By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
Even though I specialized in cardiology, my patients—and even people who weren’t my patients—have always tended to share what was hurting them. Backs, knees, necks, shoulders… everyone seemed to have some kind of ache or pain.
I wasn’t immune, either. For years I coped with a bad hip, courtesy of my college wrestling days.
Inevitably, the accounts and descriptions of these chronic pains would end the same way. “Got any suggestions for me?”
Natural Pain Relief the High-Vibe Way
The best way to relieve chronic pain is by going to its root cause—and for me, that’s all about energy.
Pain is fundamentally an attention-getter. In fact, it’s probably our body’s most effective way of letting us know something is out of balance and needs to change.
A big problem, though, is that we don’t treat it that way. Instead, we’re apt to load up on medications that can have toxic and addictive side effects. To boot, pain meds (both prescription and over-the-counter) were recently shown to increase risk of heart attack and stroke. And worse, these drugs don’t even fix the problem. They just cover it up for a while, until you develop a tolerance for your dosage. Then you’re prescribed even more.
That’s not good medicine!
Why? First of all, it ignores the body’s natural healing wisdom. But more importantly, it lowers cell vibration. Prescription drugs are notorious for creating nutrient deficiencies and other vibration-lowering side effects. Your goal should always be to take fewer of them, not more.
A better approach is using natural therapies that raise cell vibration and improve energy flow in painful areas. I find that these can bring significant pain relief. And, because a number of them also involve the mind/body connection, they can also help reduce the emotional impact of chronic pain.
In fact, these approaches are so effective that the American College of Physicians included several of my favorites in their new guidelines for non-surgical management of low back pain, which was designed to decrease reliance on opioid painkillers. Here they are…
Natural Pain Reliever #1: Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Since pain is often caused or aggravated by inflammation, adopting an anti-inflammatory diet like the Pan Asian Modified Mediterranean (PAMM) diet should be a no-brainer. There are a lot of benefits to be gained with this, but chief among them is that the fewer foods you eat that stoke your body’s inflammatory response, the better off you’re likely to feel. Plus the high fiber content of PAMM helps your body offload toxins that can cause additional inflammation.
To eat the PAMM way, focus on high-vibrational foods like fresh organic fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and low-glycemic carbs, along with healthy fats like olive oil and omega-3-rich fish. Remember, an anti-inflammatory diet is a long-term lifestyle approach, and pain relief will likely be gradual. But if you stick to it, you’ll eventually see benefits.
Natural Pain Reliever #2: Acupuncture
There may be no better example of vibrational healing than acupuncture. The entire practice is based on enhancing the flow of qi (pronounced “chee”)—or energy—throughout the body.
In traditional Chinese Medicine (along with some other Eastern practices), qi is thought to flow through us along specific paths, much like blood flows through arteries. Good flow means good health. But when qi becomes blocked, it can cause physical symptoms, like pain, around the area where the flow stops. If you think of a stream or river that becomes blocked, and the kind of erosion and flooding that occurs, that’s basically what happens with qi.
Acupuncturists can relieve pain by removing the qi blockages with tiny needles. Don’t be scared off by the thought of being a human pin cushion—the actual procedure is actually pretty pain free!
Natural Pain Reliever #3: Massage
Massage helps release stress and tension that builds up in muscle tissue, and stimulates blood flow, which allows energy to flow more freely. It’s also helpful for improving lymph circulation, which helps the body rid itself of toxins. Because massage is a hands-on therapy, it also transfers the therapist’s healing energy and intention. In the hands of a conscientious, energy-savvy professional, this can bring another level of healing to the table.
Natural Pain Reliever #4: Chiropractic
Chiropractic fine tunes the alignment of your bones, specifically your spine. It’s based on the idea that misaligned vertebrae can have a domino effect on the surrounding nerves, muscles, and bones, leading to pain and mobility issues. Regular adjustments can help maintain proper alignment, which allows the body’s energy and self-healing ability to flow more freely.
Natural Pain Reliever #5: Exercise
When you feel pain, moving is the last thing you want to do—yet it’s actually one of the best things for you. Regular, moderate exercise (15–20 minutes a day) gets your energy flowing, increasing breathing, blood flow, and body temperature. (Heat indicates higher vibrational energy.) It also helps guard against “rusty gate syndrome,” which sets in when we don’t move enough. Just like the hinges on a neglected old gate, our joints and muscles get stiff when they’re not used. Exercise keeps them loose and swinging freely.
