This is the first in a series of blog posts I will be writing on free and affordable treatments for chronic pain. Financial limitations often accompany chronic pain, because many who suffer lose the ability to work and/or have significant out of pocket expenses for medical care. Often, desired treatments, particularly alternative treatments that insurers refuse to reimburse, are out of reach.
While there is much to be said for chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, psychotherapy, medical marijuana and other costly treatments, there’s also much the pain patient can do on their own for no or little cost.
FREE: Meditation is a powerful pain reliever and is available absolutely free for self-care. Meditation involves having a single, calming point of focus that keeps your mind away from your usual distressing and worrisome thoughts. Every thought we have causes a physiological reaction. If it is a fearful thought, our bodies prepare to fight or flee. Muscles tense, heart rate, blood pressure and respiration speed up, blood flow is redirected from the extremities to the major organs and muscle groups. At the same time, digestion, immune response, healing and maintenance are suppressed so we can concentrate our energy on what will save our lives. When we have a neutral or positive thought, our bodies normally start returning to a lower arousal state and all of the changes mentioned above reverse. Many people get literally stuck in some level of fight or flight and the regular practice of meditation can reverse that.
Here is a simple meditation:
- Begin by taking a deep breath and letting it out in a sigh. (This slows and deepens your breathing. Stressed breathing is rapid and shallow. Relaxed breathing is deep and slow.)
- Allow your attention to follow your breathing, noticing the exhalation and the inhalation.
- On the inhalation, think the word relax. On the exhalation, think the words “let go”.
- Continue to focus on your breathing: inhale relax, exhale let go. If your mind wanders (which it will), just bring it back to your breath as soon as you realize it.
- Continue for as long as you like, preferably at least 20 minutes daily.
- Notice the difference in how your body feels.
- If this is difficult, don’t despair. You will get better at it with practice.
AFFORDABLE: The Stress Thermometer, a hand temperature biofeedback device, $21.95 on Amazon.com. Adding in an objective measure of your physiology that tells you your stress level and the impact of your efforts to reduce it can greatly enhance your ability to learn how to relax. Seeing even small improvements will motivate you to keep going. After being disabled by chronic back pain for over three years, pairing the simple meditation above with this biofeedback technology completely changed my life. My pain levels decreased significantly and I was able to get back to living my life. The higher your hand temperature, the more relaxed you are. Temperatures in the 70’s indicate significant tension, temperatures in the low to mid 90’s indicate that you are in the relaxed range. Temperatures in the 80’s are somewhere in between.
For more information on safe and effective treatments for chronic pain, read my book: