Natural Solutions for Pain
Today’s guest post is brought to you by my husband Niko. I’m sure you’ll enjoy his witty words and fun pictures as much as I do. He works as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist and recently wrote his third book, which includes a section on complementary alternative medicine and is available here:
We’ve all seen those commercials with joyful old people jogging or stressed mothers trying to decide between three pills twice a day or one pill three times a day. Which pain medicine will lead to unending bliss as you take it for the rest of your life? It’s the dosage that matters, not the number of pills, and following the advice of those commercials will eventually destroy your stomach (aspirin), liver (Tylenol/acetaminophen), or kidneys (Motrin/ibuprofen). I’m not saying that taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug like the above for a short amount of time requires an immediate enema of repentance and a six month raw food detox plan. You’ve never heard of an enema of repentance? I really hope I just made that up. Whew, a google search turned up nothing, so we’re still safe. Anyway, blocking the body’s natural inflammatory pathways can impair healing—it’s a much better idea to work with your body. I could ramble on about inflammation, but Melanie does occasionally teach a wonderful class called “Extinguishing Inflammation Naturally” that highlights ways to battle chronic irritation much better than I could.
So how do you work with your body? Despite the sixty hours I’ll spend working in the operating room this week, surgery is rarely the answer for pain. Your body simply finds another vertebrae to place stress or another passageway for nerves to travel along pain pathways. Alternative medicine favors gradually curative but admittedly eclectic therapies. The Western approach to managing chronic pain emphasizes narcotics, procedures, or a strange mix of the two like implantable pain pumps. Obviously, it’s easier and cheaper to augment pain control techniques with fish oil and magnesium supplementation or reflexology points, but not everyone is as bright as you, dearest reader.
The only positive result of the fungal spinal meningitis scare has been a subtle change in our pain intolerant culture. That culture and our healthcare system promote quick fixes of symptoms rather than lifestyle changes to address core issues. From personal experience as an anesthetist, I can assure you that immigrants from other countries require much less pain medicine than the typical American. Now, patients who used to sign release forms without a problem are paying attention to the words “every procedure carries risk, including that of death.” However, because pain is so complex, a holistic approach shouldn’t necessarily shun osteopathic treatments completely in favor of naturopathic or homeopathic cures. After all, many of the herbal supplements for chronic pain that Melanie muscle tests clients for contain white willow bark, which led to the creation of aspirin. Also, alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine all come from natural substances, but their positive uses are far outweighed by the problems they cause. If you disagree, feel free to defend your viewpoint below, once you’re not under the influence of your preferred substance. Come to think of it, you may want to disguise your identity before you explain the therapeutic effects of powdered coca leaves.
Let’s say you were injured protecting your parakeet from a ruthless gang of urban pigeons. What wonders can modern medicine work for you? As you refill your Vicodin prescriptions, you’ll notice that your body begins to interpret more sensations as pain. This is because your body stops making its own pain killing chemicals once those are supplied from an outside source, and your liver learns to break down morphine-type substances quicker, decreasing the effects. The latest research shows some improvement from adding drugs that affect the nervous system, such as Lyrica, Neurontin, and antidepressents. A less complex approach—and I know you all saw this coming—is to improve your diet. What? Nutrition as a cure-all, here on The Grecian Garden?! Well, let me explain (and if you’re still confused, I can go into more detail and cite more research in the comments section). The gut makes a majority of the feel-good transmitters for your nervous system for free without a prescription. A tune up detox and anti-inflammatory diet convinces the organs to work in harmony. An additional step is restoring bowel flora: trauma and narcotics both slow down the intestines, affecting the quality of life of your hard-working protective gut germs. Fermented foods act like a petri dish full of bacteria to repopulate your intestines. It’s not quite as gross as I’m making it out to be.
A more aesthetically pleasing alternative is aromatherapy with essential oils: I’ve used a combination of topical or inhaled lavender and acupressure for post-operative nausea and pain. Plant preparations possibly prevent particularly peculiar pains (sorry for the overdose of unnecessary alliteration there), but just slapping hot sauce, er, capsaicin on a sore knee isn’t going to cut it. Acupuncture, massage therapy, and chiropractic techniques are examples of the continuum in alternative health from fraud to fabulous. Depending on the practitioner, you could get better or just be paying someone to gleefully poke you with needles (although we’ve started a list of some good people). Next time Melanie has me write, I might be more useful and discuss specific pain-killing foods and supplements. We’ll also examine pain from the framework of your practitioner’s favorite diagnoses of exclusion (whether it’s a personal physician saying you have fibromyalgia or your natural doctor bringing up allergies and leaky gut syndrome), and what that all has to do with traditional Chinese medicine philosophy. What questions do you have?
If your particular issue can’t be cured through a blog comment (hard to imagine, I know), Melanie accepts clients at Jacobs Chiropractic in Gulf Breeze and Old Thyme Remedies in Pensacola, so stop by the Services page for more info.
CapsaicinWikipedia: Capsaicin ( 8-methyl-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide, ( (CH<sub>3</sub>)<sub>2</sub>CHCH=CH(CH<sub>2</sub>)<sub>4</sub>CONHCH<sub>2</sub>C<sub>6</sub>H<sub>3</sub>-4-(OH)-3-(OCH<sub>3</sub>) ) is the active component of chili peppers, which are plants belonging to the genus Capsicum. →