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Drug-Free Tips for Dealing with Chronic Pain

Six helpful suggestions for healing your body without any intoxicants.

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When it comes to managing chronic pain, nothing works quite as well as the chronic. But that doesn’t mean weed is the only pain-relief game in town. Here’s a list of therapeutic treatments that don’t require prescriptions or access to cannabis.

Heat and Ice 

The cheapest way to soothe your aches is to harness the power of fire and ice with heat packs and/or ice packs. Ice typically works well for fresh injuries and heat is usually better for chronic pain, but everyone is different so do whatever your body likes (or whichever claymation character you prefer). 

Magical Plants

Cannabis isn’t the only flora with super powers: Plants and the essential oils that come from them (like rosemary, mint, frankincense, and more) are super helpful when it comes to treating pain and inflammation. Mix these healing concentrates with a carrier oil (say, coconut oil or almond oil) and experiment with making your own blends. Get witchy with it! But make sure the oil is high grade (I like Rocky Mountain Oils and DoTerra), and always use caution around children and pets because these oils can be toxic to some creatures.

Mind Over Matter

Since pain is interpreted in our brains, it makes sense that implementing a mindfulness practice can help quiet our pain sensations. Brain imaging studies reveal that mindfulness is no joke and actually calms the pain patterns in the brain. Eventually it changes the structure of the brain itself which causes patients to feel pain less intensely as they did before. You can even kick it up a notch and get hypnotized (I did) to change your brain’s relationship to pain.

Find the Right Medical Team

Not everyone finds the best doctor for them right away, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there. Using sites like ZocDoc makes it easy to find reviews for doctors and see which ones take your health insurance. If you have nerve pain, find a neurologist who believes in alternative therapies and isn’t just a pill pusher. If you have muscular pain, look into getting some osteopathic manipulative treatment. These practitioners adjust your muscles and joints to relieve tension but unlike going to a chiropractor it doesn’t involve getting cracked and popped. Rehabilitation doctors are great if you’re recovering from an accident or injury, and acupuncturists can offer pain relief and relaxation. (Some folks say acupuncture is a placebo, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.)

Rethink Those Group Exercise Classes

A yoga teacher friend of mine told me that people with pain issues and other limitations should never take a group yoga class... Why? Because they try to keep up with the rest of the class and end up hurting themselves even more. Calm down, you guys! Consider seeing a physical therapist who can give you stretches and exercises right for your body and pain issues. If you don’t have insurance to cover a physical therapist, you can look up stretches for your condition online, but be gentle with yourself and don’t force anything—you don’t want to do more harm than good. (Sidenote: Using cannabis before your workout can minimize your pain and inflammation, as well as make fitness less boring.)

Get Cozy

Never underestimate the power of dressing comfortably. Fortunately we live in an era where lounge wear is king, so you can dress fabulously while keeping it 100% comfy. My favorite cozy accessory is this pillow scarf because it turns every place I go into a nap-zone. If you have back, neck, or shoulder pain consider going Jared Leto and getting yourself a sweet-ass fanny pack/utility belt to replace your heavy-ass bag.

If you have chronic pain, take solace in the fact that you are not alone: 100 million Americans deal with it on the regular. As of now, not all of those people have access to safe, legal medical cannabis. But with any luck, that will change. And, in the meantime, we hope this list will bring you some relief.