I can summarize what I was taught about chronic pain in medical school in 2 sentences. Use Tylenol and/or Motrin –like medications. If the patient has cancer, you can use narcotics if you have to. It is no surprise then that pain patients flock to alternative therapists so they can get relief. Fortunately, most chronic pain can now be effectively treated!
Pain is not the enemy!
Pain is often simply an important indicator of underlying problems that need to be taken care of. In fact, pain can be viewed as the red, flashing, warning light on your dashboard telling you that something urgently needs your attention. To simply mask the pain with medication would be like covering up your “low oil” warning light because it was annoying you. Therefore, in addition to teaching you how to turn off the pain signal, we will also help you to understand what the pain is trying to tell you that your body needs. When these are addressed, the pain usually goes away! While the underlying problems that need attention are being addressed, it is then also very important to turn off/mask pain so that you can be comfortable.
So how do I treat the underlying problems causing the pain?
There are usually four key areas that need to be treated to eliminate muscle/myofascial and nerve pain. It helps to remember the acronym “S. H. I. N.”. This stands for Sleep, Hormonal support, treating Infections, and Nutritional support. We will briefly review each of these areas and natural tools that will make it easier to treat them.
1) Nutritional inadequacies – First you need to give the body the nutritional building blocks it needs to heal. Otherwise, it cannot even begin to get well. B Vitamins, antioxidants, magnesium, zinc, selenium and amino acids (proteins) are especially important. There is a product that contains over 50 key nutrients in one scoop of a good tasting powder and one capsule taken daily. It is called the Energy Revitalization System (from Enzymatic Therapy) and supplies an excellent, easy and affordable foundation for nutritional support for almost everyone — including those with pain. It is easy to use and literally replaces the need for 35 capsules of nutritional supplements a day. We have even seen patients’ chronic pain go away simply with this nutritional support.
Next, although the powder has most of what your body needs, joints require other specific nutrients for healing in addition to what’s in the vitamin powder. So for arthritis, get Glucosamine Sulfate (500 mg 3 x day) and consider MSM (1.5-3 grams a day). Within 6 weeks, most people’s arthritis markedly improves and these actually help to heal your joints! For nerve pain, add lipoic acid 300 mg 3x day for at least 6 weeks.
2) Sleep – Pain patients frequently have insomnia- which is often profound. This contributes to pain. Your body’s repair cycle occurs during sleep and you need 8-9 hours of sleep a night for optimal healing. Put differently, your pain will simply not go away until you regularly get 8-9 hours of deep sleep a night!
Many natural remedies that are very effective for sleep also directly help pain. My favorite is the combination of 6 herbals contained in the Revitalizing Sleep Formula by Enzymatic Therapy. Other natural remedies that help sleep when taken at bedtime are magnesium (e.g. 100 — 300 milligrams), calcium (500 — 600 mg), 5-HTP (100-300mg-takes 6 weeks to work), &/or melatonin (3/10-1mg) at bedtime.
3) Hormonal deficiencies – Most lab norms are based on healthy hypothalamic function- which is often not present in chronic pain. Hormonal status needs to be assessed by symptoms and physical exam, despite normal lab tests, and treated accordingly. It may be necessary to treat with:
a) Thyroid (Armour thyroid) — if you are tired, achy, and cold intolerant, or if you have weight gain and/or brain fog. Even 2 of these symptoms warrant a trial of natural thyroid hormone regardless of your blood tests.
b) Adrenal (e.g. – adrenal glandulars such as Adrenal Stress End, and DHEA)—consider treatment if you get irritable when you are hungry (hypoglycemia), get dizzy when you stand, crash with stress, or if you have low blood pressure.
c) Natural ovarian and testicular hormones – if you are a woman, whose pain gets worse the few days before your period, consider natural estrogen (which is much safer than pregnant horse urine – Premarin). If you have low libido and a low normal testosterone blood test, it is reasonable to consider treatment with natural testosterone in both men and women. When symptoms suggest the need for them, these natural hormones have been found to be fairly safe and very beneficial for pain and energy when used in low doses.
4) Unusual infections – Although there are many, clinically we have found that yeast overgrowth is the most important infection to treat for. Avoid sugar, use Acidophilus Pearls and consider natural antifungals or the medications nystatin plus Diflucan. When yeast is properly treated, chronic sinusitis and spastic colon will also usually go away.
Using fibromyalgia as a model for widespread myofascial pain, our research team did a placebo-controlled study treating sleep, hormonal deficiencies, infections and nutritional deficiencies. The average improvement in quality of life was 90 percent. The majority of patients no longer even qualified for the diagnosis of fibromyalgia after treatment! In addition, an editorial in the Journal of the American Academy of Pain Management noted that our treatment protocol is an “excellent and highly effective part of the standard of practice for the treatment of fibromyalgia and myofascial pain syndrome”. The full text of our study and the editorial can be seen at http://www.vitality101.com. You’ll be amazed how even pain that has lasted decades can go away quickly when these underlying problems are taken care of.
What if pain persists after treating these areas?
Although my new book “Pain-Free 1-2-3!” goes into detail about how to eliminate dozens of the most common types of pain (e.g. – headaches, back pain, arthritis, neuropathic pain, abdominal pains, carpal tunnel, etc.) space does not allow detailed discussions of all of these in this article. There are literally hundreds of natural and prescription therapies that can be tailored to your specific type of pain. For more information on over 250 natural and prescription treatments (by category), including dosing and other patient instructions, click on the “treatment protocol” link on my website (bottom left at http://www.vitality101.com). Three of the most effective natural general pain herbals are willow bark, Boswellia, and tart cherry. All 3 of these can be found in combination in End Pain by Enzymatic Therapy. Studies show them to work like and to be as or more effective than Motrin related medicines &/or COX 2 inhibitors like Vioxx and Celebrex, but much safer and less expensive. Let’s briefly look at these 3 herbals.
Willow bark is the original source of aspirin, but when used as the entire herb it has been found to be much safer and more effective. Many studies have been done using willow bark, and they consistently show its effectiveness in reducing pain. For example, in 2 studies of 661 patients with severe chronic low back pain, willow bark extract with 240 mg of salicin left -40% pain free after 4 weeks, with improvement being evident after only 1 week of treatment. In those receiving standard orthopedic care and Motrin for four weeks, only 18% were pain-free. No adverse effects on the stomach lining (e.g.-indigestion, ulcers, etc) were observed with Willow bark, in contrast to aspirin. Willow bark extract has also been shown to be as effective as Vioxx for osteoarthritis.
Boswellia, also known as Frankincense, has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. It has been shown in studies to be helpful for both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, with the pain index falling by 90% after eight weeks with a similarly dramatic increase in function. Boswellia has also been demonstrated to have significant anti-inflammatory properties, being helpful in asthma and colitis as well as pain. A common dose is 350 mg 3 times a day.
Cherry Fruit contains compounds which inhibit COX-1(inflammation) as effectively as ibuprofen and tart cherries possess both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
In addition, though we have focused on metabolic therapies, do not forget how powerful manipulative therapies, acupuncture, body and energy work, etc can be in treating pain–especially when combined with these therapies.
You do not have to be in pain any more!