NORTH BEND — For many local residents, chronic pain is debilitating.

Whether it stems from disease, surgery or injury, it is often managed with pain medications, which may cause health issues of their own.

Massage therapist Sara Hicks and physical therapist Juliette Hyatt hoped to change people’s behavior so they didn’t have to rely on medications through a class they held recently. “Nonpharm-aceutical Chronic Pain Relief,” held from noon to 2 p.m. Thursday in the Community Health Education Center, had about 20 attendees.

“I love the classes,” said Nan Crouse, who has attended several of the offerings at the CHEC. “They have really helped a lot.”

The pain class came after successful turnouts from others, such as “The Fire Within,” which taught how to eliminate inflammatory foods from the diet.

Focus of the chronic pain class centered on breathing techniques, hydration and daily activity. It also discussed alternatives to medications, such as infrared photo energy, yoga, relaxation techniques, cognitive behavioral therapy, massage, acupuncture/accupressure and physical and occupational therapy.

“This is movement medicine,” Hicks said. That included breathing, which many people didn’t do properly, she said. She recommended breathing in and out through the nose,  down to the abdomen.

Many people didn’t drink enough water either, Hicks said. She said she used a moonshine jug, which she filled with water and drank daily.

“Pick one (a container) that fits  your goals,” Hicks said.

Activity was another area many folks could improve, Hyatt said.

“Find a type of movement and stick with it,” Hyatt said. She listed many options, including gardening, walking, swimming, exercise videos and running. Hyatt advised using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation of at least 30 minutes of activity or 3,500 steps daily.

Eating the wrong food also is correlated to pain, Hicks said.

“You need to eliminate certain foods that harm your body,” Hicks said.

The parasympathetic nervous system, also called the “rest and digest system,” plays a role in pain, too, Hicks said. The PNS is one of three divisions of the autonomic nervous system. It conserves energy and usually calms the body into a relaxed state by lowering blood pressure, decreasing heart rate and slowing respiration. It also increases intestinal and gland activity, and relaxes sphincter muscles in the gastrointestinal tract.

In today’s fast-paced society, it’s difficult for the PNS to do its job properly, she said.

“We don’t have a society that helps our parasympathetic system,” Hicks said.

Attendees of the class spoke positively about what they had learned.

“It’s really good,” said Jeri Thurkow. “I’m sorry I missed the other ones.”

Reporter Emily Thornton can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 249, or at emily.thornton@theworldlink.com or on Twitter: @EmilyK_Thornton.

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