Chronic pain is very complex and can affect the whole person. It can affect your daily activities, sleep patterns and your ability to work. It can also cause emotional and mental distress. It may be difficult to find what is causing the pain, and treatment options involving prescription drugs may have little effect.
Pain Australia (painaustralia.org.au) define pain as an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage.
Pain is regarded as chronic pain if it has lasted beyond the expected time for healing – usually three months – and is present on most days of the week.
|· Inflammatory Pain||· Neuropathic Pain|
|· Spasmodic Pain||· Migraine and tension type headache|
|· Fibromyalgia and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome||· Depression associated with painful conditions|
Analgesics such as paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most common treatment for chronic pain. While these drugs may temporarily reduce the symptoms, they can lead to other problems. In addition, they don’t address the emotional and mental components of chronic pain.
NSAIDs side effects
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are available over the counter and by prescription.
Health problems associated with these types of medication include stomach ulcers and increased risk of cardiovascular problems. They can also have unwanted or unexpected interactions with drugs prescribed to treat heart disease such as blood thinners, antihypertensive drugs and aspirin. High doses of NSAIDs can also trigger kidney problems, fluid retention and high blood pressure. Another limitation of NSAIDs is what’s known as their “ceiling effect”: beyond a certain dosage, there are no additional pain-relieving benefits and there is a greater likelihood of side effects.
Role of natural health in pain management
Natural health practitioners address the complexity of chronic pain, applying a biopsychosocial approach. Treatment plans for chronic pain take into consideration the interplay between emotional, lifestyle, diet, internal and external environment and how the pain is perceived and tolerated by the individual. This method together with a conventional medicine approach, can enhance treatment outcomes.
Improved nutrition is a foundation of treatment for the co-occurrence of one or more diseases or disorders in an individual and can have a role in reducing the intensity of pain over time.
Decreasing inflammation in the body is a primary consideration when treating chronic pain.
Inflammation can be caused by the following factors-
Poor diet and in particular sugar
Avoid sugary foods such as soft drinks, lollies and cakes. Also avoid hidden sugars found in refined or simple carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates can be found in foods such as pasta and cereals, cane sugar, sugars added to processed foods and naturally occurring sugars found in milk. Refined or simple carbohydrates break down quickly and can cause extreme highs and lows in blood sugar levels triggering a persistent inflammatory immune response.
Blood sugar levels can be stabilised by increasing good quality high protein and high fat foods in your diet. Eggs rather than cereals, chicken, fish, grass fed meat, avocado and lots of vegetables for lunches and dinners. Snack on nuts, seeds and whole fruits and avoid carbohydrates such as muffins, cakes, biscuits and bread.
Oxidative stress is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body. Toxins such as alcohol, smoking, food additives, petrol fumes and chemicals in cleaning products all contribute to oxidative stress. Unbalanced hormones also cause oxidative stress. Oestrogen dominance, thyroid hormones and elevated stress hormones are some that promote inflammation.
Chronic gut dysbiosis and infections
Gut dysbiosis, a bacterial imbalance where there is too much bad bacteria and too little good bacteria in the gut microbiome.
A healthy diet consisting of fresh vegetables, whole fruits that contain antioxidants, proteins higher in omega 3 essential fatty acids and healthy fats together with probiotics promote good gut bacteria and reduce inflammation.
Persistent infections such as hepatitis C, Helicobacter Pylori, intestinal parasites and urinary tract infections contribute to inflammation and can lead to auto-immune conditions.
Allergens can be environmental substances such as tree pollens, animal fur, dust mites, latex, some medicines and insect venom. Allergens can also be found in food items such as peanuts, fish, shellfish, milk and eggs.
Persistent exposure to environmental allergens can be hard to avoid but their abnormal effect on your tissue cells can be minimised with the use of appropriate dietary measures, and treatment with suitable herbs and supplements to maintain healthy gut bacteria and strengthen mucous membranes.
Food allergies can cause a reaction immediately where the item to be avoided is easily identified. Other reactions can build over time or seem to be a side effect of an existing condition. In this case it can be more difficult to identify the cause and it may be necessary to eliminate via diet and observe. Some problematic foods may be reintroduced over time in conjunction with a gut repair program.
Low fat diet and essential fatty acid deficiency
Essential fatty acids (EFA’s) form a phospholipid membrane that surrounds all cells in the body; this membrane allows nutrition into the cells and inflammatory toxins out.
“Essential” is the key word here, meaning the body cannot produce these fatty acids itself, they must be consumed in the diet.
Managing your intake of healthy unsaturated fats such as omega 3’s and 6’s versus unhealthier saturated and trans fats can have a positive effect on cell membrane health and decreasing inflammation. Balancing intake of good fats versus bad fats can be tricky as saturated and trans fats can be found in seemingly healthy foods, it is also important to balance the intake of the good fats to ensure higher omega 3 versus omega 6 essential fatty acids are included in your diet.