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Heidi Fogelsong, Media Personality for Bare Skin Care

Fight Pain Without Pills

We have long searched for different ways to treat pain. As a founding member of the American Holistic Medical Assiciation, I feel that a combined approach using both traditional and holistic medicine is the best way. The new field of "Integrative Medicine" is taking hold.

Doctors now believe that chronic pain is not merely a symptom of another condition, but rather a separate disease and should be treated as such. In some cases chronic pain is a result of inflammation, but in others it has a more complex cause, one that is tied to how the brain processes pain signals. With long exposure to physical pain, nerves may actually hard-wire that pain into a kind of neurological memory, so even when the original cause of the pain is gone, you still hurt. This can be seen in people with amputations, when the removed limb still can cause pain.

Pain might even be genetic. Researchers at the University of Cambridge in England recently identified the HCN2 gene as a regulator of chronic pain, providing another potential drug target for pain management.

The typical treatment for chronic pain has been medications, including over-the-counter drugs - like Ibuprofen and aspirin, which target inflammtation - as well as prescription narcotics such as codeine and morphine, which block pain signals. Tramadol is in a class of medications called opiate agonists. It works by changing the way the body senses pain.

Now 75% of integrative medical clinics report success in treating chronic pain by combining traditional pain management with complementary therapies like acupuncture and massage. One interesting treatment is myofascial trigger-point needling, a technique similar to acupuncture that focuses on specific areas of muscle that trigger pain. With this technique, a local anesthetic can even be injected into the area, effectively breaking up the signal sending impulses to the brain.

 Comprehensive pain management today also targets the mind. At the Stanford University Center for Integrative Medicine, multiple studies have shown that medical hypnosis can successfully reduce or even eliminate pain. There is also evidence that positive thinking affects pain. At Johns Hopkins University researchers recently found that chronic-pain sufferers who think infrequently about their pain sleep better and have less day-to-day pain than those who dwell on it. Thoughts are very powerful. Remember, the brain is like a computer - what you think, you become.

Some parts excerpted from an article by Dr. Mehmet Oz.


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