Back to the Future for Pain Management (eMedia Wire)

eMedia Wire: More and more pain sufferers are turning to traditional alternatives such as acupuncture, herbal medicine and meditation. In addition to pain relief, these alternatives are seen to provide general health benefits without serious side effects. This article examines some of the popular treatment options.

The ancient Chinese Practice of acupuncture is based on the belief that health is determined by the level of chi (vital life energy) that is in the body. This energy is thought to move through the body through pathways called meridians, which connect to specific organs in the body. Acupuncturists insert needles into points on the body that connect to these channels to release blocked “chi” that might be the cause of pain. During treatment, the acupuncturist inserts thin needles for anywhere from a few minutes to a half an hour into specific points on the body. This practice is thought to stimulate endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers and is useful for the treatment of a variety of disorders including backache, sinus pain, jaw pain, spinal disorders, withdrawal and mental disorders.

Also known as “contact healing”, acupressure is based on the same principles as acupuncture, except hand-pressure and finger pressure is applied to specific points on the body to release neurotransmitters that alleviate pain.

Another aspect of traditional Chinese medicine is herbal medicine. Herbs have been used for centuries for their pain relieving qualities. Here are some herbs that are recommended for common disorders:

Cramps & Spasms: angelica, cramp bar, kava, rosemary. Nerve Pain: capsaicin, chamomile, gotu kola, licorice. Back Pain: hops, wood betony, passionflower. Migraine: feverfew, linden, skullcap. Headaches: peppermint, spearmint. Joint pain: ginger, sea cucumber.

Aromatherapy (sniffing or applying essential oils) is yet another popular option. Aromatherapy is thought to change an individual’s brain chemistry so that pleasurable neuro-transmitters are released to relieve pain. Geranium, jasmine, juniper, lavender, peppermint, rose, rosemary and thyme are oils commonly used for this purpose.

Homeopathy, which has been popularized by the British Royal Family since Victorian times is based on the principle of “like repels like.” The theory is that miniscule amounts of chemicals, irritants or elements that mimic or resemble the main ailment will send a large message to the brain to repel pain and discomfort.

Meditation, which has also been practiced for thousands of years, is a conscious attempt to calm the mind so that it is not cluttered with thoughts and anxieties that might be contributing to an unnecessary belief in the existence of pain. There are hundreds of different meditation techniques, but mostly they all into three categories: concentrative, mindful and transcendental meditation. During concentrative meditation, focusing on a single sound, object or one’s breath, produces a tranquil mind that facilitates the production of pain-relieving endorphins. During mindful meditations, the mind is encouraged to become aware of, but not reactive to thoughts, feelings and sensations in order to achieve a tranquil state of mind. During transcendental meditation, the mind settles down to a state that transcends thought altogether.

Therapies that focus on the mind are becoming increasingly popular. Guided Imagery research has indicated that bodily functions that were previously thought to be beyond conscious control, such as chronic pain, can be controlled through the use of visualization. Guided imagery encourages the sufferer to think in pictures that eliminate negative thoughts thus raising levels of pleasurable brain chemicals, such as serotonin, decreasing anxiety and increasing the effectiveness of the immune system. Through guided imagery, the mind conjures up mental scenes in order to better direct the body’s energy. For instance, if an individual is suffering from a stabbing pain, he or she might want to imagine a knife being removed from the spot and a subsequent glowing feeling of relief.

The current popularity of traditional treatments is likely to continue for some time. Even major pharmaceutical manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon by manufacturing such herbs as willow bark and feverfew and marketing them as natural alternatives to ibuprofen and aspirin.

It is important to note that the above suggestions do not represent cures for conditions, but more represent strategies and opportunities to manage your chronic pain. It is also recommended that you consult with your health practitioner before embarking on any new pain management program.

Original article no longer available…

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