Pain is often misunderstood. It can be difficult to relieve pain if you aren't familiar with how pain works in the body. For most of us, pain is pain. We know how it feels. We just want to be rid of it. To get rid of stubborn pain, you first need to be aware of where it is coming from. This isn't as simple as you might think. Pain in your head may not be coming from inside your head even though it feels that way. Pain radiating down your leg may be caused by a pinched nerve in your lower back and pain in your gut may actually stem from uncomfortable emotions.
Describing the pain cycle could get extremely technical, involving words like axons, dendrites, synapses, neurotransmitters, A-Delta neurons and C sensory neurons, but I think it is enough just to understand the simple basics of how pain is transmitted in the body. Let's say, your finger gets burned. The pain impulse (the electrical signal from the nerves involved) rushes right through the nerve's cell body and heads for the spinal cord. Why the spinal cord? The spinal cord is the highway that electrical impulses use to communicate to and from the brain about what hurts, where it hurts and how much it hurts. Your brain receives these messages and relays the information to your thalamus, a part of your brain that has regions assigned to different sensory systems. A message is sent to one or more of these regions and back to your finger about your burn, whether it stings just a little or a whole lot. Whenever you experience any kind of pain this relay race is taking place.
When afflicted with seemingly endless pain, fear often becomes a component. Not knowing how to control pain, or knowing when it will end, can raise your level of fear and apprehension, which, in turn, can cause a tremendous amount of stress, which generates more pain. In fact, fear may also be what caused the pain in the first place. For most of us pain is scary, to say the least.
Pain can hinder communication in relationships, due to fear of rejection or discomfort. It is not always easy to voice pain concerns and fears to a partner and if a partner is not compassionate or understanding it leads to more stress, which causes more pain. Pain can also lead to reduced productivity on the job, which can cause employment issues.
Furthermore, chronic pain causes stress hormones to be produced at higher levels in the body. This creates a disturbance that actually weakens your immune system and furthers the chances of experiencing even more pain.
Normally, the brain diverts symptoms of pain so that we can get on with our lives. When the pain 'shut off' mechanism is faulty symptoms of pain are more pronounced. Subsequently, the cycle of stress and pain can become a vicious cycle.
Although the following information primarily provides information regarding head, neck and shoulder and back pain it also applies to pain occurring in any and every part of your body.
How Is Chronic Pain Diagnosed?
Fractures, infections, cancer, severe disk damage, arthritis, stenosis, dehydration, tumors and herniation are diagnosed through imaging with MRI, X-Ray, CT Scans, electrical shock and needle test, and blood tests. Through these tests, as well as through verbal description and gauging pain levels, doctors can determine whether your pain is chronic or acute.
Who is Likely to Suffer from Chronic Pain?
Those who have accumulated a high degree of tension caused from life events that lead to negative emotions, such a rage, anger, sadness, anxiety.
Those who have a poor stress response to stresses and strains of everyday life.
Those who have been abused or suffered terrible experiences in childhood.
Those who have witnessed traumatic events, especially the taking of lives.
Those whose personality traits demand too much from themselves, such as perfectionist, highly sensitive, self-sacrificing or people pleasing personalities. These pressures are self-imposed. Any of these can cause a sea of negative emotions, especially of fear and rage. Fear of being overwhelmed by any of these personality types can cause your brain to create a distraction by reducing blood flow to certain body parts, which causes pain. This can be a cause of pain in individuals that have been told they have no anatomical reason for their pain. Lack of oxygen and increased toxins result in muscle pain and tension, even spasm.
Those who are physically unfit from living a sedentary lifestyle experience more pain. When muscles are out of shape they cannot support the frame of the body. This causes physical stress and pain.
Pain that has no diagnosed physical cause is termed psychogenic and it can, indeed, make one feel like one are crazy, even though one is not.
When All of Your Tests Say Nothing Wrong With You, But You Are Still in Pain
There may come a time in your life when you will have to stop looking for an illness to be causing your symptoms. When lab tests continue to reveal nothing and you are handed a bill of health time after time, even though you feel like dying, you may have to accept that your symptoms are emotionally based.
Emotion based syndromes do not mean that you are crazy or that it's 'all in your head'. It means that your emotions are manifesting themselves physically. Many folks report much of their pain, if not all, simply disappeared once they realized it was being caused by emotions or just the fear that something was wrong with them physically (again, emotions).
