Pain is a complex sensation — it involves not just what’s going on at the place you feel the discomfort coming from, but also the brain’s processes.
Getting over pain without drugs is an important step for doctors and patients alike.
Here are three paths you can pursue if you’re looking to manage pain without medication.
Studies have shown that immersing oneself in a virtual world can have a profound influence on one’s pain perception.
More research is needed, but it’s hypothesized that shifting your attention and concentration can produce a calming effect. The theory is that putting people in an immersive, multi-sensory 3D environment allows them to be distracted from pain, which helps them perceive the pain as less intense.
In addition, immersive VR may be a particularly good way to practice mindfulness meditation, because it can help limit distractions from the real world, increase sense of presence, and give people an interesting place to go to practice mindfulness.
Studies have looked at a number of different experiences, including interactive, game-like experiences, as well as relaxing natural environments.
To this point, studies have shown improvement in reported pain during and after the experience.
One study found that a five-minute virtual reality experience decreased the sensation of chronic pain by an average of 33 percent from pre-session to post-session.
Right now, the studies have mainly looked at short term effects, though some participants have anecdotally reported the effect can last for hours to days.
Making VR part of your regular routine — especially VR that is immersive and has an interactive component — may be helpful for you, especially when paired with meditation.
If you’re interested in immersive VR with an interactive component, my partners at Sharecare have a tool you should check out: Sharecare Windows.
Sharecare Windows is the leading producer of relaxation and wellness videos. The team’s goal: empower people to find stillness and peace in their lives.
The library includes 12 specialty channels – including some for kids! – with 225 titles and 400 hours of relaxation, spiritual, meditation, yoga, sleep, destination and background video programming. The videos simulate the experience of being in a place at a specific time.
If you want to feel the calming powers of these stunning locations, without the cost of a flight, this is your opportunity. Download the free Sharecare app — or check out Sharecare Windows on YouTube and Amazon — to experience the full power.
Yoga has become an incredibly popular form of exercise in recent years — millions of Americans practice it every year — and studies have shown that it can actually help with back pain. (Also, don’t believe that old myth: you don’t need to be “flexible” to do it.)
Yoga can be an effective tool for reducing the functional disability of back pain. Like physical therapy, it stretches and strengthens core muscles. It can even help your body release natural endorphins and serotonin.
Yoga also requires you to coordinate thoughtful movement with controlled, deep breathing, which may help you with mindfulness.
Now, I do yoga every day, so I can do things like this:
Here are some good starter exercises for back pain if you’re just starting out with yoga. You want to start slowly, because you don’t want to strain your muscles and make things worse.
Acupuncture is an ancient technique, but modern studies have shown that it can make a difference.
Practiced for thousands of years in eastern medicine, it’s believed to affect our body’s energy meridians or chi. Some studies have shown in the short term it can produce changes in microcirculation and neurotransmitters that may help to reduce pain.
Acupuncture has been shown to provide significant relief for non-specific musculoskeletal pain, osteoarthritis, as well as chronic headache and shoulder pain.
Think of it like this: if you take morphine it takes about 20 to 60 minutes to take effect and lasts for about 3-7 hours. Acupuncture has been demonstrated — in some studies — to be more effective at reducing pain than injection of local anesthetic. It can start helping after 15-30 minutes and may last for 3 days after a single session.
If you pursue acupuncture, make sure it’s with a trained professional. There is a risk of a small hematoma or needling pain from the practice.
Regardless of which option you choose, it’s possible to moderate some types of pain without medication. As always, make sure you consult your medical professional before choosing the right course of action for your treatment.