Taking a Holistic Approach to Chronic Pain: An Introduction

a wooden white greenhouse text: taking a holistic approach to chronic pain an introduction

When I speak to groups of patients, people living with chronic pain, their loved ones and people simply interested in wellness and wanting to make changes, one of the most often expressed struggles is confusion and overwhelm.

Many people find the many holistic and medical options available overwhelming and I have been there too.

I believe that clarity and understanding empower us and inform good choices so I’ve written this bite-sized intro to provide an approachable primer to holistic options for chronic pain and living well.

Holistic begins in you

A holistic approach happens in your attitude, not just with the treatments you use.

What does holistic actually mean? It’s not all lotus blossoms and herbal remedies or even green juice and kale everything.

In fact, holistic is the “belief that the parts of something are intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole”. And in health it’s the “treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the symptoms of a disease.” (source: dictionary.com)

Doesn’t that make so much sense?

Whereas therapeutic options outside the mainstream used to be called “alternative”, now the benefits of holistic approaches and alternative medicine are now widely accepted by many doctors. They are often seen as a complementary medicine to more traditional methods.

If you’re looking to take a holistic approach to your chronic pain, here are some of the treatments may see available and wish to consider, in consultation with your doctor/primary health practitioner:

Exploring aromatherapy

Aromatherapy can help to improve both physical and emotional wellbeing. Many people use it for treating stress or anxiety arising from depression, anxiety, dementia, and cancer.

Aromatherapy has been around for thousands of years and has been dated as far back as ancient Egypt.

Research has shown that essential oils have an effect on mood. Different natural chemicals causing you to feel relaxed or stimulated.

Many people carry essential oils with them and consider it an accessible, portable and pleasurable all-natural approach to managing chronic pain.

Accessing acupuncture

Acupuncture works by stimulating different sensory nerves under the skin, and in the muscles. This results in the body producing endorphins, the brain’s very own ‘all natural painkillers’.

The effects are widely recognised by health professions. They suggest a series of treatments are more useful than single one-off treatments, so this is something to bear in mind if you want to give it a try.

Speaking to an acupuncturist or homoeopath (if you are receiving homoeopathy but want to try acupuncture or acupressure) for more information can be helpful.

Engaging meditation

Meditation can be an accessible and portable way to work with chronic pain.

You don’t need to go to a professional or use any fancy equipment. The results can be incredibly powerful since we are not a mind and body, but the bodymind, as Dr Bernie Siegel writes.

It can be effective in supporting many conditions. It’s useful for working with chronic pain as well as some mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. 

Meditation can  shift your compassion towards yourself and your state of mind. It can leave you feeling more connected, present and rejuvenated, so is effective in self-care.

Enjoying massage and reflexology

A holistic masseuse will take into account your emotional, spiritual and physical wellbeing during a massage.

It could be anything from deep tissue massage to the use of pressure points such as in reflexology. 

Massage can improve circulation of blood, joint stiffness and pain can be reduced. As the muscles become more flexible, the movement in the joints increases and mobility can improve. 

Massage can provide relief for stress-related conditions such as insomnia and tension headaches. 

(Much of which may sound familiar if you have been dealing with chronic pain). 

Massage can also leave you feeling happier and more relaxed, so hooray!

For those who don’t want hands-on massage, a Reiki treatment or ‘energy massage’ can be relaxing and enjoyable.


What’s your favourite holistic approach? Do you have holistic healing option overwhelm? Let me know in the comments.

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