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Yoga to Ease Chronic Pain Naturally

(Guest post by freelance contributor Anne Healey)

Chronic pain affects 100 million of us in the United States, which can be debilitating, impacting on everything from your sleep to your employment.  While you may leave a visit to your doctor’s office with a prescription for stronger painkillers, if you are keen to explore more natural options for pain relief, research shows that yoga is an effective way to alleviate discomfort. While the benefit of yoga for easing back pain is fairly well-known, you may not realize that it can help with a range of other painful conditions. If you suffer from arthritis, migraines, fibromyalgia, peripheral neuropathy or multiple sclerosis, here we take a look at how making yoga part of your regular routine can ease your discomfort.

Easing arthritic pain

Arthritis is the number one cause of disability in America, with pain, stiffness and swelling around the joints impacting on movement and function. Anti-inflammatory drugs are often recommended to ease pain and swelling, but making lifestyle changes can also make a difference in arthritis. Losing excess weight and keeping physically active can both improve arthritic symptoms, with yoga an option for gentle exercise if you are not used to activity. Indeed, research published in the Journal of Evidence Based and Complementary Medicine, which reviewed nine high quality studies, showed that yoga was able to reduce pain, as well as other physical and psychological symptoms seen in arthritis.

Alleviating migraines

Around 36 million of us suffer from migraines, though not everyone is suitable for or can tolerate the prescribed medication. Thankfully, alternative treatment options are available and yoga is one of those that show promise for managing migraines. For instance, a study reported in the International Journal of Yoga demonstrated that compared to standard care yoga was more effective at reducing the severity of migraines and how frequently they occur. As stress is a common migraine trigger, it is not surprising that the relaxation that yoga offers is beneficial.

Managing fibromyalgia

As many as 4% of Americans have fibromyalgia, which is characterized by widespread pain, not only affecting the joints, but the muscles and other soft tissues as well. Fatigue and depression are other common symptoms of the condition, which often arises at the same time as stressful life events. A range of complementary exercise therapies have been explored for managing the symptoms of fibromyalgia, and a review published in the Journal of Pain Research noted that only yoga appeared beneficial for pain relief, while the likes of tai chi and qigong can also reduce tiredness and low mood.

Relieving peripheral neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy occurs due to nerve damage, leading to symptoms such as burning or shooting pains, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness. While chemotherapy, HIV, excess alcohol and nutrient deficiencies can all trigger the condition, diabetes remains the leading cause of peripheral neuropathy. Traditional painkillers are not effective at relieving neuropathic pain and even though alternative medications are available, yoga is one of the alternative treatments of interest. There is certainly evidence of its benefits in diabetic neuropathy, with a daily yoga session improving symptoms over a course of 40 days, as referenced in Alternative Medicine Review.

Reducing symptoms in multiple sclerosis

Chronic pain is just one of the symptoms associated with MS, with reduced mobility, sensory changes, tiredness, depression and cognitive changes all common. Owing to the diversity of symptoms, a multi-disciplinary approach is necessary for the management of MS. As discussed by an article in Autoimmune Diseases, mind-body practices, including yoga, show benefit for managing symptoms such as pain, fatigue and depression, though it may be necessary to modify yoga practices to take into account the musculoskeletal symptoms of the condition. By relieving tension this may help to explain yoga’s ability to lessen pain, but the link between pain and depression and the positive impact yoga has on mood may also partly explain the improvements seen.

Achieving natural pain relief

Although painkillers such as acetaminophen and aspirin are available over the counter, these mild analgesics aren’t without their side-effects and risks. Take acetaminophen, with which chronic use can compromise liver function. Meanwhile, aspirin is associated with stomach ulcers and bleeding, while stronger anti-inflammatory drugs are linked to cardiovascular events. For short-term relief of severe pain, opiate drugs are an option, but as these pose risks for a number of organ systems, not to mention the fact that narcotics are habit-forming drugs, these are not suitable for chronic pain management. The problems associated with pain relievers means it makes sense to explore alternative forms of analgesia that can naturally ease pain so that while you may still need to use painkillers, you are not so reliant upon them.

[About Anne Healey]

"Anne Healey is now a freelance writer, but before this she had a varied career that saw her work in various sections of the healthcare industry, Latterly she was involved in working in the mental health sector and spent a lot of time with recovering addicts, helping them to find their path to wellness again. When she became a mother, she took a step back and now writes on the topics she has experience in"

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