Some Lessons in Pain
Some Painful Truths
of us have suffered from pain at some point
in our lives. Some of us have been
fortunate to overcome that pain and heal on our own. Others
suffer from chronic or recurring pain. While pain is
certainly an important
sensation, signalling to you that something is wrong, no one wants
suffering! The key is to work on the
cause of the pain, allowing the body to heal, and retraining the body
unnecessary inflammation, tight muscles, and pain.
There are a multitude of drugs available to
relieve pain. Watch tv, check the pharmacy shelf, take a look in people's
vanity cabinet (you'll find mine drug-free!), and ask around...painkillers are
abundant. This one is designed for
headaches, this one for migraines, this one for arthritis pain, this one for
menstrual pain, this one for muscle pain, this one for nerve pain, this one for
babies, this one for adults, this one for all of the above!
Address the Fire
So, why not just pick one for yourself and be
done with pain? First of all, perhaps
the pain is there to warn you of something and you should address the
cause. You wouldn't turn off your smoke
alarm and ignore the smoke, would you?
Simply muting the pain does not resolve the cause and when the drug
ultimately wears off, you will be back to square one; back to the pain again.
Do you really want to be "all Advil",
as their ad encourages?
The second reason why you might consider other
options for killing the pain is that all pharmaceuticals have the possibility
of side effects. Some side effects are
minor and the good outweighs the bad.
For long-term use, the bad often outweighs the good. Information about risks of the use of
prescription painkillers came in 2004 with Cox-2 inhibitors (Vioxx, Celebrex,
and Bextra) being linked to an increased risk for heart attacks. It is, however, not just the Cox-2 inhibitors
which can be problematic.
Other non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs
(NSAIDs) such as naproxen and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs like ibuprofen can
also contribute to heart problems. Carl
Lavie, MD, medical co-director of cardiac rehabilitation and preventative
cardiology at the Ochsner Clinic Foundation warns not to forget the OTC
painkillers also have risks: "Doctors
don't think anything of giving patients these NSAIDs that
raise blood pressure, inhibit the aspirin they need for heart diseaseheart disease prevention, and increase the risk of heat attacks and strokes. And
now this paper, like others before it, shows higher heart failure risk. Doctors
have to recognize that all these drugs have risks -- not just the ones
advertised by the lawyers."
And for those taking blood pressure pills, these
drugs increase the risks, and they are suggested to take acetominophen, which
is not antiinflammatory, instead, when appropriate. Alternatively, Ochsner Clinic cardiologist
Homeyar Dinshaw, MD, tells patients who need an NSAID to keep a sharp lookout
for telltale signs of water retention.
"Recently, I have started telling patients that if they take an
NSAID, they should watch out for fluid retention," he says. "They do
this by checking their weight at the same time every morning. And at other
times, I have them check the skin just below the sock line. If you press over
the bony surface just a bit above the ankle and get an indentation, you are
retaining water." Another side
effect recently come to light is the possibility of birth defects when NSAIDs
are used during the first trimester.
Additionally, a study published in the Journal
of the American Medical Association found that drugs used in the treatment
of rheumatoid arthritis, Remicade and Humira, caused a three-fold increase in
cancer and a doubling in serious infections. And finally, do you think that
clinicians are influenced by pharmaceutical ads? Check out what MDs, nurses, and pharmacists
have voted: WebMD
Pain is not an Island
A third reason is that pain is more than the
physical sensation of discomfort. Pain
can lead to depression, insomnia, fatigue, loss of concentration, and so
needs to be addressed on many levels and painkillers alone cannot
address that, nor is it ideal to have other drugs added to address each issue:
an antidepressant, a sedative, a stimulant (such as caffeine), and so on, each
with their own buffet of side effects.
You shouldn't be surprised to hear that one of
my suggestions for pain relief is acupuncture!
Don't just take my word for it.
Watch these video clips from Oprah and WebMD.
Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years
to treat a variety of health conditions, but is most widely recognized in the
west for its effectiveness in treating pain.
How does it work? We don't really
know how yet. We know that acupuncture
causes a release of endorphins--natural "feel good" hormones. Acupuncture has also been observed to trigger
natural morphines (the same painkillers found in opium) and other biochemicals
related to eliminating pain. It also
stimulates the body to signal nerve impulses that interfere with the
transmission of pain signals, in a mechanism known as the "pain gate
theory". As a Dr. of TCM, I know
that the TCM explanation is that pain is caused by impaired energy flow and that
acupuncture stimulates the smooth flow of Qi, thus relieving both the cause and
the symptom. In addition to seeing pain
reduced or eliminated after acupuncture treatment, I also see swelling come
down, improved range of motion, and an improvement in a sense of well-being.
Still sceptical based on the fact that science
continues to leave us unclear as to how acupuncture works? Let me ask you this: do you believe that
acetominophen (Tylenol) is a painkiller?
Well, we still don't know the full mechanism of action (i.e. how it
works) for that very common drug.
A Hug or a Kind Word
What else can you do? Check out this interesting article from my
own university on how kindness and love can reduce pain in animals: University of Guelph study.
We are not truly that different from our animal
counterparts, as reducing stress and increasing social networks and positive
attention improves healing and reduces pain in us as well as them.
Yes, that is the basis for a natural supplement
called Serrapeptidase. While we no
longer use silkworm spit--the enzyme in it that helps to break down the cocoon
that encases the silkworm has been copied--this supplement is effective at
breaking down scar tissue, decreasing inflammation, and reducing water
No Shellfish Glucosamine
Glucosamine is one of the most recognized
supplements for joint pain. Studies have
demonstrated that 1500mg daily over a minimum of 3 months helps rebuild
cartilage and increase synovial joint fluid (like oil in a rusty hinge). But for those who are vegetarian or have
shellfish allergies, glucosamine many not have been appropriate. You now have the option of a vegetable source
Muscles to the Mag
you are having problems hearing because your
shoulder muscles are so tense that your shoulders are up around your
if it feels as if your headband is too tight and you're not wearing a
or if your massage therapist comments that he/she should charge you
because you are that much more work, then perhaps you should look at
alternatives to relaxing your muscles.
Muscle relaxants are one option, but can you afford to feel
drowsy? My favourite solution is as simple as a well-absorbed
magnesium, such as that in Natural Calm (ask us for more information).
For more health products that may help to relieve your pain, see pain relief products.
For any questions that you may have or to book
an appointment, please contact Dr. Carr at 604-783-2846 or