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Chronic Pain — Treatment Options
Many of us who have experienced extreme and chronic pain wish that we were like the lady who went to her doctor complaining of pain. The doctor asked, “Where are you hurting?” “I hurt all over”, said the lady. “What do you mean, all over?” asked the doctor, “please be a little more specific.”
She touched her right knee with her index finger and yelled, “Ow, that hurts.” Then she touched her left cheek and again yelled, “Ouch! That hurts, too.” Then she touched her right earlobe, “Ow, even THAT hurts,” she cried.
The doctor checked her thoughtfully for a moment and told her his diagnosis, “You have a broken finger.”
Doctors know how to fix broken fingers but very often are unable to cure chronic pain and have to resort to merely masking the pain using painkillers (narcotics). While no one likes to see anyone in pain, at Novus Medical Detox Center we see countless patients who have become dependent (they have withdrawal symptoms if they try to stop taking the painkiller) or addicted to painkillers prescribed by their doctors.
Many doctors have termed their practice “Pain Management,” and this is a correct description because the cause of the pain is seldom addressed but simply “managed.” Since the purpose is often not to eliminate the pain but to “manage” it, the fact that even after a number of years of “treatment”, in many cases the pain is still there.
However, most people “managing” their pain with painkillers are forced to take higher and higher doses of the painkillers to mask the pain. Taking more painkillers results in more side effects, more trouble thinking and doing what used to be normal cognitive activities.
Because the majority of our patients were made dependent on or addicted to painkillers because of back pain, let’s set out a basic explanation of the spine.
The spine is composed of vertebrae (bones) and are generally divided in this way:
- the seven cervical (neck) vertebrae (labeled C1-C7);
- the 12 thoracic (upper back) vertebrae (labeled T1-T12);
- the five lumbar (lower back) vertebrae (labeled L1-L5);
- the sacrum (five fused vertebrae at the base of the spine) and coccyx (a small triangular bone),
Round, spongy pads called discs lie between the vertebrae. In many cases, these discs can shift, bulge, or degenerate and this will cause pain.
Instead of attempting to treat the conditions affecting the spine, many doctors have recommended surgery and this, for most people, results in permanent pain.
It is easy to prescribe a painkiller to mask the pain. Another treatment for back pain is to inject steroids in the spine that provide temporary relief but are known to cause bone problems—look at the athletes and body builders who took steroids but now have trouble walking. Both of these treatments may help with the pain, but they also create long term problems and don’t even attempt to handle the cause of the problem.
However, before giving up your life to pain or to surgery, narcotics or other drugs, you should explore other alternatives that might address the cause of the pain. Some are more successful than others and many of these alternatives are very dependent on the skill of the person applying them.
A word of caution is in order. While not intending to be demeaning to the medical profession, it is important that you approach the selection of medical treatment with the same amount of questions, preparation and skepticism that you have when you purchase a new car. There is no reason that a medical professional’s office should not be prepared to explain how and why their proposed treatment will produce results for you and to answer any questions that you have. If they don’t have time to answer your questions or do not answer them to your satisfaction, then my suggestion is to locate another treatment provider.
Acupuncture: Acupuncture is an ancient Oriental process. It is the placement of needles at precise points on the body to increase blood flow to speed healing and stimulate changes, such as increasing the body’s natural pain modulators (endorphins). People who have had acupuncture from someone on a cruise ship or from a practitioner who attended a weekend seminar have generally not experienced much relief. However, several of our patients who left Novus and received acupuncture from an experienced practitioner reported relief from pain and generally felt better over time as they continued to receive acupuncture.
Biofeedback: The person seeks to gain control over muscle tension, heart rate, and skin temperature. If the person gains control over these things, the belief is that they will be able to relax their muscles and slow their heartbeat so that they can change their response to pain. While some people attest to the relief they have attained, many others have tried and abandoned this form of treatment.
Capsaicin Cream: A cream containing capsaicin, a chemical found in chili peppers, that often provides relief from minor pain and, other than applying too much which can burn the skin, does not have any known side effects. It apparently works by interfering with the transmission of pain signals to the brain. It doesn’t treat the cause but seeks to mask the symptom–the pain.
