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Pain Management and Alternative Medicine

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Acute and chronic pain effects over 100 million people in the United States each year. While pain is best known and characterized as subjective, meaning only the person who is experiencing it can explain what it feels like, pain is often called the Universal equalizer.

Pain affects people differently. What may be perceived as only a minor nuisance to one person, may be completely debilitating to someone else. Pain is a warning that something isn’t quite right. Pain is not a disease in itself but the result of an underlying condition or due to injury. Pain is not just a physical sensation or psychological event, but a combination of these and other components.

Pain can be caused by a variety of situations such as accidents, musculoskeletal disorders, improper lifting, bending, sports activities, misalignment of the vertebrae of the spine and disease. It can also appear out of nowhere with no obvious cause. A viral illness may possibly be a cause, or emotional trauma, such as fear or resentment. n the vast majority of cases, pain is caused by stasis of blood and or our body’s energy resulting in muscle spasm, trauma and immobility.

From a healthy heart to a good sex life, the proper flow and circulation of blood in our arteries is one of the most important things we can do to maintain good health, a pain free life and push back the aging process.

There is a common denominator between good arterial health and pain disorders such as heart attack, obesity, diabetes and high glucose levels, as well as sexual health. That common denominator is blood.

Pain is a vicious cycle: spasm and inflammation lead to more spasm and inflammation. Although the cycle can develop due to injury, the ultimate cause is often in the brain, which can interfere with muscle physiology through the spinal cord. Chronic (long term) and acute back (and neck) pain are common expressions of stress and emotional stress. This demonstrates the true complexity of the mind/body interaction. Many times it is the brain’s distortion of muscle function that sets us up for pain by preventing muscles from responding freely to physical stresses.

Acute pain can result from disease, inflammation, or injury to tissues. This type of pain generally comes on suddenly, for example, after trauma or surgery, and may be accompanied by anxiety or emotional distress. The cause of acute pain can usually be diagnosed and treated, and the pain is self-limiting, that is, it is confined to a given period of time and severity. In some rare instances, it can become chronic.

Chronic pain is widely believed to represent disease itself. It can be made much worse by environmental and psychological factors. Chronic pain persists over a longer period of time than acute pain and is resistant to most medical treatments. It can often cause severe problems for patients.

In assessing pain, a useful approach is to assess pain intensity (sensory), pain relief (cognitive), pain location, pain distress (affective), behavioral patterns or other similar sensory aspects of pain.

Without a doubt, added stress and strains can take its toll on your spinal and nervous system. Maintaining a physically fit body, awareness of body positions, a clean and detoxified internal system, keeping fears, stress and insecurities in check and careful execution physically, through each day are all great ways to avoid daily aches and pains.

Common Pain Syndromes

1. Inflammation can be caused by injury, joint diseases, tumors, infection, abscesses, misalignment. The cause is usually clearly defined and is medically classified as Calor, dolor, rubor, and tumor: Heat, pain, redness, and swelling. The four classical signs of inflammation.

2. Physical Injury are defined as cuts, broken bones, sprains and strains and can manifest as intense burning pain or deep aching pain.

3. Widened Inflamed Blood Vessels considered migraines, headaches or temporal arteritis. This is defined as pulsing, throbbing intense pain and localized to the area of inflamed blood vessels.

4. Insufficient Blood Flow considered angina, leg pain, pain from exercise or in some cultures the definition of pain itself; blood stagnation.

5. Nerve Pain expressed as shingles, diabetic neuropathy and sciatica. This sensation is that of tingling or burning pain and may radiate along nerve pathways.

6. Toxemia, which is caused by the ingestion and accumulation of substances which are foreign to the body and toxic in nature, such as chemicals, drugs, etc. These produce irritation, inflammation and pathology in bodily organs and systems. Toxemia, which is also due to the accumulation of toxic wastes resulting from the food and beverages we eat and drink; unnatural food or natural food in excess beyond what the body can use at the moment.

7. Deficiencies: The insufficiency of necessary food substances, such as carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals, vitamins, enzymes etc., lead to breakdown of cells, tissues and organs which is given names of diseases, according to its location.

