Talk About Pain
It is estimated that more than 60 million people in the US alone suffer from some type of pain that significantly impacts their lives. One in five Americans over the age of 60 takes medication to control pain, mainly for arthritis and low back pain. Almost 5 billion US dollars is spent each year on surgery for chronic back pain alone. Don’t be one of these statistics. Put the aspirin bottle down and try something natural... I hear my patients speak of pain as though it were an expected part of living. Pain can be a normal part of the healing and recovery process, but it is not essential to the normal activities of life. It does not go on and on for months and even years. In fact, there is no pain that continues for lengthy periods of time that is normal, expected, a part of aging or a part of life. Even period pain is not a normal aspect of menstruation.
It is estimated that more than 60 million people in the US alone suffer from some type of pain that significantly impacts their lives. One in five Americans over the age of 60 takes medication to control pain, mainly for arthritis and low back pain. Almost 5 billion US dollars is spent each year on surgery for chronic back pain alone.
Using aspirin or pain medications every day can damage the liver, cause erosion of the stomach lining, nervous system disorders and oftentimes doesn’t really control the pain. Often pain has been such a constant companion, that the body has changed its function to modulate the pain, usually by severing the mind-body connection. Every day that you live with pain is a day that your physiology and your nervous system are not meeting the needs of the body.
Living with pain alone can create degeneration of cells and tissues and lead to more debilitating and comprehensive problems. This is an idea that modern medicine has failed to grasp. Every day doctors are advising individuals with varying aspects and amounts of pain that it is normal, expected, untreatable and often psychological. We have an entire generation of elderly people who honestly believe that the pain they experience regularly is part of the aging process.
This view is the most damaging aspect of a pain syndrome. Pain over time is not only difficult and demanding, but exhausting and disempowering. Pain that lasts months, years or a lifetime can destroy the person, mentally, emotionally, physically. It may ebb and flow, but it is always present to some degree. It becomes a part of your life. It changes you as a person. Pain can be almost too painful to watch. The longer that pain is present, the more damage can be done to cells and tissues, the more neurological pathways can be worn down, and the more the body compensates to live with the pain.
In the case of degenerative conditions, pain becomes inevitable. However, if the body is supported naturally from the beginning, then there will be a sufficient amount of healthy tissue to actually minimize degenerative pain and even delay its progression. So the first step for every individual is to maintain as healthy a body environment as possible. In this way, any imbalance or condition will be identified quickly and modulated by the health of the body systems, which is exactly the way the body is designed to work.
But rarely do I see patients that are beginning natural treatment before anything appears to be treated. Instead, patients arrive at my door far into their life with pain. So the first step in treating current pain at any stage is to revive the person. It is essential to bring back hope, emotion, sensation and the body-mind connection. This may mean that the pain perception will increase as the mind begins to connect to the body, bridging months and even years of body isolation. To support this shift, I recommend analgesic herbs to relax the nervous system and the mind, allowing the connection to begin slowly and gradually. My favorites are Valerian, Skullcap, California Poppy, Corydalis and St. John’s Wort which is excellent specifically for nervine pain. I find Kava too mild in most cases, and White Willow Bark can be effective for some people, but only over the long term. Interestingly I also use Inositol, as balancing glycogen conversion can go a long way in modulating nervine pain.
The next step is to determine the underlying body issues that are creating the pain syndrome and trace the length of time that the body has been in distress. This will give us an idea of the amount of damage that cells and tissues have sustained, which in turn will determine the ability of the body to heal and how much of the pain can be eliminated.
But do not make the mistake of thinking of pain as the result of injury, and if no injury is found, then it must be psychological in origin. In fact, the physiology of the body teaches us that pain is simply caused by restricted nerves, lack of blood flow and cell death. These can be caused not just by injury, but more often by improper posture, chronic muscle tension, chemical spillage from cell degeneration and nutritional or oxygen starvation. At times, pain can even be a reaction to emotional factors such as shock or stress. Just as the brain can create dreams during the night, it can create reactions to fear, anxiety, sadness or worry that evoke pain.
Once the underlying factors have been identified, then treatment can begin. Often, I will start with detoxification and intensive body cleansing. By eliminating toxic debris, excess fluids and microbial residue, while clearing and restoring the pathways of elimination through the liver, kidneys and colon, many chronic pain issues can be reduced significantly or even eliminated.
Once cleansing has been completed, it will become clear which body systems, organs, tissues and cells require a more direct treatment or restoration. Restoring concentrated nutrition to these areas is essential to normalize neural perception and biochemical signaling. This can be a combination of many different vitamins, minerals, foods and herbal formulas (remembering that many herbs are also foods). I also like to combine this with strong antioxidant formulas, since the trigger for pain perception is bradykinin, a cellular chemical that is dispersed with any cell death. Antioxidants also can cleanse the body of unnatural hydrogenated oils, allowing large amounts of essential fatty acids to move through the body and interact with cells to reduce inflammation and joint degeneration. My favorite antioxidant formulas are Mediherb Vitanox, Standard Process OPC Synergy, or Standard Process Green Food. I overlay these with Black Currant Seed, Borage, Coconut, or cold-water Fish oil which have the highest amounts of anti-inflammative fatty acids.
Another key element at this juncture is to have a Trace Mineral Hair Analysis. Regardless of the controversy surrounding this type of test, I have found it to be invaluable in pointing out mineral imbalances and improper ratios of synergistic mineral elements. It also has been quite accurate in indicating heavy metal deposition, which when combined with the mineral graph, can even show which body tissues are the most affected.
