Anywhere from 10% to 55% of the population suffers from chronic pain. It is one of the conundrums of conventional medicine because, once the initial trauma (i.e.: the broken bone, bruising or cut, etc.) is dealt with, there are not many options for managing it. Pain medications usually have a host of side effects and offer only modest results. Many people are forced to live with pain, watching as their lives and well-being eventually deterioriate and they lose the ability to perform the activities they once loved. Thankfully, naturopathic medicine offers a variety of solutions for treating pain that can give you the chance to get your life back.
1) Acupuncture. Acupuncture has been shown in a variety of studies to be a viable solution for treating pain. Scientists are not exactly sure how acupuncture offers pain relief, but theories suggest that it can help the body release endorphins, natural painkillers, decrease pain signals to the brain and increase circulation, stimulating the body’s ability to heal itself. Trigger point release, electrical stimulation and Traditional Chinese acupuncture are all possible treatment modalities for treating chronic pain.
2) An anti-inflammatory diet. Repeatedly eating foods that we are sensitive to can cause “Leaky Gut” or intestinal permeability. This means that allergens from food get into the bloodstream where they can be deposited in organs and joint capsules. This can result in an increase in inflammation in the body. Any inflammatory disease, pain included, can benefit from an elimination diet, where suspect foods are removed from the diet for 3-6 weeks and then reintroduced to identify food intolerances. In addition to removing food intolerances, following an anti-inflammatory diet high in antioxidants and healthy fats can help decrease inflammation and make your body resilient to pain.
3) Supplementation. There are many supplements that offer pain relief via a variety of mechanisms. Some, like fish oils and curcumin, can decrease inflammation, others can help decrease muscle tension, or help build up cartilage. Some pain conditions, such as chronic migraines, can be the result of a vitamin deficiency. These supplements are from natural sources and do not cause side effects, therefore they can be a healthy solution to take long term.
4) Hydrotherapy. Using water to heal has been a practice of naturopathic medicine for centuries. Constitutional hydrotherapy and topical water applications can help increase circulation, speeding healing, promoting detoxification and decreasing inflammation, which can, in turn, help manage pain.
5) Homeopathy. Homeopathy has been shown to be effective for treating chronic pain. It involves an in-depth interview about your unique experience of the pain. Your naturopathic doctor will then match your unique symptoms to a database of thousands of remedies, made of highly dilute concentrations of natural substances. Homeopathy can decrease pain by stimulating your body to heal itself and helping to remove obstacles that are blocking your body’s ability to heal.
6) Mind-Body. Many doctors are perplexed by the fact that, even after the physical trauma has healed, many chronic pain sufferers continue to suffer. This is true in fibromyalgia, a condition in which patients suffer from significant daily pain, and yet seem to have no physical reason for the pain. This does not mean, however, that the pain felt is not real. After all, all pain is experienced in the mind. In cases of chronic pain where no injury is present, mind-body medicine can be quite effective. Many of us feel mental and emotional pain on a physical level; our bodies express what we cannot. Counselling, visualization, meditation and other mind-body practices can help us decipher the message our body is trying to convey to us through the symptom of pain.
7) Physical medicine. Receiving massages, manipulations and other physical modalities such as ultrasound and laser therapy can also help heal injuries and decrease pain and inflammation. Therapeutic exercise, stretches and strength-training are also important for strengthening the body, staying healthy and decreasing further injury.
Naturopathic medicine is an effective option for treating chronic pain because naturopathic doctors are trained to diagnose your condition and using a variety of therapies to create an individual treatment plan that treats the whole person. Our therapies are safe, gentle, non-invasive and contain few, if any, side effects, which makes them ideal for managing chronic conditions such as pain.