8. Enervation is the reduction or loss of energy due to the lack of rest or sleep, or the excessive use of emotion, negative thoughts, worry, stress, or the overdoing of physical actions, overeating etc. Enervation leads to a reduction of the body’s ability to digest, absorb, assimilate and excrete body wastes – thus leading to a retention of wastes in the cells and tissues and thereby causing disease.

Source of Relief from Pain

1. Cold Applications This application often feels best on acute injuries, where the pain is often hot to the touch or has a feeling of heat radiating from it. Ice numbs the area, reducing pain. It also constricts blood vessels, limiting blood supply to the injured site. This action decreases swelling. Ice can also decrease muscle spasms. If an area is painful to move or swells after exercise, use ice. Apply ice or a frozen object, such as a bag of corn from the freezer, to the injury. Be sure the area is protected from the cold application and not applied directly to the skin. The cold will reduce swelling and pain at the injured site. This step should be done as soon as possible. Apply the frozen object to the area for 20 minutes, every two to three hours for the first 48 hours.

2. Hot Applications This application is often most affective for chronic injuries or pain that is cold to the touch or has cold radiating from it. It is very useful with injuries agitate by cold or damp weather. Heat increases local blood supply, bringing healing cells to the area and potentially relaxing tight muscles. Use moist, hot towels or microwavable heat packs for no more than 10 to 15 minutes several times a day. Never sleep on a heating pad.

3. Anti-inflammatories from aspirin to herbal compresses, anti-inflammatory applications can reduce the recovery time by half if done within the first 24-48 hours of an injury or painful attack.

4. Lancing or Draining Abscesses, reducing swelling from painful sprains and strains and toxic swellings from insect bites are all very important reasons for lancing and draining an injured area. In Chinese Medicine, cupping is done after the lancing to draw out the blood from the area. This is a very affective method used to decrease the amount of time it takes for the area to heal.

5. Rest This can be the best medicine for any condition from a cold to a broken bone. Rest rejuvenates, repairs and reassembles. For acute injury, rest and protect the injured area. If it hurts to bear weight on the injury, use crutches, if it hurts to move the area immobilize it with a splint.

6. Compression and elevation tend to go hand in hand. Compress the injured site by applying an Ace bandage. This will decreases swelling of the injured region. Although the wrap should be snug, make sure it is not too tight as this can cause numbness, tingling, or increased pain.

7. Elevation of the injured area above the level of the heart as much as possible. This technique will also assist in reducing the amount of swelling to the injured site.

8. Exercise conditioning and stretching certain pains can improve from stretching such as painful stiff muscles and joints by increasing blood flow to these areas. Weight baring exercises are beneficial for improving strength and bone density. Restoring movement and normal function to an injured area is critical. Learn to stretch to improve your flexibility.

9. Dietary Changes So many aches and pains can be eliminated by the proper foods we choose to eat. Weight gain affects our joints, heart, circulation and blood pressure among other conditions. Change your diet and change your life.

10. Root Cause Treatment Pain is the result of injury or disease. With acute pain, the cause is often obvious. A fall resulting in a painful scrape or twisted ankle. In chronic pain, often the pain has been with you for so long, it is hard to pinpoint the real cause or root cause of the disorder. Most alternative health therapies see the occurence of disease as the results from an imbalance. The treating of the root of primary cause of disease is what makes a root cause treatment very affective in the long term. It does not just treat the symptoms of that disease.

Managing Your Pain

R.I.C.E.

RICE is the acronym used for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. It is used as the best initial treatment of soft tissue injuries such as sprains, strains, and contusions. The combination of RICE helps reduce inflammation that occurs after acute injury. It is important to remember that the earlier this treatment is put into place, the more effective it is.

Aspirin Therapy known as acetyl-salicylic acid, aspirin is the oldest and most widely used pain medication. Aspirin works by suppressing the product of prostaglandins. These hormone-like substances stimulate the nerve endings that send pain messages to the brain. Long term use of aspirin may also cause unwanted side effects, such as: stomach bleeding, bleeding in the brain, kidney failure, and other kinds of strokes.