Painful memories, even memories from the distant past, can live in your brain's Limbic system long after your body tissues have healed and memories are put away. Working on eliminating those things in life that cause you excess or undue emotional stress and focusing on things you enjoy become a high priority when it comes to managing and erasing chronic pain.
Symptoms of Chronic Pain
An aching, stabbing, sticking, pulling, shooting, burning, throbbing, aching, or stinging sensation that lasts for more than a day or two (or keeps returning) and is not relieved, or at least not for very long, by ordinary methods, such as pain relievers, ice, heat, or rest.
Overlapping symptoms of chronic pain may include blurry vision (usually in one eye), feeling light-headed, having balance problems, dizziness, muscle tension and ache in other areas of the body, cluster or migraine headache, nausea, sleep disturbances, lack of confidence and poor self-worth, which can lead to anxiety and depression.
Common Types of Pain
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Myofascial Pain Synrome
Tension Mysositis Syndrome
Arthritis (or arthritic type disorders)
Skeletal/muscular abnormalities or Injuries
Carpel Tunnel Syndrome
Spinal cord narrowing or nerve root compression
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (previously known as RSD: Reflex Sympathy Dystrophy)
Migraine and tension Headache
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
TMJ (Temporomandibular Disorder of the jaw)
Common Causes of Pain
Multiple Chemical Sensitivities
Emotional Stress (repressed, suppressed or ongoing negative emotions) leading to Hypoxia (low oxygen, specifically in muscles)
Anxiety & Depression
Low Pressure Pain Threshold
Poor Self-Accessed Health (feel you are in poor health even though you are not, which causes stress.)
Weight Gain & Obesity (including Normal Weight Obesity)
High Levels of Substance 'P'
Metabolic Disorder. Insulin Resistance & Diabetes
Anything that causes us too much emotional or physical pressure.
Chronic Pain Associations (in General)
Spiritual or Psychological cause for chronic Pain in General: Feeling pressured, held back or oppressed in some area of life.
Psychological/Spiritual/Emotional Causes of Physical Pain for Certain Conditions, Generally Speaking:
Headaches - Fear and negative self-talk.
Migraines - Feeling rushed, driven by life. Sexual frustration.
Neck pain - Stubbornly holding on.
Upper-back pain - Lack of emotional support, withholding of love (either of yours or theirs.)
Lower back pain - Lack of support financially, fear over money issues, self-punishment.
Mid-back pain - Guilt and living in the past.
Stomach Pain - Feeling you have no control.
Genital/Vaginal Pain - Emotional resistance.
Foot Pain - Unable to stand up for yourself.
Rheumatoid arthritis - Feeling burdened, dumped on, squeezed by demands.
Arthritis in the fingers - Feeling victimized, unloved, without a support network in life. These feelings can lead to critical thinking and wanting to point blame.
Osteoporosis - For some reason there isn't enough mental flexibility. Refusal to learn life's lessons or grow in positive ways.
Associated Chakras: 2nd and 4th (the upper and mid-back), 3rd (overall body ache and pain), 6th (headache) chakras
Associated Temperaments: The Choleric, Phlegmatic, Sanguine Temperaments, with The Melancholic Temperament experiencing the least amount of chronic pain (usually represented as headaches or lower back and leg pain). This could be because the Melancholic personality tends to ignore pain more than the other personalities or because the other personalities are a bit more emotional and stressed emotions can cause pain.
Associated Energy Meridians: Stomach (neck), Heart (mid-back), Urinary/Bladder (lower back), and Gallbladder/Liver (muscle) meridians.
Hypoglycemia, Stress, Tension, High Blood Pressure, Food Allergies, Misalignment of the Spine, as well as regular use of Tylonol and other NSAIDS (pain-relieving drugs). Myofascial pian, deferred pain from another part of the body (neck, shoulders or back), can be experienced as headache pain, even a migraine. For tension headaches, see remedies under Tension Myositis Syndrome below.
Neck/Shoulder Pain & Severe Tension Headache
A neckache is felt at the base of the neck, behind the eye sockets and in the shoulder muscles. Neck aches can be caused by poor posture, long periods of sitting, chronic stress (especially emotional) and past trauma.
True headache pain is in the temple or forehead. It may be caused by changes in hormones, diet or dehydration. It may also be caused by tight muscles in the neck, back and/or shoulders.
The pain in your head or neck may also be coming from your back or shoulders. To test this theory, feel along the ridge of your shoulder muscle from your neck to your shoulder. Are there any tight, painful spots? How about along-side your spine about mid-back? Yes? There's your neck ache.
