3 Tips to Release Chronic Pain.

More than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, but there’s often a way to pinpoint the source — whether it’s physical or emotional — and release it, says pain expert Vicky Vlachonis, author of the new book The Body Doesn't Lie.

The osteopath’s advice includes changing your diet, swapping negative thoughts for more positive ones and using Epsom salt in a “Salt & Pepper Bath” that relieves pain and helps heal the mind.

“The body is talking to you,” says Vlachonis, whose reputation for achieving long-term, sustainable results has earned a dedicated following that includes members of the British royal family and some of the world's most recognized faces in business, media and the arts.

“If you listen to the signals, pain can be your most powerful teacher.”

Vlachonis recommends a three-step process:

1) Reflect — If the pain has lasted longer than three months, and it’s not from an acute injury, take a step back and identify potential factors. Has your diet changed? Has there been more stress at work? Have you been to the doctor to check your blood levels or your vitamin D? Determining the buried cause of pain can help boost the body’s natural painkillers and anti-inflammatory chemicals, helping you release the pain.

2) Release — After locating the source of the pain, whether it’s inflammation or stress, release the cause. A University of Michigan study shows the brain registers pain the same way — whether it stems from a burnt hand or a broken heart, Vlachonis says. “Unless we become aware of our pain, we can remain befuddled and imprisoned by automatic responses to an event that we think we’ve long since consciously ‘gotten over,’” she writes in her book.

Vlachonis recommends a nightly soak she calls the Salt & Pepper Bath. Add 2 cups of Epsom salt to a bath, along with 3 to 5 drops of aromatherapy black pepper oil (not applied directly on the skin), and soak for at least 10 minutes. It helps soothe muscles, heals the mind and leads to a deeper sleep, Vlachonis says. She worked with a woman who testified that the soaks “washed my pain away.”

Try silently meditating in the tub, Vlachonis says. Let go of negative thoughts, then think of a loved one who makes you smile.

“Sitting in the bath, you help the mind physically and emotionally,” Vlachonis says. “The pain actually goes away.”

3) Radiate — Find a natural healing process that helps rejuvenate and revitalize the body. Some possibilities:

  • Get more sleep. Vlachonis suggests 7 or 8 hours a night, and, if possible, a nap of 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Make a list of self-nurturing activities to try instead of smoking, drinking or eating junk. Her list includes the Salt & Pepper Bath.
  • Meditate and swap negative thoughts for positive ones. Vlachonis points to a University of Maryland study that showed patients who got 11 weeks of training in how to do this saw gray matter growth in five areas of the brain, as well as a significant drop in their levels of chronic pain.
  • Try a 3-week diet challenge. Avoid acidic foods that can cause inflammation, such as sugar, wheat, cow’s milk or vinegar. Vlachonis suggests drinking either almond milk or water with lemon and eating quinoa, brown rice, walnuts and blueberries.

“Try to use foods that are pain relievers, but don’t do the same thing every day so your body doesn’t get used to it,” Vlachonis says.

Even a 15-minute walk after eating helps, she says.

“Think little steps. It’s a lifestyle way of looking at the whole picture.”

Note: For human use, the Epsom Salt Council recommends only Epsom salt with the USP designation.