In order to feel less pain, seek more pleasure. That might seem obvious. But when we say it, we don’t mean that the pleasant feelings will just counterbalance the pain and make it easier to deal with. Instead, certain sources of pleasure can actually reduce the amount of pain that your brain registers. Sometimes it’s a psychological effect; sometimes it’s a way of activating your body’s defense mechanisms; and sometimes it treats the source of the pain itself.
Here are five recommendations for enjoyable activities you can try out as pain relief strategies:
Now that we have your attention: Sex! It turns out it can be good for treating certain types of pain. According to a survey of migraine-sufferers led by researchers at Germany’s University of Munster, about sixty percent of respondents reported experiencing pain relief along with the afterglow when they had engaged in sexual activity. That makes it nearly as effective as prescription migraine medication, proving once again that there often are natural alternatives to drugs, and they’re usually damned pleasant to use.
So if migraines are the type of pain that most affects you, don’t let them prevent you from getting up out of bed when they could give you that extra incentive to get it up in bed. And if you are upset that you don’t have a partner to help you fill that prescription, don’t be. Sexual activity can still have pain-relieving effects when enjoyed alone.
Speaking of things that can be done either alone or with others…
Playing Games / Reading
Remember going to the doctor to get a shot when you were a child? If your pediatrician wasn’t a sadist, he probably did something entertaining to distract you at the moment of the injection. It turns out that that trick doesn’t just work on children, and it’s not just a matter of mind over matter. It’s an actual physical process that blocks out pain when you’re focused on something else.
It has to do with chemicals called endogenous opioids, which are naturally produced by the brain. Concentration stimulates their production, and this helps you achieve pain relief. In studies, subjects who were given a difficult memorization task at the same time that they were subjected to painful stimulus. FMRI scans confirmed that these people had less activity in their spinal cords, and experienced less pain!
Less difficult tasks generated less effect. So if you want to get pain relief from a book or game, it’s best if it’s a challenging one. But if that’s something that’s fun for you, then having fun can also mean feeling better.
Shouting “%@&^!” And “#*$@!”
This one’s kind of on the other end of the spectrum. Maybe a cerebral approach isn’t what you need. Maybe you need relief from pain that’s too intense to distract yourself from. Maybe you just want a good excuse to swear that doesn’t involve one too many glasses of wine and a political debate over Thanksgiving dinner.
Pain relief can be that excuse. You see, there’s a reason you use dirty words when you stub your toe on the way to the bathroom at 3 AM. It makes you feel better! Research shows that people experience less pain and can tolerate an unpleasant sensation for longer if they swear, as opposed to if they shout a word that it’s okay to say in the company of children or your local knitting circle.
Cursing can be fun for some people, too. It’s a potent emotional release. So if you take a certain amount of pride in your trucker-mouth, give it some exercise when you want relief from pain.
And speaking of exercise…
I know what many of you are thinking: “What’s exercise doing on a list of supposedly pleasant activities?” Well, even if you’re not the sort of person who gets a pleasant sensation from struggling to hoist two hundred pounds of iron over your head, that really isn’t what we’re referring to here. When it comes to pain relief, low intensity exercise is more important. And that’s something that almost everybody should be able to take pleasure in.
For instance, yoga and tai chi have both been shown to alleviate the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Of course, both of these practices have general health benefits, as well. And since they are associated with relaxation and meditation, some of those benefits are psychological. If you can stay in shape, reduce pain, and clear your mind all at once, what’s not to enjoy about these or other low-impact workouts?
Once you’ve burned off some calories with some pain-relieving exercise, you’ll have good reason to treat yourself to another source of pain relief: food. There are many types of food that have been demonstrated to provide pain relief to different parts of the body. If you’re experiencing chronic pain, you should consider a reformulated diet as part of the solution.
Pain-relieving properties can be found in all kinds of foods, from cooking vegetables to spices and garnishes. Anything that contains Omega-3 fatty acids is good not only for brain health, but also for pain relief. The magnesium in whole grains can ease muscle pain, and so can green tea. Ginger is recognized as being good for stomach ailments, and cinnamon has been confirmed to relieve headaches and migraines. Many spices such as these are ingredients in natural pain relief creams, too.
The list of pain relieving foods, and of ways to use them, goes on and on. With a little research, you should easily be able to find foods you like, which also work to reduce the exact kind of pain you’re dealing with. Trust us. With pain research surrounding foods like papaya, cherries, and even dark chocolate, you’ll definitely find that good tastes and good feelings can go hand in hand.
Taking these five recommendations together, you might have a nearly complete pain relief strategy right here. Even if the sex itself doesn’t work, it lets you kill two birds with one stone, since it’s a form of exercise. Depending on your bedroom habits, it might cover the topic of swearing, too. If you’re still hurting after that, you can always make a nice meal and sit down with a book. Chances are good that somewhere along the way, the pleasure will kill the pain. If you still need more relief after all that, a natural pain relief cream will likely do the trick.
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