Pain can be felt in so many ways, in so many different areas, in varying degrees and at anytime. While each person's perception of pain is different, including their tolerance to pain, their response to pain or even their perception of pain, it is still an area that requires acknowledgement and appropriate management.
Pain is still not well understood
There are many and varied causes of pain, some of which are easy to identify, others less so. Sometimes it requires investigation into what is the cause of the pain, but ultimately, pain is the body's response to damage.
Pain is often associated with the following conditions yet there may be other reasons for experiencing pain.
Exercise induced pain
Acute or chronic injury
Post cancer pain
Gastrointestinal complaints - coeliac disease, ulcerative colitis, Chron's disease, SIBO, IBD
Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis, gout
Post operative pain
For many conditions there may be no cure but that does not mean suffering needs to be endured to its full capacity.
Don't let pain be the driver
Pain medication or incising, prescribing, implanting or injecting are often the avenues that many people seek when suffering. When it comes to medications alone, it is quite common to see these treatments lose effectiveness over time, leading to further intake, higher strength prescriptions or in the case of invasive methods, more surgeries.
Unfortunately with an overwhelming increase in conventional pain medications alone, there is also an increased risk for associated complications which, may in turn, contribute to further pain concerns when used long term. These may include, but are not limited to:
Compromised gut health, altered microbiome
Gastrointestinal bleeding, ulceration
Nausea, vomiting, reflux disorders
Impaired judgement, drowsiness, altered perception
Altered mental health, mood swings
Liver and kidney conditions
What else can I do?
Ongoing research is proving there are alternatives to relying solely on prescription medications.
There is strong evidence to support the retraining of the central nervous system (CNS) to minimise pain and strengthen tolerance levels. (1) Recognising the ability of neuroplasticity pathways within the brain to be able to be 'rewired' can help develop more helpful ways of dealing with pain sensitivities.
Diet and nutrition also shows strong evidence in reducing or down regulating pain throughout the body. It is important to understand that with nutritional medicine, the best evidence has shown long term changes in diet have proven the most effective, particularly in chronic pain sufferers. (2)
Other methods that have been found useful in reducing pain include:
Heat and cold therapy
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
Transcutaneous electrical nerves stimulation (TENS)
Exercise and exercise physiology
Physical manipulation - physiotherapy, osteopathy, massage
Master your pain
Just as one conquers a fear by first - acknowledging the fear, secondly - retraining the brain to rationalise the fear and eventually - being able to master the fear, so too can one - acknowledge, rationalise and master pain. You may not be able to rid yourself of pain completely, but through considerate choices and care, you most definitely can diminish pain levels.
Putting pain back its box requires a multidisciplinary approach with yourself as the driver and a team of qualified, health professional navigators beside you to steer you in the right direction. These 'navigators' can include:
GP's and specialists of their field including neurosurgeons, oncologists, rheumatologists
Physical therapists, exercise physiologists, rehabilitation therapists, occupational therapists
Nutritionists, naturopaths or dietitians
Psychologists, counsellors, pain support groups or emotional therapists
The important thing about finding the best team to work with you, is finding the team that listens to you. This is important because pain cannot always be seen and certainly cannot be underestimated as everyone's tolerance to pain is difficult to understand, therefore, choosing the best team of navigators is essential.
How can nutrition help?
If we remember that every time we eat, we change our bodies chemistry. This is important because what we eat either increases or decreases our bodies response to inflammation.
We must also factor in the state of our gut health as this impacts the absorption of nutrients and also the manufacturing of some nutrients required for necessary body functions and the health of our microbiome. If there is compromised gastrointestinal permeability, then this will strongly impact inflammatory responses, nutrient status and autoimmune conditions which, in themselves, often contribute to pain.
Nutritional medicine can help with nutritional deficiencies so often associated with pain and further research is pinpointing just how the mechanism of action of certain foods are impacting pain receptors. Vitamin D deficiency for example can have a profound impact on rheumatoid arthritis, bone pain, muscular pain and nociceptor responses and is something that is often taken for granted by assuming optimal doses are being met adequately each day. (5)
When the body is deficient in particular nutrients, especially those essential for optimal nerve and nociceptor health, pain is often heightened and may also lead to other unpleasant sensations such as neuropathies. Neuropathies, as a word, may sound familiar as it is commonly associated with diabetic conditions. There are however, many neuropathic conditions that occur due to, or alongside deficiencies, this is why correcting the diet and nutritional intake is so essential to alleviating pain.
So when it comes to pain, it's a not a one size fits all approach, it requires careful, considered changes and surrounding yourself with a team of health professionals who can best help you manage, reduce, and in some instances, rid you of your pain.
Please feel free to contact me if you are looking for help with your pain.
Enjoy healing foods x
(1) Wälti, P., Kool, J. and Luomajoki, H. (2015). Short-term effect on pain and function of neurophysiological education and sensorimotor retraining compared to usual physiotherapy in patients with chronic or recurrent non-specific low back pain, a pilot randomized controlled trial. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 16(1).
(2) Brain, K., Burrows, T., Rollo, M., Chai, L., Clarke, E., Hayes, C., Hodson, F. and Collins, C. (2018). A systematic review and meta-analysis of nutrition interventions for chronic noncancer pain. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 32(2), pp.198-225.
(3) Hush, J., Nicholas, M. and Dean, C. (2018). Embedding the IASP pain curriculum into a 3-year pre-licensure physical therapy program. PAIN Reports, 3(2), p.e645.
(4) Crawford, C., Boyd, C., Paat, C., Meissner, K., Lentino, C., Teo, L., Berry, K. and Deuster, P. (2019). Dietary Ingredients as an Alternative Approach for Mitigating Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain: Evidence-Based Recommendations for Practice and Research in the Military. Pain Medicine.
(5) Shipton, E. and Shipton, E. (2015). Vitamin D and Pain: Vitamin D and Its Role in the Aetiology and Maintenance of Chronic Pain States and Associated Comorbidities. Pain Research and Treatment, 2015, pp.1-12.