by Dr. Sylvia Marasco, ND
Pain is any discomfort or suffering due to illness or injury. A person can have several different types of pain. Here are some examples:
- Acute pain is intense and temporary
- Chronic pain is long term
- Somatic pain is felt on the skin, in muscles, joints or bones, and is sensitive to inflammation
- Visceral pain is felt in organs and body cavities
- Nerve Pain is from nerves
- Referred pain is pain that is not felt at the origin of injury, but felt somewhere else in the body
In a clinical setting it is important to distinguish just what type of pain a person is experiencing in order to treat it appropriately. Pain can be from a wide range of causes, from something harmless and treatable, to something very serious. As a Naturopathic doctor, it is important to ask many questions around pain to determine if further testing is needed, through blood work or imaging, or if treatment can immediately take place.
Inflammation is often part of the pain picture. Inflammatory responses can happen after being exposed to bacteria, viruses or fungi. It can also happen after injury, harsh chemical exposures and chronic diseases. Remember that any condition that ends in “itis” refers to an inflammatory condition like colitis, bursitis, tendinitis, bronchitis and so on. Inflammation can also be caused by poor lifestyle and dietary choices.
Here are some natural options for helping with pain and inflammation. Talk to your natural health care provider to see if these treatments are appropriate for you.
1. Fish oil or Omega 3 Supplementation
Fish oil is a natural anti-inflammatory. Fish oil needs to be prescribed by a health care provider to make sure that the supplement has been filtered to get rid of the heavy metals that are commonly found in fish (e.g., mercury). Vegetarian omega 3 supplements are available as well (e.g., flaxseed oil or sea algae).
2. Vitamin D3 Supplementation
This is best prescribed after checking ones vitamin D levels in the blood. Vitamin D helps with inflammation, which will decrease one’s pain levels. In the summer months, to body manufactures Vitamin D from exposure to the sun and therefore, supplementation may not be necessary. However, during the winter months, our stores of Vitamin D become depleted and supplementation is often necessary to prevent deficiencies.
3. Anti-inflammatory Diet
With most of my patients, I ask them to fill out a diet diary to look at what inflammatory foods one may be eating. People often underestimate the effects of food on the body. There is an anti-inflammatory diet that removes all potential pro inflammatory foods. Some pro-inflammatory foods include sugar, refined flour, alcohol, dairy, meats and more. A food sensitivity blood test is also very helpful for determining which foods the body is reacting to and creating inflammation in the body. Foods that are particularly beneficial for reducing inflammation include turmeric, ginger, garlic, green leafy vegetables, and ground flaxseeds.
4. Stress Reduction
One of the body’s main stress hormones (i.e., cortisol) creates inflammation in the body. Therefore, chronic stress is associated with chronic pain and inflammation. Various relaxation techniques (such as meditation, yoga, hypnosis, and massage therapy) help to lower stress hormones and increase ability to cope with pain.
5. Anti-inflammatory Herbs
There are many herbs that can be prescribed by your Naturopathic doctor. Two excellent examples are tumeric and boswellia. These herbs are extremely effective at reducing pain and inflammation – in addition, they help to promote healing.
Acupuncture is one of the oldest, most commonly used medical procedures in the world and it is extremely beneficial for pain and inflammation.
This is just a few of many natural approaches to dealing with pain. Always get yourself assessed by a health care professional, but do not underestimate just how many natural tools are out there to complement your healing journey.