Alternative Medicine and Pain Management – Part 2

Pain is a long-standing problem of epidemic proportions in our world .Millions are living with pain that affects their participation in daily activities. Chronic pain negatively impacts all aspects of an individual’s life including emotional, vocational, financial and social elements Treatments most often prescribed by physicians include pain medicines—narcotic and non-narcotic, physical therapy, and surgery. In spite of advanced technology in medicine, very often there is little help especially for chronic pain sufferers.

Acute vs. Chronic Pain

Pain can be described according to its cause (malignant or non-cancer), physiologic description (neuropathic, visceral, or somatic), and/or temporality (acute or chronic). Acute pain is described as pain that usually has an identifiable pathology and predictable prognosis. Examples of acute pain are a sprained ankle or ear infection. These types of pain usually resolve once treated and healed. Chronic pain, on the other hand, is generally of unclear pathology and unpredictable prognosis, and can be caused by countless diseases, emotional factors, syndromes, injuries, or surgeries.

Shortcomings of Conventional Treatment of Chronic Pain

While more than 80% of all physician visits are for chronic pain, the majority of health care providers have little or no training specific to pain management. Pain costs the nation an estimated $100 billion annually in medical claims, disability payments and lost productivity. Practitioners and even patients still view pain as something they must learn to live with.

Benefits of Alternative Therapies in the Treatment of Chronic Pain

Patients have sought out non-conventional treatments when conventional medicine failed, and the recent attention on improving the relief of pain has placed an even greater emphasis on alternative and complementary modalities in the field of pain medicine. Today the approach most pain management programs embrace is to respect pain, treat it intensively, address the patient’s psyche, and to adopt an integrative multidisciplinary approach, incorporating education, medications, physical therapies, relaxation techniques, psychosocial counseling, surgical procedures (if necessary), injection techniques, and various alternative medicine modalities.

How would we approach a case of chronic pain in general?

First we have to find out the underlying cause of the pain. I mean a diagnosis like fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis. Although it is necessary to know the official diagnosis, it does not help much in finding the right treatment. Each person is different so even if is the same diagnosis, the cause of the condition might be totally different. More important is to focus on the question of why the person does not heal, why the pain continues, why have the self healing mechanisms not worked? It is important to explore all the circumstances and facets of the condition. In a 1 to 2 hour assessment, many questions are asked (some are the same as when you see a regular doctor, some are different), for example, is there a causative factor (illness, accident, emotional trauma ),  where is the pain exactly, does it radiate, when did the pain start, what positions or situations make it worse or better, laying down, resting or moving, is there a difference between daytime and night time, weather conditions (thunderstorm, humidity, heat, rain), does certain food have an effect, what is the quality of pain (burning, pinching, stabbing, pulsating, soreness)? Also we have to check out carefully if there might be a secondary gain or unconscious benefit from having this pain (getting attention, financial support etc.)

What does the physical examination tell us (swelling, congestion, edemas, color of the skin,  poor or good circulation, temperature hot or cold, hardness or tightness, posture of the spine, balance while walking etc.? What treatments and pain medications did the person have before? What were the results? Especially in long lasting chronic pain conditions, we have to focus on emotional factors, life circumstances, personality types and characters. .

In my more than 40 years of medical experience I observed, that  the more severe and chronic the condition of a person the more underlying factors have to be taken account. Frequently we see that chronic pain begins after a traumatic situation, like losing a partner or a child, or unhappiness in relationships without seeing hope for a solution, when a person has “given up”, suppressed anger, loneliness, chronic worrying  – the list is long….! Some people identify themselves with their painful condition and they talk about their pain – over and over. Medication will never help!

They need a totally different approach. 

Bringing consciousness into their life through psychological support, spirituality etc. (see Eckhard Tolle’s book: “The New Earth” about the pain body)

The intake interview makes it possible to “see” behind the presented situation and to develop an understanding for the person and why the self regulatory healing mechanisms are not working properly.

This “understanding the case” helps us to choose among the variety of alternative treatments and healing methods the best choices that are adequate and effective in the short and/or long term.

Generally in all pain conditions there is fear (of not getting better) and blocked energy involved. This is what we have to know and what has to be addressed first.

Underestimated in our regular “10min. medicine” is the importance of emotional support by “giving time” to the person (listening, showing respect and empathy). This sounds so simple but it can be the first step to improvement.

A recent study in Germany done with arthritic patients showed that a weekly regular call from the doctors assistant asking how the person feels, how the medication works etc. led to a significant reduction of pain medication and greater well being and fewer doctor visits). Important in this regard is also to give the person logical and understandable explanations for his condition and how the alternative treatment works. A treatment concept that includes possible duration and costs should then be discussed with the patient (and maybe even with relatives).

For a successful healing, it is necessary that the person becomes actively involved in the healing process. That means it has to be accepted; that just taking medication (either chemically or naturally) will not do the job. Some therapies can be received passively like, reiki, touch for health, herbal and homeopathic remedies, acupuncture, hypnosis and sound therapy. Other therapies require the patient’s active participation. Meditation, hydro (water) therapy, physiotherapy or psychotherapy, qi gong (similar to tai chi, but easier to learn), yoga, or – if possible – some other active forms of exercises, swimming etc.

Basically it is necessary to re-balance the system, to harmonize the disturbed energetic field so that the body does not have to send out these signals anymore.

In the next issue I will discuss specific approaches to pain.

For more information about the Health Coach please contact me:

Barbara Rotthaler, German licensed Naturopath and Health Practitioner
01 (376) 766 1987

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