Is natural pain management effective?

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So, today I have lower back ache

I was fortunate that for a period of 10 years previously, I had remained unaffected by back problems or the back aches that I spent my childhood and teenage life with, but for a number of reasons, some of the old, niggling pain had gradually resurfaced again.

Why was this happening now?

Well, I believe that this new wave of pain that was gradually trying to take centre stage was actually triggered about 5 years ago when I temporarily veered away from a natural and holistic practice in favour of receiving drug therapy for my autoimmune condition.

To begin with, it appeared that my decision was the right one to make because I saw improvements to my condition but as months went by, I began to experience a return of old symptoms and the start of new ones.

My body was reminding me of how sensitive it is to foreign, artificial substances. I couldn't really be surprised about the symptoms I experienced because they were the reason why I turned away from a predominantly drug led approach and looked to natural therapies in the first place!

So, I again accepted that I would need to safeguard the condition of my immune system by minimizing or illuminating the use of pharmaceuticals where possible because these now left me struggling from a high toxic load and more side effects as a result. 

So, what is the safest way to manage a common symptom like pain?

Well, these days, I rarely turn to the use of pain killers to manage persistent pain because their effectiveness only went as far as damping down the pain a little but in place, would often leave me with unwanted side effects; dry mouth, a bad sense of taste, skin irritations and irritable bowel (IBS).

Knowing that the risk to reward ratio of using medications like pain killers over a prolongued period poses more of a risk and is detriental to health has made my decision easier to make.

I decided to reserve medication such as painkillers for times when I really need a full arsenal of pain busting relief.

I believe that by turning to them sparingly, I can increase their short term effectiveness, reduce their unwanted side effects and greatly minimize any chance of building a dependency on them-needing higher doses; a dependency that would quickly render them ineffective so they no longer work in the future when I need them the most!

In any case, before I reach for pain killers, I follow a few steps to assess how bad pain really is.

Well, I work on a scale in my head…a scale of 1 to 5 – where 1 is normal or a little pain and 5 is unmanageable. I briefly acknowledge the pain I’m experiencing only so that I can create a plan of action to ease things.

I notice that however much pain I’m experiencing, the first thing I find helpful to do is to move around in a way that confronts the area that’s affected; instead of trying to avoid it. I touch, massage, stretch and connect with my painful site.

Although this can often be uncomfortable, I remember how important it is to ensure the movement of blood and oxygen to damaged areas to prevent premature cell death and permanent damage while promoting repair.

The plan also usually calls for me to ‘up’ my physical activity, so I make an extra point of walking around my home-using the stairs- pausing on each step to stretch out my limbs. Stair rails, ledges, shelving, chairs and tables become even more useful as makeshift exercise equipment! I also begin to focus on and look forward to a swimming session and imagine the weightlessness and freedom I feel as I move through the water.

It’s amazing how focusing on these strategies has the subtle ability of downgrading the initial pain and discomfort I felt in the beginning. It’s almost as though I have developed a distraction strategy that works long enough for my body to become more relaxed and ready to begin the process of healing.

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