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“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.” Helen Keller

In light of today’s opiate crisis and the marked decrease in prescription pain medication, it’s good to consider alternative approaches to treating pain.

Acute pain is a signal from the body, often accompanied by swelling, warmth, and redness, that lets you know that something is not right. In general, the message is pretty clear. We are injured or ill. We need to slow down, to let the injured part rest.

The basic treatment for acute injury and inflammation is R.I.C.E.: “Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.” And: Arnica—homeopathic arnica can have an amazing effect. Last week, my husband hurt his knee while splitting wood. He was limping pretty badly until I gave him a dose of arnica. Miraculously, the pain and swelling went away immediately.

But chronic pain, usually not limited to a single injured part, is often accompanied by anxiety and depression. Chronic pain can alter structures in the brain and affect memory, concentration, and cognition.

Mind-body practices, like gentle yoga and meditation, can slow down these changes and reduce the overall burden of pain including anxiety and depression. In fact, these techniques can protect the brain from the harmful effects of chronic pain.

In my medical practice, I have found that acupuncture and anti-inflammatory diets are especially effective in the treatment of chronic pain. Turmeric, Boswellia, topical CBD cream and menthol ointments are also helpful.

Since chronic pain can be so isolating, social interaction can also reduce pain. Some patients find that volunteering at a favorite charity for 2-3 hours per week helps break the self-reflexive spiral that tends to focus on the pain.

Chronic pain may also be related to repressed emotional expressions, as Dr. John Sarno describes in his book The Mindbody Prescription and Nicole Sachs in The Meaning of Truth. They invite you to look at your pain in a different light, explore the subconscious and discover what your pain is all about.

In conclusion, if you are one of those millions of Americans who suffer from chronic pain, there are strategies that can help at least reduce your pain, and limit the collateral damage that it can cause.

by Dr. Jennifer Means

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