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Using Natural Alternatives for Pain

Aug 17, 2007
I see many people who deal with daily pain in my practice. Many resign themselves to taking pain medications such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve). Others with more serious pain end up getting prescriptions for narcotics or having procedures such as epidural injections or even surgery.

Fortunately I am in a position to recommend a number of non-medical alternatives for controlling pain. Many of these are available at the local health food store. Others require a visit to a healthcare practitioner. If you are suffering from pain here are a few things you can do.

First of all you need to determine whether you are experiencing acute or chronic pain. Acute pain feels sharper in quality than chronic or what we sometimes call subacute pain. Many times acute pain is associated with inflammation. The tissues may feel slightly swollen and can be very tender to the touch. With subacute pain the tissues feel tighter and can restrict movement.

If the pain is moderate to severe and feels sharper in quality, (acute pain) then icing the painful area will help. Most people use the gel type ice packs. These are nice because they only last for about 20 minutes which is all you need. A good protocol to follow is to ice for 20 minutes then remove the ice for 40 minutes. One of the best times to use ice is before bedtime as the tissues tend to become inflamed over night. This will cause more intense pain in the morning.

Sometimes the inflammation comes and goes over a period of weeks. This is due to the damage in the soft tissues such as in your neck and back. When you go about your day the tissues absorb a certain amount of force. If the force exceeds what the damaged tissues can handle the tissue becomes inflamed. Many of my patients prematurely used heat in this case. If you heat up tissues that are inflamed you will prolong the inflammation. Using ice is a safer bet.

Another thing you can do for pain is to begin a regimen of natural anti-inflammatory substances. Many people do not know about these. There are a number of natural substances that have an anti-inflammatory effect. You can get these at your local health food store.

The natural anti-inflammatory substances include:

Bioflavinoids -- these come from fruits and vegetables. There are many bioflavinoid compounds and many natural anti-inflammatory products contain them.

Tumeric and Ginger are commonly used spices and are sold in capsule form in health food stores.

Boswellia Serrata is an Indian herb with anti-inflammatory properties.

Trypsin and Chymotrypsin are digestive enzymes usually taken for digestive problems but also exhibit an anti-inflammatory effect.

The dose will depend on the product. You can consult with the store or a natural physician to determine the dose. Nutritional substances are much safer to take than even over the counter medications so side effects are at a minimum.

Lastly, some healthcare practitioners use electrical modalities such as TENS to help control pain. TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. Basically TENS bombards the spinal cord with electrical signals that interfere with pain. The research on TENS is mixed with regard to acute pain. In my experience with TENS I have seen both good and poor results. A lot has to do with setting up the unit properly. After using it awhile the body can adapt to the stimulus so the unit has to be adjusted regularly.

Other electrical modalities used for pain include interferential current and microcurrent. These are administered by practitioners such as chiropractors or physical therapists. Both help the tissues heal by either reducing inflammation or by stimulating the production of proteins in the cells.

One of the newer therapies used to decrease pain and stimulate healing is low level laser light therapy. The actual mechanism of healing is not known but clinical research shows that it can be effective in reducing pain and accelerating healing.

Acupuncture can also be effective in reducing muscle pain. Acupuncture is done by inserting needles or using mild electrical stimulation at specific points on the body. The points are located along meridians which are channels through which the life force flows. No one knows exactly how acupuncture works but many studies have been done that support its pain reducing effects.

There are a number of mind-body techniques that can help reduce or even eliminate pain. Meditation and guided imagery are two popular techniques that are used to reduce pain. In guided imagery you get into a relaxed state and then create an image of your pain or illness. You then imagine the image dissolving and yourself in a healthy pain-free state. Guided imagery may take a bit of practice but the results are well worth the effort.

There are many ways to treat pain aside from the familiar pills and injections that carry with them a significant risk of side effects. I always recommend trying the safer alternative methods first. In most cases the pain can be successfully treated without the dangers of medications.
About the Author
Dr. Bruce Forciea is an author, educator and chiropractor. His new book "Unlocking the Healing Code" presents a new paradigm for healing. His site:
Informational Healing contains more information, free newsletter, free guided imagery download and New Age music downloads.
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