There may be a benefit to daily aspirin use if you have some kind of heart or blood vessel disease, or if you have evidence of poor blood flow to the brain. Consult your doctor before you begin any aspirin therapy regimen. Aspirin should not be given to children under the age of 18 because of an increased risk of Reye’s Syndrome.

NSAIDS – Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory drugs are also prostaglandin inhibitors. These are promoted as stronger, yet gentler alternatives to aspirin. People can often tolerate these better because they are given in smaller dosages. NSAIDS seem to be more effective against bone and dental pain. These drugs include: ibuprofen, naproxen and ketoprofen.

COX2 Inhibitors work by blocking an enzyme called cyclooxygenase- 2, or COX2. These enzymes produce the prostaglandins that cause inflammation.

Pain Cycles

For some people, pain can be tolerated at high levels; this is someone who has a high tolerance for pain, and others have a very low tolerance. For most people, pain is cyclical. Pain produces anxiety and this can intensify the pain. Fear and anticipation of physical problems can also heighten the pain leading to feelings of depression and helplessness.

When one experiences this pain, we tend to limit our activities which can lead to a chronic “pain cycle”. This will adversely affect one’s confidence and self-esteem. Being aware of a chronic pain cycle and understanding its psychological effects, can help you avoid being drawn into the cycle.

In this cycle, which tends to begin with long periods of rest and inactivity, this causes a loss of physical strength, flexibility and endurance. As a result, you begin to lose confidence in your ability to do things, which causes you to lower your personal goals.

The inability to do your usual activities, then allows you feelings of frustration as you see yourself now as being unproductive which in turn, lowers your self-esteem and may further lead to depression.

When the lower end of the cycle comes around and you are feeling the pain less than usual, we then have a tendency to overexert ourselves in an effort to prove to ourselves and others that we are still capable of doing the things we could do before we had the pain.

As a result of the overexertion, the pain tends to return more severe than before. Discouraged and in pain, you begin limiting your activity again, therefore the cycle begins once more.

Herbal Remedies

The medicinal benefits of herbs have been recorded for centuries. Herbs were extensively used to cure practically every known illness and has been documented by Egyptian, Roman, Native American, Persians and Hebrews alike. Many herbs contain powerful ingredients that, if used correctly, can help heal the body. By using herbs in their complete form, the body’s healing process utilizes a balance of the ingredients provided by nature.

Herbs and herbal formulas can be taken in a variety of ways.

*You may steep herbs as teas in order to release their healing properties.
* Herbal supplements in pills and capsules are another form. These are herbs ground into powder. Herbal formulas tend to be created for a single problem or nest of related problems and their specific pattern of disharmony.
* Tinctures. Herbal remedies are also prescribed in tincture form and are the previously fresh herb in well preserved, highly concentrated form. This liquid, as well as, concentrated forms of extracted herbs are preserved in their freshest form.
*Steam distillation or cold pressing results in herbs as essential oils.
* Plasters are ingredients such as oils, herbs and other pain relieving herbs combined into an easy to use stick on strip or patch.
* Poultices are macerated or chopped herbs that are placed directly on the skin and a hot, moist bandage is applied.
* Infusions are used when you are working with the most delicate part of the herb-the leaves flowers, fruits and seeds.
* Decoction is used to extract the tougher part of the herb-bark, berries and roots.

It is also important to note that since herbs contain active ingredients, be aware that some elements may interact negatively with prescribed medications! Therefore, your healthcare professional must be notified if you have any questions about safety. As a general rule: most of the bitter tasting herbs are medicinal herbs and the pleasant tasting herbs are less toxic and can be used more often.

Also, some herbs in any form, should not be taken for more than seven days at a time. Others herbs are more beneficial with time. The fresh leaves, bark, and roots of herbs can be used in their natural form or can be found in dried form and used in capsules, tablets, tinctures, essential oils, powders, creams, lotions, and salves.