When the neck, back or shoulders are the cause of the pain in your head it is actually referred pain, which means pain signals are being sent somewhere else. It's a kind of a distraction. Getting more sleep, reducing mental stress (through meditation or hypnosis), Trigger Point Therapy, Physical Therapy, dealing with emotions through journaling, counseling, and acupuncture can help to relieve physical pain.
Continuous neck and arm movement for more than an hour each day causes pain, especially when working with arms extended above the shoulders. This causes stress, frequent headaches and fatigue.
Sitting 95% of the time at work causes muscle stiffness. If you are sitting 75% of the time at work, this is OK, but if you go from a mobile job position to a sitting one, this can also cause problems.
Having your neck extended more than not will cause abnormal wear and tear to the cervical (neck) spine.
Employees who have lower ability to use skills and abilities, receive less co-worker support, have low job security and little job satisfaction experience more pain.
As a female, if you feel your work-load is too extreme, you will experience musculo-skeletal pain in your neck. Men are better at handling this type of stress, ladies. You will also experience pain if your work-load goes up and you have no social support on the job.
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (previously known as Reflex Sympathy Syndrome)
CRPS is another syndrome that doctors have a hard time treating. They don't know what causes it. This syndrome begins with significant damage to a hand or a foot. It sometimes begins with the wearing of a cast and may be called 'Cast Disease'. In 5% of patients, the pain continues long after the injury has healed.
CRPS is characterized by pain that radiates from the site of the injury, such as the foot, to the leg and hip. In the case of an injured hand, the pain can radiate to the arm or the entire trunk of the body.
Skin color changes to blue or red, the skin feels hotter to the touch at first and then colder as the syndrome progresses and becomes chronic.
The immune system shifts into overdrive as indicated by markers in the blood.
Dramatic improvements are possible, but it is thought, in general, that if the condition is not gone within 18 months that it will become a lifetime condition.
It was recently reported that the brains of those with CRPS show changes in the white matter of the brain, specifically the fibers that deliver messages between neurons. Their brains also showed an atrophy of the neurons in the gray matter of the brain as well, which is consistent with those who suffer from chronic pain. The study's investigator is Vania Apkarian, a professor of physiology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
Medical treatments involve physical therapy, sympathetic nerve blockers, electrical impulses, biofeedback, diet and nutrition and spinal cord stimulation.
Most folks believe arthritis is caused by wear and tear of the joint. Sort of true. But when joint cartilage is stressed or hurt, what really makes it arthritic and painful are certain chemicals in the body triggered by the inflammatory response. Your joint fills with fluid to provide extra lubrication, which contains acid-like chemicals that are meant to dissolve any tiny bone fragments that might exist from injury to bone. If these chemicals are not turned off the inflammatory response continues and the chemicals begin to eat away healthy bone and cartilage. These chemicals can also burn nerve endings, which causes the pain experienced in your joints. Foods that can turn off this chemical response, putting a stop to pain and further joint damage. See under Old World Remedies for Chronic Pain below. Foods that aggravate arthritic conditions are tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and peppers (nightshades).
Gout is an extremely painful condition where uric acid levels become elevated in the body, crystalize, and collect in one or more joints, such as the big toe, feet, ankles, wrists, knees or elbows. Uric acid is a chemical created when certain foods containing purines are broken down in the body. The crystals cause an inflammation response in the body and when white blood cells rush in to rescue the area of inflammation they are prickled on the crystals, which causes even more inflammation, swelling and pain. Gout can come on suddenly and usually lasts for 5-7 days.
Some foods, beverages and substances contributing toward gout are sodas and carbonated beverages in general, alcohol, beer, caffeine, fish, shrimp, liver, fried food, beef, duck, peaches, beans, apples and ice cream.
The herb, Nettle, help to flush uric acid from your system, thereby relieving pain. Nettle is an excellent source of calcium, which helps to balance pH. Stinging Nettle can be taken as a tea.
Tension Myositis Syndrome
Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS) refers to pain caused by emotion. Myofasciitis is a term used to describe pain the network of muscles, tendons, ligaments and connective tissue, which are tissues that hold the body together.
Tension Myositis Syndrome is pain caused by emotions. If you notice a relationship between your pain and your emotions or stress, or have a flare up of pain right before or after a stressful situation, you may have TMS.
