be present and treat yourself tenderly

Posted by on Nov 19, 2015 in Wellness | 2 comments

Barbara and StasjaIt’s been over a month since I’ve been here to write a blog. My life has been turned upside down, and I just haven’t been able to focus on writing this type of content. I’ve missed being here—researching and writing on chronic pain. But life is what it is.

The short version of the story is that our granddaughter, an 18-year old fabulous firecracker of a young woman, died in a automobile accident on October 18. In the last four weeks, our family has cried many tears. We have pulled out old pictures, and told a stream of funny and poignant stories. We’ve come together with her community of friends and family to mourn our collective loss. The grieving and healing process goes in waves, and we have what feels like an eternity of waves to ride.

Cris and I are also dealing with another significant downturn in my mother’s health. That’s a different kind of grieving, but grieving just the same.

The world also joins us in grief and shock after the terrorist bombings and activity of the last few weeks—the Russian airliner, the Beirut and Paris attacks.

There’s just so much sadness in these weeks and days and moments. Sometimes it just feels overwhelming, doesn’t it?

In the midst of a month like this, it’s hard to remember to take care of myself. Here are some of the issues I’ve faced:

  • Should I keep the physical therapy or massage appointments I have scheduled?
  • How can I be sure to get enough sleep?
  • Are there food choices that will keep my relatively pain free, while accommodating my reduced desire to eat?
  • What are the other activities that will feel nourishing to me?

Perhaps you can relate to this list. No matter what the challenges are in our lives, it’s a delicate balance to manage the urgent needs of our family (or business or the world) with the ongoing needs of our own body and soul.

I’ve been reading a book this month by one of my favorite authors, Toni Bernhard. Last year she published a blog called “13 Tips from 13 Years Sick.”

From the seventh tip, this helped me remember to treat myself tenderly during our time of crisis:

“I used to think it would be a “one-time-through-the-stages” of grief process (the stages usually broken down into denial, anger, sadness or even depression, and then…acceptance). I thought that once I passed through a stage, it wouldn’t return. But now I see that acceptance can give way at any moment to a new round of grieving, maybe with just one of those “stages” popping in for a visit, such as anger or sadness. When this happens, I’ve learned not to push the grief away in aversion because that just strengthens it. Instead, I allow it to be present, treating myself as tenderly as I can until it passes.”

So no matter your challenge or crisis, be present and treat yourself tenderly. And I promise to do the same.

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our emotions and pain

Posted by on Sep 9, 2015 in Anti-Inflammatory Ideas, Holistic Pain Relief, Wellness | 0 comments

Our Emotions and PainWhen we hurt emotionally, we hurt physically. It’s been studied and the connection is real. I believe that understanding this connection is a big part of holistic pain relief. Plus, I think that most of us have experienced this in one way or another. For example, when the stress in my life increases I usually find that one of my nagging pain issues will return. Right now it’s the lower back and hips, because I have some extra family stresses.

From Mel Pohl, M.D. who blogs about chronic pain at PsychologyToday.com, “Especially in our culture, where we resist pain and want to move away from it at all cost, we create a vicious cycle where our attempts to move away from the pain actually intensify the pain. The fight to tighten up in response to a painful experience or be angry that it hurts makes the pain worse. By accepting and investigating the emotions we experience with chronic pain with curiosity, rather than judgment, we can achieve substantial improvements in our well-being. Emotions are as real as the pain that causes them, and I firmly believe that if people with chronic pain don’t deal with their emotions about their pain, they will never get better.”

So not only do the emotions in the rest of our lives affect our pain, but the emotions we feel about our pain affect it as well. It’s a frustrating feedback loop: emotions lead to pain, which causes emotions, which lead to pain and so on.

What can we do to break the cycle? My friend Susanne Spurlock, MSW, ACSW shared these strategies at a recent meeting of Lancaster General Health’s Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Awareness and Education Group. My comments are in parentheses.

