Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Inexpensive Ways to Add Plants to Your Chronic Pain Tool Box

New to Somebody Heal Me? Subscribe to the Somebody Heal Me feed:
Subscribe in a reader or subscribe by e-mail. Follow me on Twitter @somebodyhealme.

When Camper Jen of the website Pain Camp approached me with the idea of contributing a guest post about one of the tools that helps her cope with migraine disease and other chronic illnesses, horticultural therapy, I jumped at the chance. I'm always on the lookout for unique ideas we can draw upon to cope with the debilitating nature of migraine disease, and horticulture is something I sadly know very little about. I hope you learn as much as I did. - Diana

Inexpensive Ways to Add Plants to Your Chronic Pain Toolbox 

Guest Post by Camper Jen of Pain Camp

When I encourage people to use plants and gardening as a tool in their chronic pain toolkits, I often hear, "But, I have a black thumb!" Diana (founder and editor of this website) shares her personal chronic pain tool box and asks readers what they put in their tool boxes. For me, plants and gardening are essentials in my chronic pain tool kit. It is especially sweet when everything I need I can find inexpensively or for free. Keep reading for some of my tips & tricks for practicing horticultural therapy and accessing plants and gardening affordably.

Using gardens, plants and greenhouses for healing and restoration is not a new concept. There are ancient traditions in Eastern Medicine that began with the therapeutic nature of plants. In America, horticultural therapy has been gaining popularity over the past few decades, along with pet and equine therapy. Horticultural therapy is also being looked at as an adjunct to medical treatment internationally. A recent research study by Verra et al. (2012) from Switzerland showed promising results regarding the effectiveness of horticultural therapy in the management of chronic musculoskeletal pain symptoms and improvement of overall quality of life.

Here are a few suggestions for how to put horticultural therapy for chronic pain management into action on your own:

  • Mindfulness - Be where your hands are. Staying in the moment will help you get the best benefits. Focus on the plants, not on your pain (this is a great distraction technique).
  • Observe - Use some of your senses to have a full experience. Touch and feel the textures. Smell the foliage and blooms. Notice all of the different colors and shapes. Read some of the odd Latin names. Describe your experience.
  • Relax - How is your body reacting while you're with the plants? Being with plants can bring down the heart rate and help to regulate breathing.
    Regardless of the color of your thumb (black or green), you don't need to own a plant to reap the benefits of horticultural therapy. 

Here are four ideas for free or less expensive activities for you to engage in to add plants and horticultural therapy to your chronic pain tool kit:

1. Garden centers and greenhouses - free. You don't need to purchase anything to enjoy their plants. Some garden centers offer free or inexpensive beginner classes or workshops to learn more about plant care. Or strike up a conversation with another customer about what they're purchasing and why.

2. Outdoors - free. Local city and county parks may have gardens with walking paths. Check with your local city and county to see if there are any that you're able to visit. This is a great way to observe other things in nature like animals and insects. Community gardens and your neighbors gardens are also options. You would be surprised at how many of us plant lovers enjoy talking and educating others.

3. Botanical gardens, arboretums and conservatories - usually $5-$10 to enter. Botanical gardens and arboretums are usually outdoor while conservatories are usually indoor. A lot of these places have gardens specifically designed to be therapeutic for people with disabilities. Bring some good walking shoes and plan a trip when you know that you will have down time afterwards to rest and restore. Wikipedia has a great listing by state: List of Botanical Gardens & Arboretums in the United States.

4. Adopt a Houseplant - free - $30. If you're adventurous and you want to give it a try, I encourage everyone to start with some easy-care houseplants. Some inexpensive places to find houseplants, pots and other gardening tools are: Craigslist, garden center clearance, thrift stores and garage sales. I have even gotten left over potting soil from friends for free.

Even if you have a history of houseplant fails, it is possible to learn, grow and be successful with plants. Just like we do on a daily basis with our other tools in our chronic pain tool kit.

Have you used plants in the past to help with your pain? Were you into gardening in the past and haven't been able to get back into it because of your pain? What are some ideas that you thought of after reading this article that you could share with others?

* * *

Guest contributor Camper Jen has a background in social work and mental health and lives with chronic migraine disease and a number of other chronic, debilitating conditions. She utilizes a blend of Western and alternative and complementary medicine to manage these conditions and thrive in her life. She maintains a wonderful blog at Pain Camp. I highly encourage you to check it out!

1. "Horticultural Therapy for Patients With Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain: Results of a Pilot Study," Alternative Therapies, Vol. 18(2), March 2012, p. 44-60, http://www.rehaclinic.ch/cms/fileadmin/user_upload/pdf_forschung/Horticultural_therapy_for_patients_with_chronic_musculoskeletal_pain_results_of_a_pilot_study_2012.pdf.

DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site constitutes medical or legal advice. I am a patient who is engaged and educated and enjoys sharing my experiences and news about migraines, pain and depression. Please consult your own health care providers for advice on your unique situation.