Is you are a perfectionist, driven, self-critical, or people pleasing or you avoid confrontation by being as helpful or as accommodating as possible you may be prone to TMS.
If you doctor has given you thorough evaluation and found nothing wrong with you, but you still experience pain, you may have TMS.
If you have a history of tension headaches, heart-burn, indigestion, dizziness, migraines, carpel tunnel syndrome or repetitive strain injury, hives or rashes, cold hands, teeth clenching (or grinding) or Tinnitus that has not been found to be related to neurological disease you may have TMS.
If your pain persists, even with conventional therapies and treatments, you may have TMS.
The TMS Questionnaire can be found at http://mindbodymedicine.com/. A score of 12 or higher implies a very good possibility that the pain you experience is actually caused by Tension Myositis Syndrome. The good news? You can become completely pain free by acknowledging your emotions.
Myofascial Pain Syndrome
Myofascial Pain Syndrome is the leading cause of pain. It is caused by knotted muscles and develops in stages.
Stage 1: Unacceptable emotions, which are often suppressed in order to get on with life and not fall apart.
Stage 2: Physiological changes as a result of the emotional stress, whether you feel stressed or not.
Stage 3: Physical symptoms, such as headache, muscle ache, nerve pain or digestive complaints.
Stage 4: Full blown syndrome, such as Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, Arthritis or Irritable Bowel.
All of the above stages (1-4) relate to Tension Myositis Syndrome (pain caused by emotion).
By the time you arrive at Stage 3, muscles, nerves and joints have become used to firing signals to your spine, which sends messages to the brain that are interpreted as pain. Your muscles, have developed what are called trigger points (neuromyofascial pain), which are tight knots and bands of muscle and nerve, painful in and by themselves, which also send pain messages to different parts of your body. For example, you have a trigger spot (myofascial pain) in your shoulder, but you have a terrible headache. It is in Stage 3 that Myofascial Pain Syndrome sets in. Stage 3 may develop into autoimmune disease if it lasts longer than 3 months.
By the time you reach Stage 4, you have several of these neuromyofascial spots, or trigger points, bothering you at the same time, which has now become a full fledged syndrome, causing many, many symptoms.
For self-help, the best book you can buy is The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief, by Clair Davies, N.C.T.M.B.
Natural Old World Remedies for Migraine & Headache
The vitamin, Riboflavin (400 mg each day), but ask your doctor first before using this remedy.
The herb, Feverfew, may help to reduce the frequency of attacks of migraine headache, but studies are mixed on actual results. Feverfew may also cause mouth and tongue irritations, including canker sores, in sensitive individuals.
The herb, White Willow Bark, contains salicylates, which is what Aspirin is made of, and works to relieve all types of pain. However, do not take White Willow Bark if you are allergic to Aspirin, have any type of stomach disorder, such as ulcers or bleeding concerns or are on medication. NEVER give White Willow Bark to a child under the age of 19 when they have a virus or a fever. It could bring on Reye's Syndrome.
Avoid pain causing trigger foods (seeNatural Old World Remedies for General Chronic Pain below).
Have your blood pressure checked. High blood pressure causes instant headaches in some folks. Drug stores usually have a blood pressure monitor you can freely use to check your blood pressure reading.
Exercise those muscles that are so tense they are giving you a headache. Often, getting your blood pumping and stretching tense muscles is just the thing to relieve a headache, even hangovers.
Take Magnesium (500-1000 mg per day) or eat foods containing magnesium, such as garbanzo beans. They contain high amounts of Magnesium, which relax tight, painful muscles and Tryptophan, the amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin (a natural 'feel good' chemical in the gut and brain) and soothes anxiety. Garbanzo beans also contain Molybdenum, a mineral that helps cleanse the body of headache causing sulfites (food preservatives). See Supplements for more Magnesium rich foods to choose from.
Natural Old World Remedies for General Chronic Pain
Avoid eating these foods o n a regular basis. Milk (lactose), eggs, peanuts (also a herpes trigger), gluten (found in wheat and other grains), walnuts, cashews, fish, shellfish, soybeans, chocolate, aged cheese, red wine, high fructose corn syrup, hot dogs, bologna, pepperoni, salami, summer sausage, chicken livers, caffeinated beverages, figs, raisins, papaya, avocados, red plums, herring, dried beans, anything pickled or marinated, sourdough breads or crackers, any more than a half cup each day of citrus fruit, sour cream, and any more than half a banana each day. Avoid an abundance of red meat. You may not have a problem with all of these foods. Your pain triggers are likely to be the foods or beverage you consume on a near daily basis or at least each week.
