When you have a painful chronic disease, the million dollar question is: Do you have to take medication for the pain or can you treat it naturally?
If I had a dime for every time I was asked this question, I’d be writing this post from one of the beautiful beaches of Hawaii.
Guess what? Unfortunately, I’m not in Hawaii.
However, while living with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) for over 20 years, I have tried both approaches. I’d love to share some of my insights, but I’m not here to say one way is more beneficial than the other. What’s important is to have as much information as possible before making a decision.
I’ve tried many things over the years to get to a certain level of comfort while living with this disease. If you live with chronic pain regularly, then you know about the ups and downs of each day. Will I be able to drag myself into the shower today? (Because I haven’t washed my hair in 2 weeks).
Will I be able to stand at the kitchen counter to cut potatoes for tonight’s dinner? (Because the last time I wanted to prove to myself I didn’t need to sit down, my knees paid a high price).
Some pain treatments I have tried in the past include:
I’ve stood in my shower with hot water streaming over my knees for 30 seconds and then cold water on my knees for the same length of time.
I’ve also experimented with food by following a vegan diet for 2.5 years. As a vegan, I was very strict about my food choices, which drove my young kids at the time absolutely crazy. They particularly hated it when I dragged them to vegan restaurants. They really wanted a hot dog but got vegan pizza with alfalfa sprouts instead. I don’t recommend doing this with young children.
I tried to naturally treat the pain with the above methods and stayed off medication for about a year in 2018. In addition to this, I tried my best to exercise regularly, but my 5-day-a-week gym workouts slowly fizzed out as the pain got worse.
So I had a tough decision to make. Do I try to manage pain naturally or go back to a biologic? Many thoughts that ran through my mind as I tried to decide:
- Will I encounter any long-term side effects?
- What if going back on medication doesn’t work?
In the end, I opted for medication, but there’s a twist: During the time I was treating myself naturally, I did tons of research about the body, how the brain perceives pain, and other ways to manage pain. Today, I’m in a great place. I take a biologic but I also created a pain management routine that works!
In the end, you need to decide what’s best for you. It’s your body. If you believe medication may help you and you find some pain relief, there’s nothing wrong with that. Listen to what your inner voice tells you.
If you believe a natural approach is best for you because you’re nervous about possible side effects, there’s nothing wrong with that, either.
You see, you have the choice, and there’s no wrong or right decision. It’s just a different path if you choose one way or another. So don’t let anyone pressure you into doing anything you don’t want to really do.
I know from experience that managing pain by yourself is difficult, so please seek out support from a doctor, trusted family member or friend. In the end, you’ll know what’s best for you.
Photo Credit: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc via Getty Images