Complementary care means that a non-medical approach is taken in addition to any medical treatment
Complementary approaches to ease your aches and pains
Article Review: American Society of Nephrology.
Pain is a widespread problem in our society. In any two-week stretch more than half of adult Americans experience significant aches and pains.
If your approach is limited to drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and Tylenol, you run risks of the negative consequences of taking a medication and not dealing with causes. Drugs aren’t the only way to deal with pain.
Here are some alternatives. If you do try them, be sure to keep your doctor informed about any herbs or supplements that you take. Combinations of certain herbs and drugs can be health threatening, which is why you should keep your doctor in the know.
Four different approaches that might work for you:
Exercise may sound like a bad idea, but a UCLA study of people with lower-back pain discovered that those who were active were 30% less likely to experience an increase in pain and disability than those who were inactive. People who fared the best did moderate types of exercise such as walking and swimming.
Devils claw is an African herb with a long history of medical research. Recent studies have shown that it can ease chronic lower-back pain for many. Take it 3 times a day in 600 to 1,200 mg doses. It’s available at many health food stores.
A heating pad can reduce the intensity of back pain by as much as 50%. A Johns Hopkins U study found that putting on a portable heat wrap 8 hours a day for 3 days worked for most of their participants for up to two weeks. Researches used the ThermaCare Lower Back Heat Wrap ($7.50).
Vitamin D Among 360 chronic back pain patients, symptoms improved in 95% of those who took a high dose of vitamin D daily for 3 months. If you take a supplement, you want D3 (not D2) and 2,000 mg a day is a decent dose.
An immune system malfunction triggers eczema’s dry, itchy rashes as white blood cells release substances that attack skin cells. Corticosteroids can quell the white blood cells’ reaction, but they may also irritate skin and, if used long-term, even cause bone loss.
An alternative approach is B12 cream. In a German study 60% of the B12 cream users relieved symptoms. Researchers say topical vitamin B12 inhibits the faulty immune response. The cream was not available in the US at time of publication. You can ask a compounding pharmacist to mix up a cream at 0.07% strength. Visit www.iacprx.org a site for the International Assn for Compounding Pharmacists to find one.
Visualization, also known as guided imagery, can help keep headaches at bay. A therapist can lead you through the technique, or you can try it at home. About 20% of those who listened to guided imagery tapes 20 minutes a day reported their aches were much better.
Close your eyes and picture pleasant, tension-reducing images such as ocean waves, or visualize your pain as an object you can manipulate and banish from your body. These are sample images that can work.
Since the 17th century, healers have treated migraines with the herb butterbur. When a test group of migraine sufferers took 75 mg of butterbur or a placebo twice a day for 4 months, the herb takers had migraines about half as often. Butterbur contains compounds that prevent blood vessel inflammation, a possible migraine trigger.
If your migraines subside after 3 months taking the herb, you can discontinue use, though you may need to restart treatment if the headaches return. To purchase the remedy used in the study – Petadolex Butterbur Gelcaps, go to www.migraineaid.com.
Typical causes for a strained neck are spinal muscles overtaxed by heavy lifting, sleeping in an uncomfortable position, or hunching over a desk for a long period of time. The best long-term solution is to discover the cause and avoid the pain inducing behavior. In the meantime, your neck hurts.
A nonsteroidal anti-inflammation drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen or aspirin can reduce painful inflammation, but new research shows that omega-3 fatty acids, the “healthy” fat found in fish, work just as well.
Omega-3 fatty acids impede the production of chemical messengers called prostaglandins; these trigger pain and swelling. Take 1,000 to 1,200 mg a day as a soft gel for a month or two get relief. Fish oils also break up blood platelets, so avoid this treatment if you’re on blood thinning medication.
A recent study indicated that a combination of licorice root and slippery elm bark calms sore throats by protectively coating irritated membranes. They can be purchased in powdered form at a health food store and made into a tea. The study showed that those who downed the brew had 48% less pain than a placebo group.
Throat Coat, the tea used in the study, is available online and in health food stores. Warning: some people are sensitive to the herbs in the mix; if you have allergies or high blood pressure, check with your doc before steeping a mug full.
Acupuncture works for some. When May Clinic researches gave 22 people with persistent tennis elbow four treatments with needles, 80% got complete and long-lasting relief. Another 10% reported improvement. According to study author Peter Dorsher, MD, “These patients had suffered for more than a year and had tried drugs, cortisone injections, wearing a brace, and even surgery. Acupuncture was the first intervention that worked for most of them.”
Whether you are suffering from an inflamed tendon or carpal tunnel syndrome (caused by swelling of the tissue around the medical nerve which runs from your hand to forearm) restricting the motion of your wrist could be the answer.
Try a splint that prevents your wrist from bending while you sleep. Choose a rigid one that keeps your hand in line with your forearm. You can find one at a pharmacy for about $15. Wear it while sleeping every night for about 6 weeks or until the pain subsides.
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