Chronic pain is a major issue in the US and around the world. Everyday we hear news of the worsening opioid epidemic or of another fatal overdose. Clearly people are in pain and our medical system is doing a terrible job of helping. So what can be done from a Naturopathic medicine perspective? What role does a ND play in helping address this issue? Obviously this is a very complex situation with many moving pieces, but if we're going to deal with this effectively, natural medicine needs to be a part of the solution. Here are a few of my thoughts.
First of all we need to understand that pain is only a symptom and the approaches that we've been using (opioids, steroids, etc) are only addressing it from the symptom level. We use terms like "pain management" to describe what we do. Of course managing pain is very often necessary but we can't stop there. We need to start looking at the "why". Why is the pain present? What is out of balance that isn't healing and as a result this person is in pain? We need to start really looking for the true cause of the symptom of pain. This is where Naturopathic medicine can play its most significant role.
The cause of pain is complex and often has multiple factors involved. If we strip away everything though down to the core, what we see is state of ineffective inflammation. Inflammation is actually a good things when it's in balance. It's there to support the body's healing process by bringing in nutrients, immune system cells, and other supportive compounds to the body, but it can get stuck. Stuck inflammation can damage the body, creating more inflammation, causing more damage, more inflammation, etc. It's a downward spiral that feeds on itself. In order to break this cycle, we need to effectively address the inflammation.
There are three major approaches that I take to address inflammation and chronic pain. The first is making sure that the body has all that it needs nutritionally and energetically to heal. The second is making sure that the body can effectively remove everything that is blocking it from healing. Finally, I work to support the nervous system and stress response of the body.
Assisting the body to get all that it needs to heal means healing the digestive system because this is where we absorb all the building blocks for our body. The majority of people with chronic pain will have some level of digestive issue going on. (In fact, many of the medications taken for pain management significantly impair the digestive function.) So whether it's bloating, gas, stomach pain, or constipation, the digestive system needs to be supported which is done through herbs, supplements, and other remedies. Once this is done, we make sure that the foods that are being eaten are of the best quality and we remove low nutrient processed foods. Remember, you are what you eat, more specifically, you are what you absorb!
To make sure that people in chronic pain are supported energetically I use Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) therapy. PEMF's are applied to the body via a mat that the patient lies upon. This mat generates low level magnetic frequencies that match the frequencies of the cells of the body. Often in chronic pain states, the frequencies across the membranes of the cells of the body are weak, out of balance, and need to be reset. By pulsing these beneficial frequencies to the cells, we improve their natural vibrations and they are able to take in more nutrients, more oxygen, and start to repair. Consistent use of PEMF therapy is a vital component to healing inflammation and chronic pain.
As important as it is to get the good stuff into the body, clearing toxins and other wastes from our system is equally important, (if not more important). This is why any approach to chronic pain needs to include support for detoxing the body. I do this in a variety of ways, but it's always focused on the liver and the bile production. When the liver and bile production are supported and optimized, the body can start to clear things that are in the way to truly healing.
Stress is the final component to patients with chronic pain. In the stress state, the body is programmed to be in a fight or flight state. This state is not one of healing. In fact, it is almost impossible to heal when someone is dominantly in a fight or flight state. Shifting this physiology is not easy but can be done. I use Hemp oil, adaptagenic herbs, homeopathy and PEMF therapy as interventions here.
Healing chronic pain states is not an overnight process and typically requires support from many levels. Naturopathic medicine can help significantly and does so by not simply treating the symptoms. At Reddy Natural Medicine we make sure to our patients with chronic pain are getting all that they need into their body via nutritional and digestive system healing protocols. We also improve the energetics of the cells with PEMF therapy and work diligently to open up detoxification pathways to ensure that they body can effectively clear toxins and wastes that are impeding healing and finally we employ measures to reduce the stress response for the body can relax and heal. It's an approach that works and should be a part of all chronic pain treatment plans.