any more activities – your pain is too much. This analogy helps us to complete our tasks without exerting ourselves too much.
[Tweet “PLEASE take the time to read “The Spoon Theory” by Christine Miserandino this is probably the BEST essay to help you understand chronic pain!”]
If we don’t work, it is because we can’t
We don’t shy away from work; in fact, we would do anything to be healthy and able to work full-time. Sadly for some chronic pain sufferers, this just isn’t an option.
Just standing in queues is uncomfortable and painful
Having to hold your body in a certain place for even a few minutes can be extremely tiring and painful, and sometimes we have to ask our friends and families for help.
Good days do happen
Some days we wake up feeling better than normal, and we get super excited! Normally we will try to be productive and social on these days, because we don’t know when the next good day will be.
So do bad days
Some days are very painful, and on these days even going to the bathroom is a difficult task. On a day like this, brushing your teeth is a huge accomplishment!
We feel guilty about not always replying to our friends
Pain can be mentally exhausting, and sometimes it means we feel too tired and ill to reply to our friends. This makes us feel bad – we love our friends and we hate not replying, but thankfully our friends don’t take it personally when this happens.
We are so thankful for the friends and family who are there for us
Often we have to ask our loved ones for help with tasks like cooking and shopping, and we are so grateful for the help. Our friends are more than just friends; they are lifelines and saviours.
Medical help can be frustrating
It can take years to diagnose chronic pain due to a lack of training, and when we find an understanding doctor, we try to keep them in our lives for as long as possible.
We don’t seek drugs – we seek pain relief
Sometimes chronic pain is treated with medical marijuana and opioids, but that doesn’t mean we seek drugs. We seek anything that will help us to control and manage our pain.
We don’t need advice (unless you have chronic pain yourself)
We really appreciate people who are trying to be helpful, but it can be mentally draining to repeatedly discuss the same pain-management methods. We always look out for ways to help manage the pain, so the likelihood is that we have already tried most suggestions.
We hope to heal one day
We don’t want to live our whole lives in pain – we want to heal and get better. We will always look out for answers and cures that could change our lives
Love and support helps us to keep going
From strangers and co-workers, the little gestures like offering to help with our bags can really help to make our lives easier.
Medical searches on Google
When you do a Google search for certain medical conditions, you can learn about their symptoms and treatments. This includes information from medical doctors about how common a condition is, whether it’s critical or contagious, the ages it usually affects, and more.
Our lives are defined by the decisions we make each day. When we choose one option over another, whether we are selecting a restaurant or considering a cross-country move, we shape our lives. The decision-making process can be empowering, allowing us to enjoy the benefits of self-determination. Yet it can also be a source of anxiety because decisions force us to face the possibility of dissatisfaction and inner conflict. As a result, many of us opt to avoid making decisions by allowing others to make them for us. We consequently turn our power over to spouses, relatives, friends, and colleagues, granting them the stewardship of our lives that is ours by right. Though the decisions we must make are often difficult, we grow more self-sufficient and secure each time we trust ourselves enough to choose.
Ultimately, only you can know how the options before you will impact your daily life and your long-term well-being. Within you lies the power to competently weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each selection. Even if you feel incapable of making a decision, your inner wisdom and your intuitive mind will give you sound counsel if you have faith in yourself. Try to come to your own conclusions before seeking the guidance of others, and even then, treat their suggestions as supplementary information rather than votes to be tallied. Before making your choice, release your fear of wrong decisions. Perceived mistakes can lead you down wonderful and unexpected paths that expose you to life-changing insights. If you can let go of the notion that certain choices are utterly right while others are entirely wrong, you will be less tempted to invite others to take the reigns of your destiny.
When your choices are your own, you will be more likely to accept and be satisfied with the outcome of those choices. Your decisions will be a pure reflection of your desires, your creativity, your awareness, and your power. Since you understand that you must live with and take responsibility for your decisions, you will likely exercise great care when coming to conclusions. As you learn to make informed and autonomous choices, you will gain the freedom to consciously direct the flow of your life without interference.