Is Chronic Pain Plaguing You?

"I thought it would get better."

"It only hurts a little."

"I am just getting older."

"I have learned to live with it."

These are some of the comments I commonly will hear from patients describing chronic pain. Chronic pain is typically defined as pain for more than 12 weeks, regardless of severity or reason. Whether you suffer from knee or back pain, arthritis, headaches, or any other pain, there are resources to help you.

In the case of an injury, our bodies should go through a healthy healing process of inflammation, to lock the area down and increase blood and lymph to the injury. That blood and lymph works to heal the area and clean up any injured tissues. During this process, the area might be more painful but should start improving daily.

A few things are crucial to keep this process moving along in a healthy way. Activity, diet and lifestyle significantly impact the ability to heal properly. Reductions in activity, eating inflammatory foods, and having a stressful lifestyle can lead to the body not improving.

When an injury becomes chronic, the blood and lymph that originally came to heal the injury are trapped causing a restriction in healing.

Patients that come in for treatment within two weeks of an injury rarely become chronic. That being said, it is never too late to seek treatment to improve mobility, pain level and reduce dependence on medication.

When suffering from chronic pain, whether from an injury or not, the first step is to find a health practitioner. More and more research supports the use of alternative health therapies in the treatment of chronic pain. Here are just a few types of practitioners that have been shown to help:

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a treatment modality under the discipline of Traditional Chinese medicine. A licensed acupuncturist, or L.Ac., is trained to look at your chronic pain from a holistic perspective and treat it with acupuncture, dietary changes and lifestyle recommendations. According to TCM, acupuncture regulates the flow of Qi, or the functionality of the body, through the meridians. Think of meridians as similar to blood vessels — an established pathway carrying a substance.

In an Archives of Internal Medicine study in 2012, pain was reduced by 50 percent or more in severity by 50 percent of the research participants. This is compared to only 30 percent of the participants in the conventional treatment group.

Osteopathic Manual Treatment (OMT)

A 2013 study in the Annals of Family Medicine found that 63 percent of patients with chronic low-back pain who underwent six sessions of OMT over eight weeks saw a 30 percent or greater reduction in discomfort, decreasing their need for painkillers.

According to Alameda Osteopath, Celina Trevino, osteopathy works by "normalizing the tissues of the body, including: fascia, muscles, nerves, organs and even the brain with the ultimate goal of improving joint movement resulting in increased blood flow, lymphatic drainage and nerve function."

Physical Therapy

Restoring proper movement to the body is a challenge for people with chronic pain. Our instinct is to avoid a painful motion for fear of futher injuring the area. Movement is imperative to maintain proper blood flow and lymphatic drainage. Physical therapists are trained to guide clients in the proper movements to restore mobility while preventing reinjury.

One study found that 79 percent of sciatica patients who did physical therapy in addition to receiving routine treatment and medication from a doctor reported complete recovery or significant improvement after a year. This is compared to 56 percent of patients who did not receive physical therapy.

Chiropractic

In 2000, the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that "patients with chronic low-back pain treated by chiropractors showed greater improvement and satisfaction at one month than patients treated by family physicians. Satisfaction scores were higher for chiropractic patients. A higher proportion of chiropractic patients (56 percent vs. 13 percent) reported that their low-back pain was better or much better, whereas nearly one-third of medical patients reported their low-back pain was worse or much worse.

"Injured tissues undergo physical and chemical changes that can cause inflammation, pain and diminished function for the sufferer," states the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. "Manipulation, or adjustment of the affected joint and tissues, restores mobility, thereby alleviating pain and muscle tightness, and allowing tissues to heal."

Tracy Zollinger is a licensed acupuncturist who practices in Alameda. She also provides advice on herbs and nutrition. Find out more by calling 299-0057 or visiting www.
tracyzollinger.com.