Chiropractic: A treatment involving manipulation of the spine to relieve pressures of the vertebrae on nerves. Illness and pain can result if the nerves along the vertebrae are pinched or impeded because these nerves carry signals to and from the brain. However, all chiropractors are not the same. You should carefully select a chiropractor. Many chiropractors use techniques that do not involve “cracking the back” but accomplish the alignment of the spine using non-forceful methods that are often much more effective in actually treating the pain from pinched nerves and provide longer lasting benefits.
Exercise: It is logical that weak muscles can lead to problems with vertebrae alignment and the operation of the vital organs of the body. Light exercise, like walking, swimming and bicycle riding contributes to the blood and oxygen flow to our muscles and has been shown to work as well as or better than anti-depressants. Having had back problems for most of my life, I know that the exercises developed by Peter Egoscue, a physical therapist, can provide permanent relief of pain. Egoscue’s DVD’s and books are available in bookstores and online.
Genetics: For years, it baffled scientists how four people who suffer the same injury can recover in four different ways. One person has a complete recovery. The second person has a 60% recovery and only moderate pain. The third person has a 40% recovery and more severe but not disabling pain and the fourth person is totally disabled and suffering severe and disabling pain. Scientists studying DNA have discovered some explanations. A severe injury causes a reorganization of the nervous system known as plasticity. The nerve cells make new contacts and this disrupts a cell’s supply of nutrition. Scientists believe that genetic therapies directed at preventing or correcting this reorganization of the nervous system will lead to non-surgical ways to alleviate chronic pain conditions.
Herbs: There are a variety of herbs that have been found to relieve pain. Corydalis is an herb native to the Chinese province of Zhejiang and is used in Chinese medicine for pain relief. Prescribed for many of our patients by a pain treatment doctor located in Palm Harbor, Florida, Relxgesic ES contains mostly corydalis and has been effective in helping alleviate the pain that may still be present as someone detoxes at Novus. There are numerous other herbs that have helped with pain. While the herbs can adversely react with other medications, depending on your metabolism and DNA, they normally do not present the same harmful side effects as pain killers.
Hydration: By hydration we mean the amount of water in the body. While the value of hydration to the proper operation of the body may not put it in a class by itself as an effective treatment protocol, as Bum Phillips, former coach of the Houston Oilers, said about star running back Earl Campbell, “If he isn’t in a class by himself it don’t take long to call the roll.”
The percentage of the body that is water is between 65% and 70%. Our brains are 85% water and the neurotransmitters that communicate with the various receptors and control our bodies do so through water. All of our cells float in fluid and our organs are made up of cells. When there is sufficient water in the body, our organs work to their capacity and are able to repair many injuries, effectively fight disease and increase the production of endorphins—our body’s natural pain relievers.
Our diets seldom result in us getting sufficient water. Instead of water, most people drink coffee, sodas or tea. For this reason, most people’s bodies are operating like the eight cylinder car that is only firing on five cylinders—it can still get around but places enormous stress on the engine. At Novus, we believe that one of the reasons that people are able to detox more comfortably is that we make sure that they are hydrated and stay hydrated. Drinking water with electrolytes in sufficient quantity to keep the body hydrated is something all of us can do.
Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation: This is a process normally performed by a licensed physical therapist but also can include exercise and massage. Properly done, physical therapy can actually strengthen damaged parts of the body and permanently reduce pain.
Placebos: Placebos are inactive substances, such as sugar pills. There is evidence from scientifically performed clinical studies that suggests that placebos reduce the intensity of many pain conditions such as migraine headache, back pain, post-surgical pain, rheumatoid arthritis, angina, and depression. This is known as the placebo effect — the observable or measurable change that can occur after administration of a placebo. Many believe that placebos work because the patients believe or expect them to work. Others say placebos relieve pain because we stimulate the brain’s own analgesics (pain relievers) and stimulate the body to begin healing itself.
Transcutaneous Electrical stimulation (TENS): A TENS machine sends tiny electrical pulses through the skin to nerve fibers that cause changes in muscles. TENS can produce temporary pain relief but there is evidence that in some people the pain relief is more permanent.
While none of the above treatments is going to work for everyone, the thing that we know is that doing nothing about the cause of the pain is a sure way for it to get worse. We also know that taking pills to mask the pain will inevitably lead to not only a worsening of the cause of the pain but also will condemn the person to a life of drug dependency and/or addiction. At Novus Medical Detox Center, we will withdraw you from painkillers and work to help you find alternative methods of handling the pain and the cause of the pain.
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