Living with chronic pain is something I am very familiar with. Experiencing body pain day in and day out can be very taxing, both mentally and emotionally. There is a growing number of people who also experience body pain every day. Stress, vitamin deficiency, and lack of adequate sleep can be the most common causes of frequent body aches and pains. Fibromyalgia is another growing cause of body pain. If you are unfamiliar with this unpleasant “mystery” illness, fibromyalgia affects a growing number of people each year. Symptoms of fibromyalgia include extreme fatigue, sensitivity and pain of the entire body. Sometimes, a more serious health condition could be to blame for frequent body pain. Arthritis, Lyme disease, and multiple sclerosis (MS) are just a few of the more serious agonizing conditions that can physically break down the muscles and joints over time if left untreated.
Get to the Root.
If you are someone experiencing frequent body pain, it is important to first figure out the root of the problem. Seek the help of a physician who will test you for potential illnesses. Some individuals prefer to visit a holistic doctor to avoid taking prescription medications that may lead to more serious problems or unpleasant side effects. If, like in my case, your physician is unable to make a diagnosis through testing, do not be afraid to get a second or third opinion. That way you can be sure to receive proper treatment, if necessary. It is not to say that we should live every day in constant fear or worry, but carelessness about our health is not wise either. We only have one life to live, and our health is not something to take lightly.
There are some illnesses that may lead to more serious problems if left untreated. Lyme disease is just one example. There are many others, but I am using Lyme as an example because it is an illness I have experienced all too well. Lyme disease, an illness caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi through a tick bite, can cause a host of problems later in life if left untreated; some of these problems include: facial paralysis, arthritis, joint and neuromuscular conditions. So, I will mention it again, before you seek treatment for your pain, it is important to first figure out what is causing it.
Join a Support Group.
So now, you have figured out the possible cause of your pain. Or maybe you are still left wondering what is wrong because the doctors have no explanation? I did not know what was wrong with me for many years. I dealt with other alarming symptoms, such as random dizzy spells, blacking out, gastrointestinal problems and terrible insomnia. I was tested for Crohn’s disease, lupus, and even cancer. But the pain alone was enough to make me feel sad and hopeless some days.
Joining a support group is one of the most recent things I have done that I wish I’d done way sooner! I stumbled across a Lyme disease support group on Facebook one day. I am not a super active member of the group, aside from making random comments from time to time, but just reading what other people are experiencing has made me feel so much less foolish about my thoughts and emotions through this challenging journey. And so much less ALONE in what I have been feeling. As someone who began experiencing constant body pain more than half my lifetime ago, finally being a member of a community of people who share similar experiences is refreshing. It can build you up by realizing you are NOT alone in your unique situation, and by understanding you can rise above the illness in order to live life to the fullest.
Here are some natural lifestyle changes that have helped me naturally reduce my body pain:
1) Get Moving.
I’ll admit that when I’m in pain, sometimes the LAST thing I want to do is get up and walk around. It is hard to find the motivation to get moving when you are tired and achy. But moving and exercising does more than help your muscles.
Sometimes all you need to lift your mood and ease some of your body pain is a daily 15 minute walk outside in the fresh air and sunshine; or walking around the mall on a gloomy day can do wonders to help your mind and body. Other beneficial forms of exercise include stretching–such as yoga, strengthening exercises like squats or wall pushups, or other cardiovascular exercises besides walking (swimming, riding a bike, or using an elliptical trainer). Remember not to overexert yourself, as doing so may lead to injury. The key is to get your blood flowing and your body moving, which will help raise your body’s natural seratonin levels and release those feel-good endorphins.
Exercise may not be a possibility for those who suffer from truly debilitating illnesses, so please consult with your physician if you any have any concerns. There are plenty of other natural treatment strategies you can take to cope with frequent body pain.
2) Eat More Plants.
No, I’m not trying to convince you to go completely vegan. Some may argue that a vegan lifestyle is best for health and the planet, and I agree in some respects. With some exceptions. For one, processed foods do not promote good health. This is why I avoid foods that are sometimes deemed as “healthy foods” by the natural community, like tofu. Sugar, processed or raw, is also a big no-no if you want to decrease body pain. Processed foods and sugar cause acidity once they are digested, which in turn, magnifies body pain. Whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables, nuts and legumes (like beans and peas), on the other hand, reduce body pain because they cause the body to be more alkaline. To figure out other foods that are alkaline in the body once consumed, you can simply Google “food alkalinity chart”, and find one easily accessible to refer to.
