In order to treat pain we must understand that pain management is a multi-billion-dollar industry. Pain management centers are popping up everywhere in the United States. Most of these allopathic centers include in their management plans which consist of both non-invasive and invasive treatments for chronic pain. This commonly includes narcotics, seizure medications like lyrica, as well as epidural steroid injections, and even surgery.
Drug addiction to prescription medications on the rise, with drugs so often prescribed soon into the treatment of pain care, and their dosages increased regularly. Why should this line of pain management come before holistic, natural medicine, which includes nutrition, exercise, herbology, and mind-body medicine? Or how about epidural steroid injections? These injections have been used in the treatment of pain management for over 50 years. The American Academy of Neurology’s literature notes that the effectiveness of such injections have little to no benefit outside of a 2-6 week window, and that to treat pain for the purposes of improving function, avoiding surgery, or providing long-term pain relief with radiating back pain, it is not recommended (JAMA vol. 297, April 25, 2007). But modern pain management supports and promotes epidural steroid injections consistently, despite little clinical evidence. Whereas Reiki has been shown in limited clinical studies to reduce pain and anxiety, suggesting up to 60% reduction in pain and anxiety for as long as 4 weeks with a single treatment. Tai Chi is recommended by the Arthritis Foundation to not only improve balance and mobility but to decrease pain as well. One must ask why most physicians do not support the use of these holistic modalities first, or at least in conjunction with modern approaches before narcotic and lyrica prescription or epidural steroid injections? Patients must become knowledgeable of their treatment options and when necessary question and even educate their medical providers.
It is not to say that individuals may not find relief from symptoms of pain with these treatments, but in my humble opinion they should not precede a more holistic approach first, something that many pain sufferers do not want to do, for it means taking charge of their own pain and treatment. And since insurance reimbursement is virtually nonexistent for these holistic modalities there is no incentive for big medical business to consider this line of defense. But what you must remember is that as a patient, you are in control of your care and you must have an investment in the outcome. This means that you, the patient, must take some responsibility in the treatment and not hand the reins over to your provider 100%; so become knowledgeable in treatment options and participate in your treatment fully so that your outcomes will improve.
Pain is subjective and the study of pain itself is much deeper than what one small article can cover; but with a combination of diet, exercise, herbs, and mind-body medicine pain associated with fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and headaches which can be managed quite effectively with a holistic approach. Those with such and similar conditions should seek management of their pain with the help of qualified practitioners. Pain is a symptom of a greater problem, so please be evaluated first to rule out serious injury or illness so that the most appropriate treatment is being prescribed. Also be aware that herbal remedies may interact with allopathic medications and both your herbalist and your medical practitioner should be aware of what you are taking.
Pain itself is can be life-altering. It is not to say that allopathic treatments do notve their place, but many holistic modalities, which include an herbal approach, may be effective for home management or early onset of pain.
Sax alba, known as willow bark, has been used for centuries as a pain reliever. Willow bark contains the active ingredient salicin as well as other pain-relieving compounds, which are known to alleviate pain, lower inflammation and reduce fever. Willow bark is the precursor to aspirin, and those with aspirin allergies, or contraindications to aspirin need to follow the same precautions with willow bark. An advantage is that willow bark does not have the noted bleeding issues commonly associated with aspirin and is noted as safe with long-term use.
An Israeli study showed that individuals who took extract containing 120- 240 mg of salicin daily showed improvement in symptoms in as little as a week. Researchers from the University of Sydney compared refecoxib, a COX-2 inhibitor, to willow bark extract. The study compared one group of 114 receiving 12.5mg of refecoxib daily and the other receiving 240mg of salicin daily. Both subjects reported a comparable reduction of back pain in four weeks.
Turmeric is another herb commonly used to treat pain associated with inflammation such as osteoarthritis. Curcumin is the compound that creates its yellow hues as well as what fights inflammation. Curcumin is a nonsteroidal approach to inflammation has not known side effects. Similar to COX-1 and Cox-2 drugs, curcumin stimulates nitric oxide, a pain-reducing chemical in the body, suppressing pain. Ayuvedic medicine has used turmeric for centuries and even today there are many, effective manufactured herbal treatments for pain that tout turmeric as their main ingredient.
One of my favorite all-time herbs is cayenne, with capsaicin its active ingredient. Applied topically in an ointment capsaicin depletes a neurochemical, substance P, that transmits pain. It is important to note that relief may take up to two weeks; treatment consists of applying a small amount of ointment to the pain site and rubbing the ointment well into the skin three to four times daily. It is also important to note that for the initial first few days increased pain may be experienced as substance P releases. Caution should be used in sensitive areas of the body and should not be used near eyes or mucous membranes.
Consult a qualified herbalist in treating your pain so that you can be monitored and adjusted as needed. Remember that herbology is just one spoke on the wheel of treatment and should be complimented with diet, exercise, and mind-body medicine as well. Always reveal to your allopathic provider all health-related modalities you engage in, as well as sharing with your herbalist allopathic diagnosises and treatments. Together allopathic and holistic medicine can optimize your recovery.