Alternative therapies can often help in relieving pain and although there may be no ‘scientific’ explanation yet as to why they work so well the basic fact is that they do in lots of cases.
Did you know there is such a thing as a pain ‘syndrome’? It is not understood very well but it is when chronic pain spreads throughout the body from a beginning known cause but the spread itself has no ‘apparent’ reason. In America there are over 76 million people living in pain daily according to the American Pain Foundation. This is for a whole range of different illnesses. Often they are dismissed and sent to a psychologist being told they are exaggerating. Of course the upshot is that you are filling yourself with pain killers which have such detrimental side effects on your whole body and usually only relieve a part of the pain anyway.
Pain management in itself is not a large part of the medical course so it becomes a difficult situation when doctors are confronted with patients in chronic pain. The patient may find it easier and quicker to also do their own research into different methods of relieving pain by using both mainstream medical and alternative practitioners but it is important that they work together. This will make for a more accurate diagnosis. It is also important to realise that if a therapy is not working then you need to change it.
Alternative therapies have in some cases brought complete relief but then it must be remembered that not everyone is the same. In terms of relaxing it is good to take up some guided imagery or meditation where you can ‘chill out’ from what you are feeling. Proper meditation will focus the mind elsewhere so that you receive temporary relief as you are not focused on the pain and is a good start to giving you some reprieve. However it must be remembered that meditation is a skill that needs to be learnt and practiced and will take some time to acquire. It will of course work quicker if you have a trained teacher guiding you.
Often you can be guided into the area where you are feeling the pain ‘in your head’ and visualize the muscles and area relaxing. After some time you will find that the body begins to respond to the visions you are creating in your head and the muscles begin to relax. It’s a bit similar to how the yogi’s in India can sit in the snow or stand on one leg for weeks but on a much smaller scale of course. It’s a matter of focusing and training the mind with discipline.
New advances in Neuroscience shed light on this and in the words of Martin Rossman M.D in ‘Guided imagery for self-healing’ who says that acute pain appears in areas of the brain that are connected to tissue damage but chronic pain lives in other areas of the brain, namely the prefrontal cortex and limbic system. This is where the brain stores emotions and memories. What this means is that the pain lives on in the body as a memory that we keep tapping into sometimes even after the actual pain has eased. So pain has a way of reinforcing itself by our repeated thoughts and emotions creating nerve pathways for impulses to travel along. Meditation can help make these pathways less active.
However this does not mean we should dismiss drugs completely. What is needed is a sensible approach as we need a way to function in our lives even when we are in pain. It is a good idea to have a wholistic biological/psychological/ social approach to pain so we can treat the physical to bring instant relief if possible, look at the underlying cause (such as anxiety or depression) as this can make the pain worse and then look at the social side which is how it affects the person’s ability to function at work and in their lifestyle. All three of these are needed to bring success.
There are a number of natural therapies that will be useful if you are in pain and these are:
Mind therapies bring changes about in the body and body changes affect the mind. This is helpful in all types of pain and reducing stress, panic and anxiety by way of changing the client’s focus. Some of these include meditation, visualization, biofeedback using a special machine which makes you alert to body processes and relaxation therapy with controlled breathing.
Physical exercises and therapies on the other hand will help with muscular and skeletal pain, joint pain and lower back pain. Usually the client will do strengthening and supporting exercises for muscles and joints to improve their alignment. These also release endorphins. They could be Feldenkrais which helps you build up the ease with which you move, Tai Chi which improves balance and energy flow, Bio-dynamic energy exercises which balance the energy in the body and Yoga or Pilates which strengthens the body through stretches and poses or physical resistance training.
Hands on massage or manipulation of the painful area are another method. This is useful with muscular or skeletal pain especially in neck or lower back or when you have over or under used the muscles. It restores mobility, increases circulation and lowers stress and blood pressure. Ways to do this is with Chiropractic work moving the joints into alignment, massage to relax the muscles, increase circulation and ease tension or Osteopathy by realigning the spine, ribs and joints.
On a more subtle level, Energy healing helps change the electrical energy emitted by the nervous system and often goes to the root of the pain. This may be needed when the actual injury is healed but the client is still feeling uncomfortable which could also be due to trauma, depression or anxiety. It assists in relaxing the body and the mind distracting the nervous system, producing endorphins and moving the energy in a more positive direction. It involves such practices as acupuncture using needles to stimulate low energy points, acupressure which is similar and balances using just the fingers, Reiki using practitioner’s hands to increase energy flow and bring balance and Chi Kung which is similar to Tai Chi and cleans the body while circulating the energy.
In terms of what we are putting into our bodies we need to look at nutritional and herbal supplements which can help with all chronic pain and inflammation, stomach problems, headaches and even arthritis. They do this by boosting the immune system, reducing the inflammation and helping you to sleep better. They usually recommend eating plans high in grains, fruit, vegetables, fish and natural oils with supplements containing methysulfonylmethane which helps build bone and cartilage, turmeric to reduce inflammation, ginger and Omega fatty acids such as in flaxseed oil for the inflammation.
And of course, last but not least are the lifestyle changes you need to make to ensure the pain does not come back. These are changes to increase your immune system and give you a healthier sleeping pattern, positive ways of thinking, having plentiful healthy loving relationships so you feel supported and regular exercise as well as a balanced eating plan.
Given all of the above is it any wonder that it becomes so important to have a good natural therapist who is experienced in many of these areas and can lead you in the right direction? Often for the client it becomes so confusing with the many things they read and conflicting information out there. Find someone you can trust that will give you results and guide you in the direction through education and practice into taking responsibility for your own health so that in the future you will be more conversant with what to do and how to do it.