Finding Freedom from Pain
The CDC reported that 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain (meaning on most or all of the days in the past six months). Add to that the amount of people that suffer from episodic pain or injuries and we have a lot of hurting people out there. What happens when we are in pain? Most likely we are reaching for painkillers. Drugs such as NSAID’s (ibuprofen), painkillers ranging from Acetaminophen to opioids, and steroids like prednisone are all increasingly common for people to take in order to reduce inflammation and combat pain. These medications are not very safe to be on for long amounts of time, nor do they do much healing in the body.
NSAID’s such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen can be caustic to the lining of the stomach, eroding the beneficial mucosal layer allowing for gastritis, ulcers and bleeding. Long term use of steroids can lead to obesity, insulin resistance, lowered immunity and more. Acetaminophen can lead to liver damage. Lastly, opioid painkillers have become a national concern as more and more people become addicted, and many end up losing their lives. Constant pill popping just masks the pain while we continue to wear out our bodies.
Suffering needs to be addressed in a way that gives us hope that someday our bodies will be able to function in a way that gives us our lives back; in a way that takes the power away from the pain for good. Pain is so limiting to our lives, our work, even our sleep. Chronic pain does things to the mind as it wears one down: anger, grief, exhaustion, hopelessness.
Acupuncture Treatment for Pain
Acupuncture has been proven effective to eliminate pain by thousands of years of practice as well as current evidence-based methodology from numerous research studies. It offers a safe, effective alternative to the pain killer predicament that we face today. How can tiny little needles do so much? Our body is filled with connective tissue; akin to a spider’s web, where vibrations and manipulations are felt throughout the entire system. Acupuncture helps send messages to the nervous system to change the way the body relates to pain and the way the brain recognizes discomfort. It balances the nervous system and has a calming effect, switching us out of “fight or flight” mode. Endorphins, the feel-good molecules, are released. These effects calm the mind and relax the body.
On a local level, acupuncture increases circulation to the affected area, bringing fresh oxygen, nutrients and removing wastes from the inflamed tissues. Studies have even shown acupuncture to stimulate the growth of cartilage in people suffering from osteoarthritis. Acupuncture does a wonderful job of reducing pain, stimulating the healing of the tissues, and restoring the emotional trauma associated with the suffering.
Natural Anti-Inflammatory Supplements
Additional treatments can be added to the mix. Who hasn’t heard of the benefits of turmeric? Natural anti-inflammatories are nature’s way of helping us out when the inflammation stews too long and becomes chronic. They will not overwhelm your adrenal glands and cause intense side effects like corticosteroids do. Other ways to reduce inflammation include taking fish oil that provides a high source of omega 3 fatty acids. Proteolytic enzymes (such as bromelain and quercetin) will destroy proteins that cause inflammation when they are taken on an empty stomach.
Along with anti-inflammatory compounds, I usually suggest other nutrients that help serve as building blocks so the body can repair itself. Vitamin C helps reduce cartilage loss and is an essential component of connective tissue. Glucosamine stimulates the cells to strengthen cartilage. These nutrients help the body repair wear and tear on joints that are suffering from arthritis, as well as spinal issues such as degenerative discs and herniated discs. Collagen (which is a protein in your body that is a component of joints, tendons, ligaments, and skin) can be found in foods such as bone broth or taken as a supplement and helps support the “glue” that keeps joints strong. Vitamin C, copper, and zinc are all important nutrients in the formation of collagen. Dietary changes will have the best effect when paired with a diet that is free of ultra-processed and synthetic foods. Fresh fruits and veggies add to a happy, low inflammatory body.
I have seen many a patient regain his or her life using these methods. People who were not able to stand and walk around because of constant flares of back pain and sciatica are now out there hiking and skiing without taking pain medication. I want you to know that if you are hurting right now, this is not as good as it gets! Help is available and you have options. These options can be tailored to you and where you are currently in your journey. Bodywork, exercise, and stretching can all be customized into your treatment plan along with topical herbal liniments and hydrotherapy that increase local circulation and ease pain.
Natural medicine has so many treatments available for joint injuries, arthritis, disc issues, plantar fasciitis, and TMJ. If you do need surgery as a last resort, it works well to support your body through the process and heal more quickly. I recommend these treatments because they work, without side effects, to get people moving again. Talk to your local practitioner to create a plan that is right for you and let’s begin to shift the tides away from painkiller dependence.
Submitted by Kim Zurich. Dr. Kimberly Zurich is a Naturopathic doctor and board-certified acupuncturist. She owns Infuse Health Clinic where she provides personalized healthcare using acupuncture, herbal medicine and nutrition. She helps people with emotional and physical pain feel at home in their body again. Want to know more?
Contact Dr. Zurich: firstname.lastname@example.org.