Olive oil works as well as Ibuprofen for inflammation. Take 2 Tablespoons each day.
Turmeric is an immune boosting herb helps with rheumatoid type pain as it is an anti-inflammatory, It also helps to balance pH by purifying the blood and destroying harmful bacteria. The active ingredient in Turmeric is Curcumin. Take as directed on the label.
Note: Do not use Turmeric if you have gallstones, have blood-clotting issues, are trying to conceive or have fertility problems or are pregnant. If you are elderly take the lowest dose possible.
Adding 1/2 Cup Cilantro to your diet every day for the next 4 weeks can help to remove toxic metals, which may be a cause of Fibromyalgia-like symptoms.
Remove each pain causing trigger food for a period of two weeks. You can go cold turkey by removing all them at once or try removing them one at a time. Then, begin adding them back into your diet one at a time (just one food or one beverage every 3 days) and watch for symptoms. It can take up to 48-72 hours for a sensitive reaction. For example, when allergic to chocolate, many people say they experience a rapid heart rate rather immediately and get a headache the next day. Check your heart rate within 10 minutes of eating a suspected trigger food.
Drink enough pure water every day to avoid becoming dehydrated. Not enough water in the body can cause pain and stiffness in joints and cause headache and body pain.
If you suffer from arthritis or osteoporosis, do eat pecans, blueberries, cherries, spinach and other greens, such as kale (half protein!), walnuts, plain, organic yogurt, and drink Green tea, such as Sencha, which has much less caffeine than other green teas. These foods neutralize the acid-like activity that cause inflammation.
Calcium and magnesium are important as well, but must be taken together for either to work properly or eat seaweed, which is packed with minerals.
For pain management, include raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, apples, tart cherries, blueberries, pumpkin and ground flax seeds, walnuts, leafy and cruciferous greens, onions, garlic, white meat, fish or fish oil, hemp oil, ginger, turmeric, and parsley in your diet as long as you know they are not pain triggers for you.
For Gout, drink unsweetened cherry juice, eat strawberries and use celery seed in meals and shakes (ground seeds). Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory and may be helpful as well. Strawberries are a herpes trigger, so if you are a sensitive soul living with herpes you will want to avoid strawberries if you find they cause you to break out. Drink a lot of water, at least 8 glasses each day to flush out your body, which has a high concentration of uric acid. Keep your foot elevated to keep blood flow reduced and apply an ice pack for 20 minutes to the front of your ankle where it will cool the blood going to your big toe.
Arthritis Reversed (Dr. Mark Wiley) is the book I suggest this book for anyone who is suffering from any type of chronic pain, which may be causing anxiety. It’s one of the best books I have ever read on eliminating pain naturally.
Natural Old World Remedies for Tension Myositis, Myofascial Pain & Complex Regional Pain Syndromes
By eating natural, whole foods you will increase energy in your cells. Increasing oxygen reduces pain and can help to relieve painful symptoms of Tension Myositus and Myofascial Pain Syndrome. If you have trouble digesting your food see Food Sensitivity or Irritable Bowel Syndrome for more information.
Eat enough protein every day, at least 6-7 ounces. Muscles cannot repair without it. If you are vegetarian, take a full range amino acid supplement.
Take Magnesium along with Calcium and Vitamin D3. Lack of minerals, alone, can cause severe muscle ache.
Vitamin B-12 and B-6 work synergistically to repair and protect nerve sheaths. I suggest getting your B vitamins from your foods or taking a B complex.
Both, Co-Enzyme Q-10 and Ubiquinol help to produce cellular energy and support muscle recovery. these are both anti0xidants, which are found in fruits and vegetables. Pycnogenol, another antioxidant, often helps to reduce pain.
See Supplements for proper nutrient dosages, a list of foods containing the nutrients you seek, and precautions.
When to See Your Doctor
Be sure to see your doctor if you have increasing or unremitting pain, pain that disturbs your sleep on a regular basis, sudden dizziness, brown outs (nearly passing out) or fainting especially upon standing up or gazing upwards, fever, unexplained weight-loss associated with your pain experience, signs of inflammation, such as redness, warmth to the touch or infection or shooting pain in the neck or numbness. There are many tests your doctor can run (MRI, CT, X-Rays, lab tests, etc.) to rule out a mechanical problem.
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