chronic pain

  • Pain’s Secret Message: Why Prince Didn’t Need To Die

    Pain’s Secret Message: Why Prince Didn’t Need To Die Jacob Teitelbaum MD TotalHealth magazine

    As he did so often in life, Prince is once again offering us the opportunity to heal a problem that desperately needs to be fixed. It is suspected that he is one of the 15,000 Americans who die each year from an overdose of prescribed narcotics. Having severe hip pain, which did not go away with hip replacement surgery, he required the narcotic Percocet for pain relief. Although it helped, it did not do so enough. He was simply one of the 33 percent of Americans who suffer needlessly with pain. Why do I say needlessly? Because despite modern medicine having many incredible strengths, it is horrible at treating pain. As physicians, we are taught how to treat the kind of emergencies that come to hospitals. This occurs, simply, because this is where we are trained. Heart attacks? Hot appendix? We're right on top of it.

    But except for using a few medications to mask the pain, or narcotics for cancer pain, as physicians our training in pain management is woefully inadequate. I discovered this first hand when I came down with fibromyalgia in medical school. It forced me to drop out of school and left me homeless for almost a year. It also forced me to learn the basics of pain management on my own, while experiencing what it was like to be on the other side of the white coat.

    Nowadays, people with pain, and the physicians who treat them, face a Sophie's choice: suffer with pain or use potentially addictive narcotics. Sadly, the new government "war" is pressuring pharmacists and doctors to treat people in pain as if they were drug addicts, while threatening doctors with being arrested if they even appropriately prescribe the needed pain medications. Fortunately, there is a "door number three" to choose from.

    Unlike infections, pain is not an outside enemy. Rather, like the oil light on our car's dashboard, it is part of our body's monitoring system that tells us when something needs attention. Different kinds of pain tell us different things. To extend the analogy, medicine treats the flashing oil light by either putting a Band-Aid over it, or by trying to disable the flashing red light. We never even think about simply putting oil in the car. Which is the safest and best way to make the annoying flashing light go out.

    Looking at Prince's case, it was likely that the hip replacement did not work because it did not address the real underlying problem. Studies and clinical experience have shown that what we see on the x-rays very often have little to do with what is actually causing the pain. For example, many marathon runners, with absolutely no pain at all, will have hip x-rays that likely looked worse than Prince's.

    Often, the actual cause of the hip pain comes from the muscles and ligaments surrounding the hip. By simply treating these, the pain could've gone away: without the need for surgery or narcotics. Sadly, most physicians are simply not trained in doing an exam for muscle (or myofascial) pain. Despite causing the majority of pain in this country, muscle pain does not even cross their mind in most cases.

    My experience with fibromyalgia, which begins as widespread muscle pain before morphing into other kinds of pain, helped me learn how to diagnose and treat tight muscles. Muscles are like a spring. They take more energy to relax than to contract. This is why after a hard workout you come home and say, "Honey, my muscles are so tight," instead of complaining how loose and limp they are.

    The brilliant work by the late Prof. Janet Travell, the godmother of pain management and the White House physician for presidents Kennedy and Johnson, taught us the importance of treating the underlying causes of our muscle's energy crisis. This included treating the structural issues by releasing the tight muscles, as is done in many forms of bodywork including chiropractic and osteopathic manipulation. In addition, it is necessary to treat the underlying biochemistry to restore adequate energy in the muscles. Our published research showed that by treating with what we call the "SHINE Protocol," optimizing Sleep, Hormones, Infections, Nutrition, and Exercise as able, 91 percent of people with fibromyalgia pain improve, usually dramatically. Dr. Travell found that treating these same issues often helped dramatically with muscle pain in general.

    Similarly, research has shown that treating the root causes can also be very effective for migraines, arthritis, and a host of other chronic pains.

    A problem? These treatments are generally very inexpensive, so that the research done on them does not get much attention. But they do offer the possibility of treating chronic pain very effectively and safely.

    Prince's death is a tragic loss. Yet, it also provides us with a powerful opportunity. A fitting tribute to Prince? It's time to apply the extensive but ignored research on treating the root causes of pain. This can prevent tens of thousands of needless deaths, and eliminate the unnecessary suffering of millions.

  • Reduce Inflammation Naturally with Nature's Pac Man

    Have you ever had a sore throat, been stung by a bee, or twisted your ankle? Do you have arthritis, back pain or headaches? Whenever you are in pain, even post-surgical pain, your body makes compounds in response to the injury which cause temporary redness, heat, swelling, and pain. Then naturally produced enzymes in your body eat up these inflammatory compounds, and that is when you notice the swelling goes down, the pain is relieved and the redness or stiffness recedes.

    One second ago, an enzyme in your body called superoxide dismutase (SOD) just chased out a cancer-causing toxin that your cell accidentally spawned. You make all sorts of enzymes, and what's cool is that you can also buy certain enzymes as a dietary supplement, including SOD. Lactose is an enzyme that chews up milk sugars, helping some people to tolerate milk. Bromelain, derived from pineapples, helps with allergies and helps people post-surgically. It might even reduce scarring if taken soon enough. People who take acid blockers could benefit from papain, an enzyme derived from papaya fruit that works nicely with your stomach's pH range.

    Proteolytic enzymes another type of enzyme. They chew up proteins and help with digestion. I think they're great for chronic pain syndromes. They help dissolve fibrin deposits which helps bruising. As a teenager (way back in the 1980's) we played a game called Pac Man. Remember?(Please tell me you remember). This popular arcade game included a Pac-Man which traveled a maze and gobbled up ghosts. I was a monster at Pac-Man in my hey day! Proteolytic enzymes work in the same way, they just gobble up debris, as opposed to ghosts.

    With less debris, there is improved circulation. That means more oxygen and healing nutrients to the site of injury. As a pharmacist, I recommend you reach for proteolytic enzymes before you NSAIDs such as acetaminophen, naproxen or ibuprofen. Why? Because they are temporary and they have side effects. It's the equivalent of applying a bandage, and while most of you fair out well, the unlucky few experience diarrhea, nausea, headaches, dizziness, bleeding ulcers or heaven forbid, kidney damage. Besides, if you mask your pain with medicine, but continue to operate as normal, you increase your risk of permanent damage.

    A German paper studied proteolytic enzymes in 100 athletes. The results were shocking. More than 75 percent said the enzyme treatment was favorable and no side effects were reported! So incredible were the results that the German government sent millions of enzyme capsules to the Olympics to help their athletes heal quicker.

    Enzymes are a necessity to life, just like oxygen, food, clean water and shelter. (Some may argue that chocolate should be included as well).

    For chronic pain syndromes, as opposed to digestive issues, I recommend that you take your proteolytic enzyme supplement on an empty stomach. This increases the 'Pac-Man' effect by up to 40 percent. While these supplements are generally well-tolerated, I occasionally hear of allergies, rashes and digestive upset.

  • Taking The Mystery Out of Chronic Pain

    Taking The Mystery Out of Chronic Pain Ann Louise Gittleman TotalHealth magazine

    We have all been there, I'm sure—intractable pain that cannot be resolved with the usual alternative therapies. I am intimately familiar with mysterious pain, which is not biochemical in origin, but rather structural or mechanical, to be exact. After consulting with numerous chiropractors, osteopaths, acupuncturists, and massage therapists, I underwent a series of MRIs which showed nothing that could account for the stinging/burning/strangling/and pins and needle sensations up and down my right leg, which seemed to appear out of the blue.