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Newsletter #12: Natural Pain Management

January 2023


Natural Pain Management Options


The CDC review of the 2016 National Health Interview Survey, which includes responses from more than 17,000 adults, found that 1 in 5 Americans, or about 50 million people, suffer from chronic pain. Of those, 8%, or about 19.6 million, suffer from pain that interferes with their daily lives. Researchers examined more than 123,000 suicide deaths reported between January 2003 and December 2014 and found that more than 10,789, or 8.8%, showed evidence of chronic pain.

 

There are many steps that an individual can take to modulate their pain, regardless of cause. Below are some suggestions that I have found to work in clinical practice. This is a rather long list of options. I suggest you do your own research on those that interest you. As always, you should discuss any new treatment you would like to try with your doctor before starting.


 

SLEEP.  According to sleepfoundation.org, there is an unquestionable link between sleep and pain. Emerging evidence suggests that the effect of sleep on pain may be even stronger than the effect of pain on sleep. Researchers have found that short sleep times, fragmented sleep, and poor sleep quality often causes a heightened sensitivity to pain. Those with sleep problems also appear to be at a higher risk of eventually developing conditions like fibromyalgia and migraines. Encouragingly, many studies have also found that in the long term, quality sleep may improve chronic pain.

 

 Insomnia and sleep will be a topic for a future newsletter.

 


 

NUTRITION AND DIET. There is a clear cut connection between what you eat and the number of inflammatory substances produced by your body. The biggest offender here is sugar. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reviewed several studies showing processed sugar can increase inflammation that causes joint pain. Conversely, a low-carb diet has been shown to reduce pain. For anyone with chronic pain, a trial of a low carbohydrate diet may be worthwhile.

 

Elimination diet. An elimination diet is a way to identify certain foods or food groups that you may be reacting to in an adverse way. This may identify certain foods that are adding to the overall pain picture. Common offenders include soy, gluten and nightshade vegetables. I have found this to be more useful than food sensitivity testing through the lab, which has its limitations. If you’re interested, a good book to guide you is The Elimination Diet: Discover the Foods That Are Making You Sick and Tired--and Feel Better Fast by Tom Malterre and, Alissa Segersten.

 

Intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is a great way to lower inflammation and improve pain. It has the added benefit of weight loss. You can find more information on Intermittent Fasting in my Newsletter #7. If you are so inclined, this youtube video is a great introduction to the biochemical changes that occur with fasting.

 


 

ACUPUNCTURE. Traditional Chinese acupuncture involves the insertion of extremely fine needles into the skin at specific "acupoints." This may relieve pain by releasing endorphins, the body's natural pain-killing chemicals, and by affecting the part of the brain that governs serotonin, a brain chemical involved with mood. Many have found significant relief from pain with this technique.

Finding a well-qualified acupuncturist is key. National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine offers a physician directory. The state of Michigan is in the process of developing licensing requirements.

 

 


 

DRY NEEDLING.  Dry needling is a type of treatment for musculoskeletal pain. It treats myofascial pain, which is pain that starts in the muscles or fascia, the tissues that separate muscle layers. During the treatment, a healthcare provider passes a very small needle in and out of painful areas for about 30 seconds at a time. Experts believe that placing small needles into these trigger points can cause a twitch response. This reaction helps reverse both the chemical changes and some of the nerve dysfunction that may be causing the pain. The muscle cramps when the needle first enters the painful area and then slowly starts to relax with each entry and exit of the needle.

 

Physical therapists commonly perform dry needling, but other healthcare providers may also offer it. The procedure is fairly quick. Dry needling can help any condition with trigger points. Examples include:

  • Back and neck pain (including sciatica)

  • Muscle strains

  • Joint pain (knee, hip, shoulder, etc.)

  • Rotator cuff (shoulder) pain

  • Foot pain from plantar fasciitis

 

You can find local therapists here.


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