Three Ways You Can Overcome Chronic Pain Without Medication



Chronic pain plagues millions of Americans. In urban areas, about 17% of people say they are injured most or pretty badly every day; in rural areas it is over 28%. Such persistent aches and pains can result from inadequate joints and muscles; of nerve damage related to injury, neurological disease, or diabetes; or they may be related to chronic fatigue syndrome, endometriosis, fibromyalgia, inflammatory bowel disease, interstitial cystitis, TMJ dysfunction, and some cancers. Sometimes there isn’t an identified cause, but that doesn’t make the injury any less real – or less deserving of effective treatment.

Prescription pain reliever drugs can cause more problems than they solve. Even over-the-counter pain relievers like NSAIDs can have undesirable side effects, ranging from gastrointestinal disorders to cardiovascular problems. Sometimes you may need them, but in the long run, you’ll want to use non-drug therapies to relieve your pain and restore mobility, energy, and overall health. Fortunately, as we learn more about how pain works in the body, we find new ways (sometimes using very old techniques) to deal with it.

Goal # 1: Reduce chronic inflammation. Pain is inflammatory. If any part of your body is injured or irritated, immune system-related healers will be called in to help you heal. But if this reaction continues, what is supposed to help you heal “heats” tissues and cells. This can cause pain – and even if this chronic inflammation subsides, the pain can persist due to damage from the inflammatory response itself.

Goal # 2: Relax your mind and body. Your response to pain comes from a combination of physical sensations and emotional responses. This creates a feedback loop that can increase your sensitivity to pain and amplify its physical and emotional effects.

Goal # 3: Increase Physical Ability. Pain can make you shy away from the world, settle down, and increase your physical limitations. As you move less, many parts of your body start to hurt more, increasing your pain burden.

How to achieve these goals. Reduce inflammation through diet. A new study published in Nature Metabolism found that the typical Western diet – overloaded with omega-6 fatty acids in vegetable oils – increases the risk of chronic pain by triggering nerve dysfunction. It is especially harmful to people with diabetes and obesity.

However, the researchers also found that reducing your intake of processed foods and omega-6 fatty acids and increasing your intake of foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and sea trout, reduced pain associated with diabetes, Relieve or reverse arthritis, injuries, or surgery.

While you will need some omega-6 (from healthy sources like walnuts, peanut butter, and tofu), most of you will get a lot more than healthy from a diet that includes french fries, fast food, baked goods, vegetable oils, and sausages like bacon and hot peppers. A diet containing two to three parts omega-6 to one part omega-3 can relieve inflammatory pain, but many Americans have an inflammatory ratio of 15: 1. Ouch! Other anti-inflammatory drugs include coping with stress, physical activity, and avoiding toxins like PFAs and BPAs.

Distance yourself from pain. As you relax your mind and body, your awareness and response to pain decrease. Exercises like deep breathing, meditation, yoga, progressive relaxation, and mindfulness-based stress relief can help you by increasing blood flow to painful areas, relaxing muscles, dampening nerve reactions, and relieving depression, while increasing physical functioning. Massage and acupuncture can also be very calming.

Move it to lose it. Many recent studies show that low to moderate intensity exercise 2-3 times a week significantly improves pain, depression, anxiety, and the quality of life for patients with chronic pain. The key is to work with a physical therapist to tailor a program just for you and your skills, and to stick with it for the long term.

We hope these self-care tips will help you manage your pain and regain a more active, comfortable life.

Mehmet Oz, MD is hosting “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, MD is the chief wellness officer and chairman of the Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute. For the healthiest way to live, tune in to The Dr. Oz Show or visit

(c) 2021 Michael Roizen, MD

and Mehmet Oz, MD

King Features Syndicate



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