Treating Chronic Pain Naturally
A painful epidemic in our health care system - 1 in 5 Australians live with persistent chronic pain and it’s slowly becoming an epidemic that’s overwhelming our health care system.
If you’ve been alive, you’ve likely felt physical pain of some sort. Usually, when there’s damage to our body’s tissues, it responds with pain. Pain is your body's way of communicating something is wrong and to pay attention. Once the injury heals and the tissues repair, the pain goes away.
However, chronic pain is different. Chronic pain can persist weeks, months, or years after injury and tissue healing has occurred. This is because the nerves that carry pain signals to the brain are functioning differently. The nerves might be over sensitive, or the brain might be misreading the pain signals.
Not all chronic pain is injury-related. Some chronic pain results from chronic health issues or chronic diseases like:
▪️ musculoskeletal issues.
Although a chronic disease may have nothing to do with the musculoskeletal system, inflammation from chronic disease can cause musculoskeletal pain.
Doctors define ‘chronic pain’ as pain that lasts for more than 3 to 6 months. It can vary from mild to severe and can come and go. A person’s environment can also exacerbate the pain. Chronic pain can have a serious effect on the quality of life and can be extremely debilitating, making simple, everyday task laborious and painful. Given this, it’s not uncommon for chronic pain suffers to present with mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
Like most chronic health issues, chronic pain is a complex interaction between genetics and environmental factors. Therefore it is not surprising that a holistic approach is necessary to effectively manage pain. Suppressing pain with medication and surgery is not a cure or a long-term solution. It’s a band-aid that masks the real underlying drivers.
Manage chronic pain without medication
The traditional approach for chronic pain sufferers is anti-inflammatory drugs or opioids. Short term use of these drugs may help somewhat, but after a while, they can become ineffective. Furthermore, they carry many harmful side effects and can also lead to debilitating addiction and dependence. Essentially they’re only masking symptoms of a deeper underlying cause. If these underlying causes are not addressed they’ll keep persisting, leading to worsening pain and increased medication dosages. This is a vicious cycle seen too often in chronic pain sufferers.
In order to treat chronic pain successfully, we need to consider the underlying cause. Although research about chronic pain is overwhelming and complex, with lots of theories behind why pain occurs in the body, one thing is definite: pain, just like most other chronic health issues, is driven by inflammation.
Research now clearly shows that diet and lifestyle factors can profoundly affect inflammation in the body. Habits around diet, sleep, stress, exercise, daily movement, smoking and alcohol can have a huge effect on inflammation in the body. Inconsistencies around diet and lifestyle habits are associated with chronic pain. Not surprisingly, chronic pain suffers who change their diet and lifestyle tend to experience reduced pain, compared to patients who choose surgery and medication. Therefore diet and lifestyle factors are a vital part in treating and resolving chronic pain.
Why are diet and lifestyle adjustments for chronic pain not the standard of treatment?
Diet and lifestyle changes are often the hardest things to change because they require persistence and consistency. Knowing what to change and how to change can be overwhelming. There is significant information available about different diet and lifestyle habits. Not all is accurate or relevant, and some can be harmful. The overwhelming nature can cause people to choose a more passive approach to managing their pain.
With the guidance of a qualified, evidence-based health practitioner, diet and lifestyle changes can be made to better manage chronic pain. Changes are tailored to the specific individual’s health condition and are achievable, sustainable and effective.
A good practitioner will help coach you through the process of lifestyle changes. They’ll provide suggestions that are gradual, so as not to overwhelm you, and ensure long term sustainability.
A qualified health professional could also assist in the prescription of evidence-based herbal and nutritional supplements. These can help decrease pain symptoms and are very effective when combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle habits.
If you’re suffering from chronic pain, don’t let it get worse. Take an active approach to healing. Find a practitioner who can help facilitate changes to your diet and lifestyle, as well as coach you to make these changes sustainable and achievable.
This article was written by Alon Blumgart, Melbourne Naturopath and Nutritionist at Vital Chi Wellness.