  1. Optimism (the glass may be half empty, but it can be refilled)
  2. Help others (volunteering, interacting positively on social media especially pain or condition-related groups)
  3. Journaling (start one or pick your dormant journal up and write)
  4. Laughter, Fun, Play, Jokes (funny movies or TV shows are a good place to start)
  5. Verbal detox (appropriate expression of emotion with friends, family or a professional)
  6. Socializing (even just a phone call to a friend works)
  7. Exercising (be sure to choose something you find fun!)
  8. Cognitive behavioral therapy (or another type of professional counseling)
  9. Yoga, especially gentle or restorative classes
  10. Meditation (even simply deep breathing for a few intentional quiet moments)

My advice is to first pick one of these strategies that you aren’t already doing. Then incorporate it into your life in a way that’s both meaningful and appropriate to your pain levels. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with the new strategy, choose another.

So let’s say you haven’t been spending much time with friends lately. Call a supportive and loving friend and suggest a get-together. It can be a cup of tea or coffee at home, or even out at a local café. Reach out to plan something every week or two.

Or try a yoga podcast at home. Here’s an example from Kelly at Sunrose Yoga that I’m going to try this week. Once you get comfortable with a bit of yoga at home, maybe a class near you would be a good option.

See how this works? It’s all baby steps forward. There’s no pressure or stress to the process because the idea is to reduce stress and manage emotions and pain. So be easy with yourself as you try these strategies to break the cycle of pain and emotions.

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are you ready to do a reset
so you can thrive this fall?

Posted by on Aug 21, 2015 in Anti-Inflammatory Ideas, Cooking at Home, Gluten Free, Healthier Choices, Holistic Pain Relief, Wellness | 0 comments

Reset & Thrive Library Logo_MOD-Reset and ThriveIf you’re anything like me, summer is all about relaxation with flexed schedules, vacations with delicious indulgences, and a lighter list of to-do’s and to-don’ts. Don’t you savor every second of summer, and feel startled when autumn approaches? All too soon come the early morning alarms, lunches to pack, heavy project lists in the office, seemingly endless after school activities, and so very much more that seems to snowball so quickly!

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holistic therapies for pain relief, part 3

Posted by on Jun 1, 2015 in Anti-Inflammatory Ideas, Holistic Pain Relief, Wellness | 0 comments

SaunasI’m just like you. I want remedies for chronic pain to be easy to use and cost effective. But more than anything, I want them to WORK. Since I think of myself as a skeptic with a strong tendency to believe, I’ve probably tried more remedies than most people. If I’m convinced it won’t hurt me and it’s affordable, why not give a new remedy a try? That’s the approach I have to this post’s two therapies: magnets and far infrared saunas and mats. They certainly can’t hurt me, so it’s worth a try no matter what scientific studies have or haven’t proven.

Magnetic therapy can include many things – jewelry, wraps for specific body parts, mats, mattress pads, shoe inserts, etc. It’s been around for many thousands of years. In fact, I found reference to it in 16th century Switzerland with lodestones, a naturally magnetized mineral.  However, it’s also been questioned for thousands of years.

In the late 20th century, a study was done with 50 post-polio patients who lived with chronic pain. Study participants were asked to use either a sham magnet or a true magnet for 45 minutes. At the end of one therapy session, “The 29 who received an active magnet reported a reduction in pain to 4.4 from 9.6, compared with a smaller decline to 8.4 from 9.5 among the 21 treated with a sham magnet.” It’s a small sample of just 50 people, who were only treated one time. But that’s a significant effect.

How do magnets help chronic pain? According to proponents, they increase blood flow, decrease swelling,  and change the functions of nerves carrying pain messages to the brain.

A few years ago I tried some magnetic insoles from a friend’s company, aVivoPur. I was having significant foot pain, and I often stand for several hours when I’m in my massage office. Just a few weeks later, I realized my foot pain had decreased significantly. Now I have magnetic insoles in a few different pairs of shoes.

It’s important to say that these therapies are NOT diagnostic. If you don’t know why you’re having chronic pain, see your doctor. Magnets should not be used if you have a pacemaker, or other electrical implant such as an insulin pump or brain stimulator. And it may be wise not to wear them 24/7.

Far infrared therapy has been controversial, but generally seems to have science to back up its claims. You can receive far infrared therapy from sitting in a sauna, lying on a mat, or wearing a belt-type device. There are saunas in spas and treatment locations that can be booked by the session, or you can purchase a small unit for your home.

Essentially, the heat from the sauna or device is where the benefits start. Far infrared heat works differently because it heats your body’s core to a cellular level, rather than just at the surface. Infrared heat has different spectrums, which provide different results. The most effective for chronic pain would be mid infrared, but there are also pain-related benefits from far and near infrared. You may want to find a full spectrum infrared sauna to gain all types of benefit.

