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If you suffer from arthritis, you probably know by now that medication does not always minimize your pain. When that pain becomes unbearable, you might already have your own remedies, some of which may or may not work. Well, fear not, there are some techniques you can try that cost nothing, can be self-administered and might actually work. The key to coping with the pain is to live well despite it. Try these:

Keep a diary

When pain strikes, jot some notes about it. Rate it from zero (no pain) to ten (worst pain ever), the type of distress you experienced (frustration, anger, anxiety, or sadness), and describe the sensation: aching, burning, tightness. Include what you were doing when the pain began. Then record what you did to alleviate it-pain reliever, a walk, applied heat, cold, etc.

Eventually, you will be able to pinpoint similar bouts of pain, which remedies worked on it, and apply the same method.

The Relaxation Response

Continuous pain brings on stress which can be worse than the pain itself. Stress can cause muscular tension, headaches, upset stomach and other ailments. Natural "Relaxation Response" can alleviate this stress.

To do it, when pain is mild, find a peaceful place to sit or lie down. If necessary, use a heating pad, ice pack or pillows to make yourself comfortable. Focus on your breathing. When you exhale, slowly repeat a word or phrase of your own choosing, or count each time you inhale or exhale, starting over when you reach ten. If your mind wanders, gently bring it back. Use this "Relaxation Response" for at least 20 minutes a day.

Self-hypnosis

Once you have mastered "Relaxation Response," add self-hypnosis. While deeply relaxed, close your eyes and imagine your right hand is becoming pleasantly warm and heavy. Every time you exhale, imagine the sensation intensifying. Now imagine a pleasant numbness starting in your thumb that moves to each finger each time you exhale. Feel it spread to your palm, hand and wrist. Place that numb hand on the part of your body that you are experiencing the pain and imagine the numbness moving to that spot. When all the numbness has been "absorbed," return to your focus word. End each session by returning the numbness to your right hand and feel the normal sensations return to that hand breath by breath.

Pace yourself

Learn to accomplish your daily activities by pacing yourself. Use your diary and Relaxation Response to anticipate a flare-up. Then switch to a less demanding activity.

Self-talk

Listen to the little voice inside your head. When the pain is very bad, it becomes distorted, and you make things seem worse than they really are. Don't give in to negative self-talk. Change it. Substitute a realistic interpretation.

Controlling pain without medication is a mind-over-matter exercise. Pain will get you only if you let it.