this post was originally done for the OAND blog:

Are you suffering with pain, ever wonder what life might look like without it? Imagine if you will, finding an effective natural solution? Read more to find some alternatives and know that natural approaches have helped thousands heal or diminish their pain. Everyone’s story is different but there is help.

Very few of us ever escape the human experience of pain. In its most simple form, pain is a signal to the body to withdraw from the source of pain, protect itself for healing or avoid the pain source or stimulus for the future. Most pain resolves once the stimuli has been removed. Sometimes pain occurs or persists in the absence of stimuli and can be chronic in nature. This is when pain as a syndrome becomes relevant and very complex to define and manage.

Neuropathic pain is the most common type of pain that is seen in the general practice of both naturopathic and conventional physicians alike. This pain no longer serves that protective, defensive instinct and is characterized by “plastic” change in the autonomic nervous system as well as the central nervous system.

Trauma and inflammation are the main causes of pain. It is this inflammatory response that creates those cardinal signs in tandum with pain: swelling, redness and heat.

Ideally, when inflammation is working for us the result is a complete remodeling and cleaning up of damaged or traumatized tissue and ultimately a resolution of pain. When the inflammatory process remains longer than it should, changes in the tissue create a worsening of the circulation, causing scar tissue or damage to the area.

A naturopathic approach to pain then involves ensuring first and foremost, proper assessment and diagnosis of the pain syndrome and that the underlying disease is being treated. For example, pain of the shoulder blade, may in fact be representative of an internal organ imbalance of digestive origin. Our treatment goals are to provide symptomatic relief, douse the fire of inflammation, and encourage healing.

In my practice, I approach pain management from a multi-discipline perspective. Nutritionally, I encourage patients to eat more whole, unprocessed foods and avoid refined, packaged foods – especially foods that are pro-inflammatory; these are foods that are especially high in their acid- ash breakdown and include foods such as cow dairy, citrus, and red meat. Other promoters of the inflammatory cascade are the nightshades which include: potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, and eggplant. Supplements that I prescribe in order to decrease overall inflammation include the omega-3 fish oils, the proteolytic enzymes, and the extracts of curcumin found in tumeric. The mineral magnesium has profound effects on inhibiting the pain signal in the body and deals with any accompanying muscle tension.

Physical therapies in the practice include electromagnetic, ultrasound, and TENS; these technologies deliver different energy and wave fronts in order to stimulate the tissue. The application of hot and cold (hydrotherapy) may also be suggested for home care. There are naturopathic doctors that also utilize body work therapies such as massage of muscle, and spinal manipulation.

I also use mesotherapy for the majority of my pain patients. Mesotherapy, which hails from France in 1952 is the injection of nutritional and homeopathic substances into the skin of the affected or painful area. It uses small specialized needles. Patients experience dramatic results with this technique, in as little as 1 to 3 sessions.

Acupuncture is also a viable alternative and can also induce a calming effect on the system as a whole

Finally, it is also important to note here that in my practice, I encourage patients to take a more active role in their healing of pain. This includes the consideration of how one’s thoughts and beliefs create physiological imbalance or the possibility of how one’s emotions might be held in the body. In this arena, education is the key. Lifestyle modification, sleep habits, stress management, deep breathing, and relaxation are a few topics that may also be included in our discussion.

Although, pain is a complex concern, there are solutions. Your naturopathic doctor can help you by providing a truly holistic approach.

Dr. Michael Rahman, B.Sc., N.D.

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