A 2006 study published in Pain Research & Management found that infrared therapy was an effective way to reduce chronic, intractable lower back pain. The sample was small (21 patients) but, “The mean numerical rating scale (NRS) scores in the treatment group fell from 6.9 of 10 to 3 of 10 at the end of the study. The mean NRS in the placebo group fell from 7.4 of 10 to 6 of 10.”

Another study, published in 2005, found that infrared therapy as a part of integrative therapies was a promising method for treatment of chronic pain.

In truth, I haven’t given infrared saunas a full try yet. It’s challenging to find time to schedule sessions nearby. However, I did purchase a far infrared mat a few months ago. Most days I use it for about an hour, while I’m sitting still. It feels good and seems to have helped my pain levels.

Before you try infrared therapy, please make sure you’re properly hydrated with at least 8-32 ounces of filtered water. Consider starting with some partial sessions before you move up to a whole hour of sauna therapy. And always listen to your body during a session – if it’s uncomfortable, it may be you’ve had enough for that session.

Let me know what you decide to try and how it goes!

 

Do you just wish you could find a set of realistic, holistic tools you can put in practice that will minimize your pain and maximize your energy? Download my free PDF report to learn 17 EASY WAYS TO START MINIMIZING PAIN TODAY!

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holistic therapies for pain relief, part 2

Posted by on May 15, 2015 in Anti-Inflammatory Ideas, Holistic Pain Relief, Wellness | 0 comments

Reiki Holistic Therapies for PainLast time we talked about three of my favorite holistic therapies for pain relief: massage therapy, acupuncture, and chiropractic care. These are the mainstays of holistic care for people living with chronic pain, particularly because they integrate so effectively with Western medical care.

This time we’ll talk about two more holistic therapies that have big advantages for pain relief: topical analgesics and Reiki energy work.

Topical analgesics sure sounds like a medical term, not a holistic one. But actually there are many choices available over the counter, without a prescription. These lotions, gels, sprays, or patches usually include a few common ingredients: menthol and camphor. Each has a different formula, fragrance, and delivery method. You’ll find what works best for you! (Personally, I like patches because they stay on the skin longer. But you may find that adhesives aren’t comfortable for you.)

Why menthol and camphor? Menthol comes from peppermint and spearmint, and has natural cooling effects. If pain is inflammation and heat, then the cooling effects of menthol help counteract that. Menthol causes a signal to be sent which your brain interprets as cold, relieving the uncomfortable heat of inflammation. Menthol is also a vasodilator, which means it encourages your blood vessels to widen or dilate. When they dilate, increased blood flow can help relieve pain, especially in muscles.

Camphor comes from a tree called the camphor laurel. Originally from Asia, it’s now cultivated in many places around the world. Camphor is used for pain relief because it numbs the nerve endings. It also produces a cooling sensation similar to menthol. A volatile oil, it should always be added to a carrier lotion or oil.

Based on personal experience, and various clients’ experiences, I recommend Salonpas® products. They offer a wide variety of methods (patches, gel and sprays), and have been around for 150 years. That’s a lot of time to perfect their formula!

Full disclosure: I was recently quoted in two Salonpas blog posts. I hope you’ll read them if you’re interested in the topics.

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Reiki is something I experienced for the first time over ten years ago. A friend in massage school offered to give me a session, and I loved the peaceful way it made me feel. I started my own Reiki training soon after. When a client asks me to explain Reiki here’s what I say:

Reiki is a way of harnessing the positive energy that’s all around us. By positive energy, I mean the way you feel when you’re spending happy time with a friend or family member. It’s the way you feel in your “happy place.” It’s not spirits, ghosts, or anything intended to be forced on you. It’s not a religion or religious ceremony. Reiki energy is designed to go only where it is needed and welcome. The person giving the Reiki session is merely a vessel through which that universal energy flows.

Having a Reiki session can begin with an intention. For example, the client might say, “my knees have been bothering me and I’d like to picture the Reiki energy focusing goodness on them.” The session can also be broader in intention, such as to lift sadness or tension. Or the client may choose to “ask” the Reiki to go and to do what is needed.

