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Natural Pain Remedies

10 Drug-Free Ways to Tune out Pain

By , Caring.com contributing editor
88% helpful

Pain means "ouch" and pill means "ahhhh" to many of us. But medication is far from the only option for dealing with chronic or sudden pain. Techniques that distract you, relax you, or help you rethink what you're feeling can actually alter the circuits of your brain that process and modulate pain, researchers say.

"Most patients want something fast acting, but complementary and alternative approaches to pain are very helpful and often overlooked," says anesthesiologist and pain-medicine specialist Paul Christo, associate professor at Johns Hopkins University Medical School and host of the radio program Aches and Gains.

Consider these ten brain-over-pain approaches:

1. Listen to Music -- and Really Get Into It

Music activates sensory pathways that compete with pain pathways. High-anxiety subjects who could become absorbed in musical tasks, like identifying notes in the music, lessened their pain, found researchers at the University of Utah Pain Research Center in a 2012 study. "Even 10 to 15 minutes of listening to music or playing music yourself can be a calming distraction," Christo says.

Distracting activities aren't just a mind game; they literally lessen the quantity of pain signals traveling up the spinal cord to the brain, according to a report in Current Biology in May 2012. Research shows that music is especially effective for palliative care and cancer pain, Christo adds.