Dealing with Chronic Pain in Sobriety
by Cassidy Webb
Much of the opioid epidemic that the country is facing today has been attributed to pharmaceutical companies over prescribing pain medications. Opioid dependence can occur in just 5 days of taking opiates. Unfortunately, chronic pain does not subside as people get sober. However, there are many ways that one can manage chronic pain in sobriety without taking addictive prescription drugs.
Though physical exercise may seem counterproductive when it comes to pain management, it is actually shown to be beneficial in preventing pain from getting worse by keeping muscles strong, loose, and active.
Stretching increases flexibility and loosens tight or stiff muscles, easing day to day movements and preventing further muscle pain. Having tight muscles only creates more pain. Stretching also increases blood flow and aligns the spine resulting in better posture. One shouldn’t force these stretches, but should move slowly into stretches. These should be held for 30-45 seconds and repeated 5-10 times. One should only feel a stretch, if there is any pain in the stretch then it should not be continued.
There are several kinds of low impact exercises that aren’t as physically demanding as others. For example, swimming provides light aerobic exercise and warm water can help relax the muscles. The weightlessness of water helps with movement and lessens physical demand on joints. Exercising in warm water allows spine and limbs to expand, relieving painful pressure in the lower and upper back. Other forms of low impact exercises include walking and biking.
Acupuncture consists of needles, heat, and pressure being applied to certain areas on body. It has been shown to have several benefits such as reduced inflammation and increased blood flow. The NIH claims it can ease many types of chronic pain including the lower back, neck, osteoarthritis, knee pain, and persistent headaches. Through stimulation of the nerves, endorphins are released into the body which are the body’s natural pain killers. This stimulation also releases serotonin which controls ones mood. When serotonin and endorphins are released simultaneously, one’s pain can be dramatically alleviated. Evidence also suggests that acupuncture stimulates the vagus nerve which results in decreased inflammation in the body.
Though acupuncture may seem painful to some, the needles used are thinner than a strand of hair and don’t normally hurt, many people even fall asleep and feel extremely relaxed during the process. It is a safe practice, but should be conducted in a reputable office where sterile equipment is used each session by an experienced practitioner.
There are several healthy foods that can decrease inflammation in the body and help ease chronic pain. Cherries and ginger reduce inflammation in muscles by up to 25%. They hinder pain enzymes causing an effect similar to that of aspirin and other anti inflammatories. Consuming fish that are low in mercury, such as salmon or herring, can help relieve back pain because omega-3s improve blood flow and lower inflammation in blood vessels and nerves. Coffee has been suggested as relief for headaches for many years, because it narrows the enlarged blood vessels that cause headaches, just be sure to drink a glass of water with that coffee to prevent dehydration. Edamame and hot peppers are great foods to eat for those suffering with arthritis because they stimulate nerve endings and deplete chemicals that relay pain signals to the brain.
Yoga and meditation are two great forms of holistic therapy that can be used to ease and cope with chronic pain. Using these techniques, one can learn to focus on their breath which can put pain into perspective. By learning to focus on mindfulness, one is able to listen to body’s demands and create a plan of how to treat the pain. Bringing this kind of awareness to any unnecessary strain that is placed on certain areas of body can help alleviate the pain in those areas. In addition, holding yoga poses releases any unnecessary tension that may be causing more pain. Similar to stretching and swimming, one can utilize the muscles in their body to become stronger and more resilient. Yoga also helps develop a strengthened spine and neck which takes the pressure off of the joints and bones.
Cassidy Webb is an avid writer from South Florida. She works for a digital marketing company that advocates spreading awareness on the disease of addiction. Her passion in life is to help others by sharing her experience, strength, and hope.