How does Reiki relate to pain? Well, it’s individual of course. But in 2008 a meta study was done, reviewing results of previous studies. This meta study looked at pain relief and Reiki, as well as two touch-based therapies. The conclusion was that of the studies reviewed, Reiki was more effective than the other therapies. They also found that an experienced practitioner assisted the study participants in achieving greater pain relief.

These are just brief discussions of two holistic pain relief methods. Don’t forget to look at the first post in this series. Next time we’ll discuss

  • Magnetic therapy
  • Far infrared saunas & mats

 

Do you just wish you could find a set of realistic, holistic tools you can put in practice that will minimize your pain and maximize your energy? Download my free PDF report to learn 17 EASY WAYS TO START MINIMIZING PAIN TODAY!

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holistic therapies for pain relief

Posted by on Apr 30, 2015 in Holistic Pain Relief, Wellness | 0 comments

holistic therapies for pain reliefDuring the time I’ve lived with chronic pain, I’ve tried many holistic therapies for pain relief. By far the most effective has been adjusting the foods I choose, which is why I wrote Kick Pain in the Kitchen. However, so many other types of treatment have helped me find pain relief.

I plan to discuss these in more detail in the future, but here are a few options I’ve found helpful. Not all of them have been part of my treatment plans at all times. I tend to mix and match depending on time, finances, and the particular practitioners I meet.

Chiropractic – I first found chiropractic care during some intense back pain when I was in my late 20s. Not only did I find relief through chiropractic adjustments, but also I began to learn about my own body mechanics. I was working an office job and spent hours each day with my knee bent and my foot up underneath my hip. Since I was sitting crooked on top of my foot, it’s no wonder my back hurt! But no one suggested I stop this until I began to see a chiropractor.

Since then I’ve been the patient of several other chiropractors, each with their own style and expertise. If you’re considering chiropractic for pain relief, ask your friends, family, health care team, and coworkers who they see and why they like them. Spend at least a few weeks asking around, and hopefully you’ll hear the same name more than once. Then schedule an introductory appointment with the most-recommended chiropractor. You’ll want to come armed with some questions like:

  • What is the typical treatment plan for the pain I’m experiencing?
  • What types of manual adjustments do you perform?
  • Do you have massage therapy or nutrition services available as well? Is it required?
  • Do you accept and bill health insurance for patients?

Massage therapy – During my early 30s I had another episode of intense back pain. This time, my doctor sent me to an orthopedic surgeon who determined nothing was structurally wrong with my spine. The two doctors recommended physical therapy. I found the sessions and prescribed exercises to be helpful but not quite enough to relieve my pain. I was still struggling to walk through the grocery store. So my family doctor wrote the name and number of her massage therapist on a prescription pad. She told me to call the therapist and schedule a few massages, then let her know how I was doing. I experienced so much relief after just the first massage! By the third massage, my pain was completely gone.

My back pain was a good example of muscular tension causing pain. The good news is that muscle and other soft tissue can be treated very effectively with therapeutic massage.

Acupuncture – Sometimes I try something just because I meet a respected practitioner, and that’s how I happened into acupuncture. One of my fellow students at massage therapy school was married to an acupuncturist. I wasn’t really looking for any pain relief, but I had a lot of stress in my life. Juggling a full-time job, part-time school, and part-time new business was a struggle. And that didn’t even count the time I spent with family. I was bug-eyed with stress!

Acupuncture is a combination of physical work (the needles) with energy connections. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, energy is called qi (say “chee”). And the needles are placed in specific points designed to stimulate qi and allow the body to find relief.

Acupuncture therapy,” says University of California, San Diego’s Center for Integrative Medicine, “can release blocked qi in the body and stimulate function, evoking the body’s natural healing response through various physiological systems.”

Since my first experience with acupuncture in 2003, I’ve been a regular patient. In recent years, I’ve begun to work with a different acupuncturist. Together, she and I integrate stress relief with many other goals including pain relief. It always seems to bring me quiet calm and focus so I can take better care of myself.

Next time we’ll discuss these holistic pain relief therapies:

  • Reiki and energy work
  • Magnetic therapy
  • Infrared mats / sauna

Do you just wish you could find a set of realistic, holistic tools you can put in practice that will minimize your pain and maximize your energy? Download my free PDF report to learn 17 EASY WAYS TO START MINIMIZING PAIN TODAY!

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