Chronic pain is a common problem that can certainly affect quality of life. Over the counter pain medication is not only one of the most commonly sold drugs, but, the most common to give side effects. How can we minimize them?
We can start preventatively by establishing a steady routine to maintain a strong AND flexible physical body. A balance of activities should be sought that uses our muscles, increases our heart rate, builds strength, endurance, core, increases flexibility and suppleness. This could be a combination of walking, running, biking, hiking, skiing, tennis, badminton, dancing, mini-trampoline bouncing, swimming, yoga, pilates or any other activity you enjoy. Common problems I, as well as chiropractors, massage therapists, athletic therapist and physiotherapists treat are muscles, joints, tendons, bones, fascia or ligaments that are over-used or developed or under-stretched. Finding that balance is important, especially if you have a sedentary job, otherwise you will be prone to injury. Not only does activity create a good foundation physically, it also helps to release mental and emotional build-up to maintain a resilient mental and emotional body as well. One of the best things to do when having a challenging day at work is to go for a 15 minute walk to give your brain a break, be alone and get some fresh air. If you do physical work, you might want to stretch out in the sunshine and relax. The rest of the day will be much more productive.
Let’s say you have your routine that you do on a weekly basis in place, but, you lifted something incorrectly or heavier than you should have, over-did your run or work in the garden, experienced a tremendous trauma emotionally or simply just caught your foot on a rock that caused a sudden jolt and have pain. Instead of immediately reaching for an anti-inflammatory, consider some other options.
The immediate treatment should be RICE. Rest the injured area, ice it, apply compression to minimize swelling and elevate to bring about healing more quickly.
A warm bath or pack with Epsom salts (concentrated magnesium) or Alkabath (super strength magnesium with ground gems) helps relax the muscle, tendon or ligament that has been strained or over-used and, because it is alkalinizing, helps to flush metabolites and inflammation out of the area and forces you to relax the area. Castor oil packs can relieve congestion and inflammation. Sometimes, these are all that’s needed to allow the body time to repair the area. Just resting or stretching may do the trick or having a massage, trigger point work, rolfing, polarity therapy, bowen, acupuncture, chiro or physio or any of the other hands-on therapies may also be helpful.
The main raw material that is responsible for repair of any ligament, tendon, muscle or bone in the body is Vitamin C. So, I typically have people supplement with non-citrus Vitamin C to bowel tolerance. This ensures you have enough for the body to repair itself, since it is used for many other purposes in the system. Collagen and proline are other useful supplements. They repair ligaments, tendons, joint capsules, discs and fascia. MSM is another wonderful supplement that comes from sea water. It helps to pull out inflammation and congestion from any injured area. I have had more than one patient cancel a knee or hip surgery, since there was no longer any pain. Curcumin, one of the active constituents in turmeric, is a strong bioflavinoid that decreases inflammation, so, I often have patients supplement it. It is one of those nutrients that is harder to absorb, so a good carrying agent is important. Adding turmeric to soups, stews, stir-fries or rice helps to prevent inflammation. Boswellia and Picrorhiza are similar and are often in combination with curcumin. Proteolytic enzymes help break down inflammation, so, you will often see a supplement that is a combination of proteolytic enzymes, such as protease, amylase, lipase, serratiopeptidase, trypsin, bromelain and papain. There are also combinations of all of these in a formula to access all the anti-inflammatory mechanisms in the body. Certain homeopathics can be helpful as well, such as Bellis, Ruta, Rhus tox, Arnica and Hypericum depending on the injury.
Another wonderful tool is cold-pulsed laser treatment. The new machines use pulsing infra-red light beams that penetrate the injured area up to 4” to bring fresh blood and nutrients to the area, open up the lymph channels to drain congestion and inflammation, break down scar tissue or calcifications and deliver energy, so, the body can repair the area. It also brings great relief to arthritic joints.
If the pain continues, you need to investigate what is causing it. Sometimes having an ultra-sound, x-ray, CT or MRI is necessary if the pain is persistent to determine if there is a severe injury or degeneration. It can then be determined if other avenues need to be investigated.