Natural Strategies for Reduction of Chronic Pain with Holistic Physical Therapy, Integrative Manual Therapy, and Nutrition
Every one of us has experienced some kind of pain in our lives, whether it is headaches and back pain or joint pain. For many of us, this pain is persistent and chronic. It keeps us from fully enjoying our life. The incidence of persons suffering from chronic pain in our country is very high which is evidenced by the frequent use of NSAID medication for pain relief and cortisone injections.
We search high and low for ways to alleviate our pain. We visit doctors and therapists. Many take drugs or drink alcohol to take the edge off the pain. We reduce our activities, and try heat and cold packs. Many will visit a pain clinic. Some pain clinics have an alternative approach such as acupuncture or Reiki, but most are limited to a more traditional approach. Pain clinics typically administer extensive pain medications, including narcotics and pain patches. People are often told it’s in their head or that there is no cure for their pain and “you have to learn to live with it.”
The source of chronic pain could be derived from so many things—an old car accident or back injury, or even a medical condition such as fibromyalgia, arthritis (rheumatory or osteoarthritis), Lyme disease, or another auto-immune disorder. Medications often reduce pain by some percentage but typically they do not lead to full pain relief and the person’s quality of life is not generally restored by pain medications.
These individuals are commonly referred to psychiatrists for pharmaceutical options and for other pain relief approaches such as relaxation techniques to help work through the pain.
People may incur injuries from sports, a car accident, or other. Before beginning different therapies, they may wait to see how they heal with time. After some time, they may resume their activities with some remaining symptoms such as stiffness or reduced but persistent pain. Often, there is a cumulative effect from multiple injuries, such as a football injury from high school, a bad fall, multiple car accidents, and so on. For optimal healing, it is best to begin treatment immediately following an accident or injury.
There are many natural and non-invasive treatment strategies that can be implemented to help reduce and eliminate chronic pain long term.
Manual Therapy for Chronic Pain
In the last couple of decades, there has been a significant shift in our general health. There seems to be more cases of infection and inflammation induced illness, for example, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, and other auto-immune disorders. Whereas, historically, a person would walk into a Physical Therapy clinic with a ‘clear-cut’ history of a car accident or back injury, today, our histories are much more complex. We complicate these injuries with additional inflammatory syndromes that can prolong healing.
Using solely a traditional approach today is often not enough to help us reach optimal health. In some instances, a traditional approach is very aggressive and invasive.
Integrative Manual Therapy (IMT) is a gentle hands-on therapy that can identify underlying causes for chronic pain. By using IMT to treat these underlying problems, relief from chronic pain can be achieved.
For example, when there are biomechanical or joint problems at the pelvis, sacrum, and low back, a traditional approach of stretching and exercise can stretch out stiff muscles and looser joints but often this type of approach does not affect the tight joints which may be more contributing to the person’s pain and symptoms. Smooth and painless movement comes from normal joint mobility and alignment.
Muscle spasm that often accompanies chronic pain may be symptomatically helped with heat or cold. When a muscle is in spasm, stretching and/or exercise does not release the spasm. Gentle hands-on techniques such as IMT can restore mobility to the spine and lower back, correct the position of the pelvis and the sacrum, and restore normal alignment between the lumbar spine and the sacrum. Once the joint alignment is restored, and there is less inflammation in the region, stretching and exercise will be much more effective to help create more movement. After the muscle spasm is released, the normal muscle tissue helps to maintain joint mobility, which can then allow the person to return to stretching and exercise programs.
IMT to Treat Underlying Causes of Chronic Pain
In addition to treatment of joint alignment with IMT, there are many underlying causes for why a person might experience chronic pain, not necessarily related to a particular injury. Often, chronic pain is contributed to by inflammation, digestive problems, circulation issues, and much more. When there is something in the body that is requiring protection (for example, circulation or immune related), the body’s tendency is to inhibit movement—to ‘lock up’. This lack of movement can cause pain and stiffness which is persistent. IMT uses a comprehensive hands-on assessment process to identify underlying causes of chronic pain. Once these sites of dysfunction are found, a customized IMT treatment plan can be developed to treat the underlying issues and help to restore normal movement in the body.
Additional Strategies for Treatment of Chronic Pain
Considering that chronic pain is commonly exacerbated by inflammation in the body, it is very beneficial to implement some anti-inflammatory measures in our life to help reduce chronic pain. In addition to manual therapy, making some basic dietary and lifestyle changes can help to change the way we feel. Here are some helpful strategies to reduce inflammation in our body and thereby, reduce pain and symptoms:
1. Gluten elimination: Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye, barley, and oat. Gluten is considered to be pro-inflammatory. This means that when it is ingested, it can increase inflammation in our body, and in this case, also contribute to chronic pain. By eliminating gluten from our diet, we can reduce the level of inflammation in our body and thereby, reduce chronic pain that is exacerbated by inflammation. Gluten is also an allergen and therefore, must be eliminated 100% to have successful anti-inflammatory benefits. There are so many wonderful resources out today about how to eliminate gluten from our diet. For more information, visit http://www.gluten.net.
2. Peanut elimination: As many of us know, there has been a significant rise in peanut allergies in our country. Peanuts do not necessarily contribute to anaphylactic allergies in all persons; however, they appear to be inflammatory in most. When trying to reduce inflammation in the body, to help reduce chronic pain, it is helpful to eliminate all peanuts and peanut oil from our diet. There are some great alternatives to peanuts today, such as ‘sun butter’ which is derived from sunflower seeds and has a similar texture to peanut butter which is such a staple in so many homes.
3. Reduce refined/processed sugar: Refined sugars can contribute to greater levels of inflammation in our body and also have a ‘neuro-toxic’ effect which means that they are destructive to our nervous system. It is our nervous system that contributes to the sensation of pain. By eliminating refined sugar from our diet, we can reduce chronic pain and symptoms. There are so many unrefined sweeteners today such as honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, palm sugar, and many others.
4. Shifting your home to a ‘natural home’: Shifting your home to a natural one seems like a daunting task. There are many simple ways to begin this transition that don’t have to seem enormous. One simple change is to begin by changing all your cleaning products to natural cleaners. As you run out, you buy natural! By eliminating toxic chemicals in your home, it can help reduce inflammation in your body and thereby, reduce chronic pain. For more information on how to shift your home to a natural home, visit http://naturallivingfamily.com/.
The causes of chronic pain can be very complex, but there are many strategies that we can implement in our lives, including manual therapy and nutritional changes, that can help to correct some of the underlying reasons for chronic pain. By improving these underlying problems, we can find sustainable changes in chronic pain and simultaneously work towards optimal health.