Citing the work of Maggie Phillips, Ph.D., author of the book Reversing Chronic Pain, Dr. Burt suggests “going back and forth in your consciousness, from noticing the pain to noticing other neutral or positive feelings in other parts of your body. You may even notice elements of joy and pleasure — even while the pain is still there.”
Herbs and oils have long been used to relieve pain. Though there haven’t been many scientific studies of their use, some small studies have shown significant benefit from rubbing on certain essential oils (concentrated plant extracts), including lavender, peppermint, cinnamon, rose, clove, rosemary, ginger, and others. It was not clear whether it was the oils or the touch that made the difference.
Many herbal remedies have been used to reduce inflammation and pain. Writing in the online publication U.S. Pharmacist, Antoine Al-Achi, Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Pharmaceutics at the Campbell University School of Pharmacy in North Carolina, reported that bromelain (pineapple enzyme), curcumin (an antioxidant found in turmeric), echinacea, chamomile, ginger, and arnica have shown anti-inflammatory effects. Preparations of these plant-based supplements are widely available at health-food stores. If you would like to try one or more of these supplements, speak to your doctor first about possible side effects and drug interactions.
Whole body–mind treatments
Since chronic pain is a whole body–mind experience, your total physical and mental health has a lot to do with your pain. In addition to improving your blood glucose control, you might consider doing the following:
Lose some weight. Losing some excess weight can take the pressure off your back, hips, knees, and feet, possibly reducing pain in these areas.
Watch what you eat. Different foods may well make your pain worse or better. You may want to keep a log of what you eat and how it affects your pain. (Click here for a log that can help you keep track of your diet and various other factors that may affect pain.)
Pace yourself. People tend to push themselves until pain or fatigue makes them stop. They then rest for the shortest possible time, then get back to work until pain stops them again. You can prevent this cycle by pacing yourself: Figure out how much you can do without pain, and stop before you reach that point. Rest up, then start again. You’ll get more done with less pain.
Laugh. Several studies show laughter is among the best medicines for pain. In Japanese studies of arthritis, people who watched a humorous show reduced their pain by more than 50% for as long as 12 hours. You can watch funny videos or read humorous writing, watch kids or puppies play, or do whatever it takes to make you laugh. You can also laugh for no reason at all. The effect seems to be the same.
Engage in sex. Sex is a good pain reliever, and orgasm is more powerful than almost any drug in relieving pain. Rutgers University professor and sex researcher Beverly Whipple, Ph.D., found that when women had orgasms, their pain “thresholds” went up by more than 108%. In other words, things that usually hurt them no longer had an effect. She believes men have similar responses, though she’s only studied women. The pain-reducing effect seems to last for hours.
Sleep. A good night’s sleep is great medicine for pain. There are many medical and behavioral approaches to help you sleep. See “Finding Help for Chronic Pain” for some written resources on sleep.