Megan and Jane were best friends going through university. Life drew them far apart and after ten years, they decided it was time to get together over a meal and catch up. They talked about old friends, family, careers, places they had visited, and finally they settled on talking about their health. Both ladies are in their 40’s and they were both dealing with pain.
Since childhood, Megan has been involved in a number of different sports. Currently she plays tennis with a ladies group twice a week. Recently, she felt a sharp twinge in her right shoulder after delivering a hard serve. The pain was bad enough to cause her to stop her game and call her physio. The diagnosis was a strain of one of the rotator cuff muscles. After resting the shoulder from tennis, a few treatments, doing her home exercises, using a combination of ice and heat, the injury was almost 100% better.
Megan has what is known as acute pain. The pain response begins when your body experiences an injury like a cut, burn, or trauma. It is a protective response that keeps us from further injury; it is part of the healing process, is short lasting, and resolves.
On the other hand, Jane has chronic pain. She first starting experiencing muscle pains in university. Her doctor at the time, put it down to the high stress. After university, Jane joined a prestigious law firm and was determined to be one of the youngest to make partner. In time, pain spread to more of Jane’s muscles and would not go away. A rheumatologist finally diagnosed her with fibromyalgia and advised her to seriously curtail her stress level, gather a team that included a physio, massage therapist, yoga instructor, and naturopathic doctor to help with determining pro inflammatory foods and replacing them with an anti inflammatory lifestyle. It would take a team effort to get her well. Jane took these instructions to heart and after suffering for so many years, she finally began getting relief.
Chronic pain differs from acute pain in a number of important ways.
- First, the body can become more sensitive to threat, sending threat signals to the brain even when the threat is minor or nonexistent.
- Second, the brain can become more likely to interpret situations as threatening and sensations as painful, producing pain responses that are out of proportion to any real danger to the body. It reflects a protective process that has become overprotective. Because of its chronic nature the mind and body have learned too well to detect the slightest hint of a threat and mount a full protective response with pain and suffering.
The nervous system can become sensitized....
The result is that the nervous system becomes more vigilant or sensitized. Nerve endings can react to any sign of increased pressure, tension, or inflammation in the body. In some cases even light touch can be interpreted as pain. Also, nerves become faster at carrying messages of pain from the body up to the brain.
Chronic pain can also make one more sensitive to any kind of physical, emotional, or social stress. Repeated pain experience leads to increased sensitivity in the areas of the brain that detect not only pain, but all kinds of conflict and threat. The nervous system can start to treat all threats - physical, emotional, financial, social, and so on - like physical pain.
In order to deal with chronic pain it is vital to engage the built-in healing responses found in the mind and body such as pain-suppressing systems, the relaxation response, and focusing on positive emotions. The mind and body must be retrained to be less protective.
Jane is convinced that the multi-faceted approach she employed and especially the relaxation response that yoga provided, finally allowed her chronic pain to begin healing. That in combination with a new dietary, lifestyle, and nutritional support had her mentally and physically able to make the changes consistent and sustainable. Although she has a way to go before she is 100%, she has hope and she is optimistic that she will get better.
Summary of Jane's Program
- Removing obstacles to cure
- Anti-inflammatory diet
- Nutrient Therapy
Removing obstacles to cure means identifying factors that stand in the way of a patient getting well. This could include removing allergic or sensitive foods, eliminating unfriendly organisms in the gut, reducing as many sources of stress as possible, and so on.
Anti-inflammatory diet involves eliminating as many pro-inflammatory foods from the diet and focusing on foods that fight inflammation since pain is one of the symptoms that accompany inflammation.
Nutrient therapy involves using vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, or other nutraceuticals to improve deficiencies, to strengthen the adrenals, heal the gut, improve mood regulation, increase sleep quality, fight inflammation, etc. This can be delivered by a combination of oral supplementation and intravenous therapy.
Meditation/Breathwork can help calm the fight or flight side of the nervous system and increase the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for healing and regeneration. This can destress the mind and body and according to ancient systems of healing, can increase the vital energy of the body.
Yoga besides being a fantastic exercise system, also increases the vital energy of the body. It can help to integrate the mind and body. Best of all it can actually help rewire the brain and nervous system to decrease chronic pain.
Detoxification in today's world is absolutely necessary to maintain or regain health. When toxins build up in the body they can have a deleterious affect on the nervous, immune, endocrine, and gastrointestinal systems. Detoxification assists the body in clearing residual toxins from the body. This can have a positive affect on pain, inflammation and also if poor immunity, allergies, or autoimmunity are a concern.