With exercise, though, you do have to be careful of one thing, and that’s to not overdo it. Too much exertion may increase inflammation and pain, which will lower your vibration, not raise it. Plus, strenuous exercise can cause oxidative stress, which also lowers vibrational energy.
Natural Pain Reliever #6: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
MBSR, as it’s also called, is meditation-like practice in which you focus on being fully present in each moment by noticing your environment, emotions, and thoughts, as well as physical sensations in your body. When your body and mind are connected this way, you’re less likely to accumulate “stress energy”—the muscle tension and pain that come on when you’re on autopilot. (If you’ve ever looked up from a project and suddenly felt pain or stiffness in your neck and shoulders, you know what I mean!)
There’s just one rule for MBSR, and that’s not to judge yourself or your thoughts. Just exhale and let them go.
Natural Pain Reliever #7: Yoga
Of all these natural pain relievers, yoga is probably my favorite. I’ve been doing it for years, and I love the way it makes me feel. I think of it as the mother of all mind-body-spirit activities.
As far as pain goes, yoga helps with flexibility, which naturally helps to relax muscles and improve strength and range of motion in creaky joints. (It’s been shown to be an effective way to help manage chronic low back pain, in particular.) Don’t be intimidated by all of the poses. A principal rule of yoga is that you respect your limits and do what you’re able to. There’s no need to force yourself into a “human pretzel.” However, I wouldn’t recommend yoga if you’re in acute pain—unless you take it really easy and don’t push anything.
Yoga is also a great stress-reducer. That’s important with pain because chronic pain can be easily aggravated by stress. A pain in the neck can literally cause pain in your neck!
I got a firsthand glimpse into yoga’s stress-busting power when I conducted a workshop at a yoga retreat a few years back. After a specific practice called alternate nostril breathing, the yogis’ heart rate variability (HRV) improved significantly. HRV is a measure of how flexible the heart is, beat to beat. The higher your HRV, the more relaxed and able to go with the flow you are.
Check out these five simple poses you can start doing today.
Natural Pain Reliever #8: Grounding
I love grounding (or “Earthing”) almost as much as I love yoga, for many of the same reasons. It’s a great way to help balance your body’s stress response and improve heart rate variability.
There’s also evidence that suggests grounding can help relieve pain by helping reduce inflammation. When you absorb the negatively charged free electrons from the Earth’s surface, they neutralize positively charged free radicals—and that short-circuits the inflammatory process.
Getting grounded is easy. Just walk barefoot on a natural surface—grass, sand, clay, or stone—for at least 20 minutes every day, or use an Earthing device, like a bed sheet. Both techniques connect you with the natural healing energy of our planet.
When Natural Pain Relief Isn’t Enough
As great as these pain relieving techniques are, I’ll admit there still may be times when you need help from conventional medicine to get relief. With my hip, I eventually gave in and had a full joint replacement.
Hopefully, you won’t need something as drastic as surgery. However, it may turn out that you would, in fact, benefit from a prescription pain medication. If you’ve tried the alternatives and still aren’t getting the results you need, it’s okay to go ahead with this. Just follow the same advice I used to give my heart patients. Take the meds, but keep using the natural therapies, too. They’ll help reduce the dosage you need, which will mean less toxicity in your body.
Remember, pain doesn’t need to define your life. You can take healthy, natural steps to control it.
- Büssing A et al. Effects of yoga interventions on pain and pain-associated disability: a meta-analysis. J Pain. 2012 Jan;13(1):1-9.
- Cramer H et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of yoga for low back pain. Clin J Pain. 2013 May;29(5):450-60.
- Ghaly M and Teplitz D. The biologic effects of grounding the human body during sleep as measured by cortisol levels and subjective reporting of sleep, pain, and stress. J Altern Complement Med. 2004 Oct;10(5):767-76.
- Holtzman S and Beggs RT. Yoga for chronic low back pain: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Pain Res Manag. 2013 Sep-Oct;18(5):267-72.
- Oschman JL, Chevalier G, and Brown R. The effects of grounding (earthing) on inflammation, the immune response, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. J Inflamm Res. 2015 Mar 24;8:83-96.
- Qaseem A et al. Noninvasive treatments for acute, subacute, and chronic low back pain: A clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2017 Apr 4;166(7):514-530.
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