While I am still nursing my daughter, I opt to make every effort to eat whole plant-based foods while keeping saturated animal fats to a minimum. Foods high in saturated animal fats are linked to higher levels of body inflammation because they contain arachidonic acid. Higher body inflammation can cause body stiffness and trigger muscle and joint pain. Inflammation-worsening animal fats include dairy, red meat, and eggs. These animal fats are fine in moderation, but higher consumption of them can also lead to a host of chronic illnesses and cancer.
Foods rich in magnesium, as well as other vitamins and minerals, can help ease sore muscles and joints, making body movement easier in general. Magnesium-rich foods include sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds, oats, green leafy vegetables, beans, and dried fruits.
If you have a sweet tooth, opt for natural sugars found in fresh fruit to satisfy your cravings. I find that making a smoothie in the morning or midday satisfies my sugar cravings and provides extra fuel for me to get through a long day. Here, I list some of my favorite easy smoothie recipes.
3) Take a Weekly Soak.
The bathtub has become my sanctuary over the years. Daniel and I joke about it often. What do I want when I get bad news? Take a bath. Got a stubbed toe? Take a bath. Where do I retreat to when the baby falls asleep for the night? Most often than not, the bath. I take baths way more than once a week, but they have really become a natural pain and stress reliever in my life.
Taking a soak in the tub may seem like a simple relaxing–maybe even selfish–indulgence from time to time, but really it can be very beneficial for your health. Take a bath with Epsom salts, and your body will thank you. Allow 1 to 2 cups of Epsom salts to dissolve in the tub water while drawing your bath, and soak for at least 12 minutes. Simple as that. Once they are dissolved in the water, Epsom salts break down into sulfate and magnesium. Soaking in the warm bath goes beyond loosening stiff joints and relaxing muscles. Bathing with Epsom salt boosts the body’s magnesium levels, a mineral crucial for healthy muscle and nerve function. Magnesium reduces body inflammation which can greatly reduce pain. Epsom salt baths also eliminate toxins from the body, flushing the body cells of toxins and heavy metals found in the environment, plastics and the foods we eat.
For added benefits, add a few drops of essential oil to your bath water. Here, I list my favorite essential oils and why.
4) Use Herbal Remedies.
Herbal medicine can be very effective in decreasing inflammation and providing pain relief. Herbal medicine is a form of medicine made from plants that is used for treatment of health problems. Herbal medicine, or herbalism, is becoming a more popular approach to managing pain. incorporating herbs into daily recipes or taking certain supplements may help reduce pain on a daily basis. For example, ginseng has been listed by the American Pain Foundation to possibly help reduce fibromyalgia pain.
Some other herbs that are thought to help reduce body pain:
- Ginger: The phytochemicals found in ginger extract are thought to help reduce inflammation of the body and reduce muscle and joint pain.
- Turmeric: Turmeric contains a chemical called curcumin which is believed to have anti-inflammatory effects. When taken small doses, turmeric may be very helpful in alleviating heartburn and arthritis pain. Avoid turmeric if you have certain conditions such as gallbladder disease.
- Feverfew: This herb may be effectively used to help relieve arthritis pain and migraines. Feverfew has been used throughout history for the treatment of tooth and stomach pains as well as headaches.
I am a fan of drinking tea daily, and I explain why and which ones are my favorite here. I believe drinking certain teas every day have done wonders to alleviate my body pain and help me feel more balanced mentally and emotionally.
*Please take caution when using herbal medicinal remedies while taking certain medications or substances. St. John’s Wort, for example can cause interactions when taken with antidepressants or other substances. Also, be aware of quantities you are using. High quantities of even plant substances can be toxic. Just because something is “natural” does not mean it is always safe. Please do research before using natural remedies on yourself or others.
*Also, keep in mind that herbs are not regulated for quality by the government. It is for this reason, I prefer to use herbs that are certified organic whenever possible.
If you experience frequent body pain, what are some natural and healthy ways you cope?