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Natural Options For Pain Management
Summer is finally here, and we are all out in our gardens or simply enjoying nature and the sun. In any case, most likely you are using your body in ways that can cause a flare up of some old back strain, shoulder or knee injury causing pain and discomfort. Well you are not alone, as pain is the single most common reason we see a physician.
Pain is a very complex subject, and in this article I would like to discuss natural and alternative treatment options for chronic pain. Chronic pain lasts for more than three months and negatively impacts our ability to live full and healthy lives. The onset of chronic pain often begins with a trauma such as a burn, chemical exposure, injury or infection. The insult causes your body to release chemicals, which trigger your peripheral nerves located at the site of the injury to send a signal to your brain. In the central nervous system these signals are understood consciously as pain. Pain can be modulated by many different factors including your emotions, physical touch, and temperature. For example ice applied over a burn will temporarily stop the pain. A mother’s touch will help ease a stomach ache and a hot pack loosens up sore muscles. Other options such as medications, herbs, and other nutrients may enhance or inhibit the transmission of information along the nerve highway.
The basics of pain management include:
- Environmental: It is essential to have an exercise and stretching program that works specifically for your body. Make sure your chairs; bed and footwear are not contributing to your pain.
- Nutrition: Eat in moderation or eliminate foods that contribute to inflammation. These include: sugar, white flour, trans fatty acids, high omega 6 oils like corn and vegetable oils, dairy and red meats. Avoid food allergens. Consume 2-3 serving of fatty fish per week or 3-4,000 mg standardized fish oils per day.
- Utilize relaxation techniques such as guided imagery, biofeedback, breathing practices and meditation.
- Physical therapy: Massage, acupressure, acupuncture, hydrotherapy (hot and cold applications), and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).
- Natural anti-inflammatory herbs include: Curcuma longa 500mg 3X daily, Zingiber officinal, 1,000mg 3X daily, Boswellia serrata 150mg 3X daily, Salix spp 500mg 3X daily and Harpagophytum procumbens 100mg 3X daily. It is important before taking any of these herbs to check with your Naturopathic doctor for any drug interactions or contra-indications with any other health concerns.
- Topical pain blockers such as capsaicin cream, and magnesium oil can be used daily for pain management.
Vitamin D deficiency, which is very common where we live, is known to contribute to chronic long-term pain. If you suffer from pain have your Vitamin D levels checked and supplement with the appropriate amount of Vitamin D.
If you have tried everything with minimal success, your chronic pain may be caused from nerve fibers being damaged, dysfunctional or injured. These “sick” nerve fibers send incorrect signals to the pain centers in your brain. This type of pain is termed neuropathic and is a complex, chronic pain state that may not have an obvious cause, and it responds poorly to standard treatments. Other symptoms of neuropathic pain include sharp-shooting pain, burning pain, tingling, and numbness. A typical example of a neuropathic pain is when you twist and bend to pick up an object and suddenly you feel your back go into spasm, or you wake up in the morning and for no know reason have pain. Common causes of neuropathic pain include: alcoholism, amputation, back, leg, and hip problems, diabetes, facial nerve problems, infection, multiple sclerosis, shingles, and spine surgery. The cause may just be the general wear and tear of living a full life of adventure.
The best therapy that I have found for treating neuropathic pain syndrome is Neural Prolotherapy (NPT). It is a welcoming breakthrough for pain management. NPT is natural treatment involving multiple small injections of dextrose or manitol just beneath the skin along painful tender regions that correspond to small nerves. In the first session you will notice either complete or significant removal of pain and often your range of motion will be restored. The first treatment offers pain relief for anywhere from 4 hours to 4 days or longer. Each consecutive treatment builds on the previous creating longer periods of relief until healing is achieved.
There are two other injection therapies to consider for chronic pain management:
Prolotherapy also known as "proliferation therapy," or "regenerative injection therapy” involves injecting dextrose and an anesthetic such as lidocaine into joints, tendons and ligaments. The injections are used as an irritant to stimulate a mild inflammation which “tricks” the body into thinking the area is injured and to begin healing again. Growth factor levels are elevated promoting tissue repair, reducing or eliminating musculoskeletal pain.
Neural Therapy is an injection treatment utilizing procaine an anesthetic that works to undo trauma that produce long-standing disturbances in the electrochemical function of tissues called “interference fields”. The types of tissues affected by trauma include scars, nerves or a cluster of nerves called ganglion. Interference fields have lower electrical potentials than surrounding tissues. Currents flow from areas of higher voltage to areas of lower voltage and seem to send confusing signals to the body's nervous system. The body sometimes reacts in inappropriate ways, resulting in chronic pain and/or illness.
Remember that chronic pain is often under treated because it can be complex and misunderstood. It is imperative to have a team that offers a coordinated and interdisciplinary approach to the problem. As a chronic pain sufferer since the age of seventeen, I have discovered that the solutions to a pain-free life are available to all of us.
Susan Janssens is naturopathic doctor who has been practicing for over 10 years. She provides a safe, effective, integrative and natural approach to health. For more information please go to www.IHConline.ca or phone 403-288-4880.