Herbal medicine is a wonderful solution for pain and trauma injuries. Complications can arise when taking herbal medicine and allopathic drugs internally, which your doctor has prescribed. Great caution should be used especially if you are on blood thinners, diuretics or heart related medication. Consult your doctor with any questions you may have, before taking additional herbs or supplements, internally.

Arnica Suave is a rich blend of quartz silica, amber resin and the pain-relieving power of arnica in a special massage-in suave designed by Andrew for his practice and is a part of his new “Crystal Inspirations” product line.

Boswellia has unique anti-inflammatory action, much like the conventional non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) used by many for inflammatory conditions. Unlike NSAIDs, however, long-term use of boswellia does not lead to irritation or ulceration of the stomach.

Bromelain is a plant-enzyme. Bromelain is not actually a single substance, but a group of protein-digesting enzymes found in pineapple juice and in the stem of pineapple plants. Local swelling is the releasing of histamines in a localized area causes the vasodilation and increased permeability of blood vessels. Bromelain has an anti-inflammatory effect and is a very effective treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis. It is recommend taking 200 to 400 milligrams three times a day on an empty stomach at least ninety minutes before or three hours after eating. Discontinue use if you develop any itching or rash.

Cayenne Pepper (Capsaicin) A cream containing small amounts of Capsaicin can help relieve pain when rubbed onto muscle pain and arthritic joints, according to the results of a double blind study. It does this by depleting the nerves of a pain-mediating neurotransmitter known as substance P. Although application of capsaicin cream may initially cause a burning feeling, the burning will lessen with each application and soon disappear for most people. A cream containing 0.025–0.075% of capsaicin can be applied to the affected joints three to five times a day.

Devils Claw: An analgesic and anti-inflammatory. Dosage: one to two grams, three times daily.

Ginger: An anti-inflammatory. Ginger has been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine as an anti-inflammatory. Taking 6–50 grams of fresh or powdered ginger per day indicated that ginger might be helpful. Suggested Dosage: 0.5 to 1 mg of powdered ginger daily

Ginger Tea: Add one grated teaspoon of fresh ginger to a cup of hot water. Take two times daily.

Glucosamine sulfate (GS), a nutrient derived from sea shells, contains a building block needed for the repair of joint cartilage. GS has significantly reduced symptoms of osteoarthritis. All published clinical investigations on the effects of GS in people with osteoarthritis report statistically significant improvement. Most research trials use 500 mg GS taken three times per day. Benefits from GS generally become evident after three to eight weeks of treatment. Avoid if you have any allergic reactions to shell fish.

Glucosamine stimulates the production of the specific elements of cartilage and protects them. It helps your body repair worn cartilage, reduce pain and improve function. Chondroitin attracts fluids into proteoglycans, the molecules dispersed through out the cartilage that give the tissue its shock-absorber quality, and protects the cartilage against breakdown. These are substances the body already produces for itself in small amounts.

Glucosamine is found in almost all tissue; it has a role in the repair and maintenance of joint cartilage. Chondroitin sulfate is a major component of cartilage and is thought to inhibit the enzymes that contribute to the breakdown of cartilage.

S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe) possesses anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, and tissue-healing properties that may help protect the health of joints.SAM-e is derived from methionine, an essential amino acid; it may promote cartilage formation and repair. Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are usually sold together. In clinical studies, the supplements had to be taken for several weeks before providing any pain relief. Don’t forget the truly natural and proven methods for battling osteoarthritis, lose excess weight and exercise.

Licorice root: An anti-inflammatory. Long-term use can elevate blood pressure and increase potassium loss. Dosage: one-eighth to one-quarter teaspoon of a 5: 1 solid extract up to three times daily.

Turmeric: An effective anti-inflammatory. Dosage: 400 mg three times daily; take on an empty stomach and combine with 1,000 mg of bromelain

White Willow Bark: Anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects. White Willow bark has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects. Extracts providing 60–120 mg salicin per day are approved for people with rheumatoid arthritis. Although the analgesic actions of willow are typically slow-acting, they last longer than aspirin.

Andrew Pacholyk, MS, L.Ac – http://www.peaceful mind.com/ – Therapies for healing mind, body, spirit

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