At this stage, 85% of my patients will have experienced a significant drop in the level of pain and for many, the pain will be gone completely. However, there will still remain a group of people whose conditions are not treatable with natural options. This may be due to the fact that it has remained an aspect of their body system for too long. It may be caused by a cascade degeneration of body tissue, where the systems needed for treatment are too weak to effectively utilize natural options. Or it may simply be due to the fact that the cause of the pain cannot be changed, reduced or removed such as the complete loss of cartilage in a joint.
So we turn to pain management, and there are herbal options which can over time minimize the pain perception. Historically, herbs have always been used in the management of pain. Heel Homeopathy produces two wonderful formulas which can even be used for children: gelsemium and aconite. Natural herbal options can be particularly helpful in pain that is linked to inflammation and to visceral and vascular spasm. These can be used along with most prescription medications, but it is very important you discuss these options with your doctor, and be sure to have a knowledgeable therapist helping you select a protocol for you.
The methods for managing pain include: opiate analgesics for sharp pain, non-opiate analgesics for dull throbbing pain, non-steroidal antiinflammatives which can suppress the signs and symptoms of inflammation while inhibiting prostaglandin synthesis, and COX 2 inhibitors that alleviate inflammation and pain. Knowing which of these approaches has already been tried by your doctor, or which have provided some relief, can help you to decide which herbals might be most beneficial in managing your particular pain issue.
In addition to herbal options, I always recommend some form of bodywork or massage therapy, which can reduce pain signals of the nerves, eliminate muscle spasming and fluid retention and generally restore breathing, relaxation and a sense of calm to the entire body, brain and nervous system. Also neural treatment options such as biofeedback, NeuroModulation Technique and even acupuncture can reduce the perception of pain and the energetic patterns that produce pain.
These are the formulas that I use most often in managing pain. All of these are available from Standard Process of Wisconsin, whose whole food philosophy has proven time and again to be superior for achieving the results my patients need:
B6 Niacinamide — Not only does this formula support protein and fat metabolism and is essential for all nerve support, but it is the key vitamin for tendonitis and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, reducing and even eliminating pain symptoms in days.
Magnesium Lactate — an essential chelated formula for maximum absorption, magnesium is essential for muscle relaxation, reducing muscle pain throughout the body and even cramping of involuntary muscles such as in the intestinal tract.
Inositol — this natural biochemical of the body helps the liver to process sugar more effectively, thus reducing nerve pain, particularly sciatica.for nerve pain
Circuplex — many aspects of pain are due to imbalances in circulation. This formula combines natural herbal and mineral compounds for increased support for strong circulation.
Cataplex ACP — this formula was originally designed to reduce the symptoms of flus and colds, but it is also excellent for reducing swelling and pain in ligaments and connective tissue and eliminating fluid accumulation.
Cataplex C, Cataplex D & Calcium Lactate — this is the essential combination for chronic bone and joint pain, such as in arthritis.
Saligesic — White Willow Bark is the traditional parent of aspirin without any irritation or damage to the gastric mucosa. As an herb White Willow Bark historically has proven its ability to reduce inflammation and pain. This is due to the large amounts of salicin present in this herb which are then converted by the bowel flora into salicylic acid. The lack of proper intestinal flora may account for some patients failing to find relief with this herb. When effective, it can provide not only temporary relief, but often long-term relief of musculoskeletal pain including low back pain, rheumatic or joint pain, bursitis, and tendonitis.
California Poppy — this state flower of California has been a traditional medicinal option of the American Indian population for centuries. It is one of the stronger opiod-like analgesics to relieve pain, insomnia and anxiety. It needs to be dosed at 20 ml TID for maximum effect.
Boswellia — unlike conventional NSAID’s, Boswellia can reduce inflammation and histamines without side effects. It has a proven clinical success at reducing pain in arthritis, edema, gout and even autoimmune conditions and allergy-based inflammation.
Corydalis — known as yan hu suo, this is one of the more traditional oriental herbs that not only works as an analgesic, but also is excellent at reducing perceived stress and emotional tension. It interacts with the dopaminergic system providing no sedative effect, but only pain relief. It is perfect for neuralgia, dysmenorrhea and headaches.
Ginger — this amazing warming herb increases microvscular cirulation to the extremities which provides a different form of anti-inflammatory effect. In this way it can take the place of heat applications and provide the same warming effects from the inside. Ginger should not be given in doses above 1-2ml and should also be discontinued 7-10 days prior to surgery.
Turmeric — this herb is perfect for systemic inflammation, also reducing platelet accumulation, inhibiting the production of arachidonic acid and providing significant protection against gastric ulceration.
Nettle Leaf — this is an herb that has one of the highest multi-mineral levels in the herbal kingdom, making it perfect for degenerative joint disorders. In clinical trials it seems to stop the destruction of cartilage and reducing the need for NSAID medication, making it an antirheumatic. Licorice — this amazing demulcent helps to increase the release of mucous from membranes protecting delicate tissues. As an adrenal herb, it has a corticosteroidal effect reducing inflammation in areas of epithelial tissue. In this way it can also reduce edema. (in cases of high blood pressure use Rehmannia instead).
Hemidesmus — this herb acts as an immune suppressor of auto-antibodies, making it perfect for autoimmune conditions and the resulting systemic body inflammation.
Feverfew — this is the basic herbal treatment for migraines pain, but also has anti-inflammatory effects throughout the body.
Zymex II — oftentimes pain can be the result of inflammatory adhesions and scar tissue. This formula is excellent at reducing scar formation particularly in the intestinal tract. This makes it perfect for Colitis, Crohn’s disease and Irritible Bowel Syndrome.
Cramplex — this formula is normally given for muscle cramping, but it has a wonderful relaxing effect on fibromyalgia muscle aches and tenderness, particularly at night assisting more restful sleep.