What a PAIN!  Some new(er) ways to treat pain non-invasively and without drugs are providing relief

It’s a painful life.  Whether your pain originates from your genes, from trauma, or aging and disease, no one escapes without pain (well, most of us).  Sadly, pain increases as we grow older.  The prevalence of pain in people aged 60 or more, is twice that of younger people.  This is not good news!  What is good news, is that the means of dealing with and eliminating pain are increasing.  Let’s look at what pain is, and some new healthy ways of dealing with pain.

Pain is that uncomfortable feeling that tells us something is wrong.  Usually caused by tissue damage, it can be localized or extended to different parts of the body.  Nerves send signals to the brain for interpretation and we are alerted to action to relieve it.  There are three types of pain: nociceptive, neuropathic, and mixed pain.  Nociceptive pain involves the stimulation of nociceptors, or specific pain receptors for heat, cold, vibration, stretching and chemical stimuli.  This happens when our skin, bones or organs are stressed such as in bone breaks, skin abrasions, burns, and even intestinal obstruction.    Neuropathic pain involves structural damage or dysfunction within the nervous system, which is the cause of such problems like diabetic neuropathy, meningitis or Guillain-Barre syndrome.  Mixed pain involves both nociceptive and neuropathic pain, because the neuropathic damage can cause inflammation (nociceptive pain). Migraine headaches and myofacial pain can fall under the mixed pain category.

The best solution to pain, of course, is getting to the root of the matter; setting a broken bone or administering antibiotics can cause inflammation and pain reception to decrease because the area is healing.  However, if the injury has “healed” and the pain continues, what to do?  Or what can we do naturally to promote healing?  It’s a topic that may be of more and more interest as we age…here are some of the newest innovations to consider:

  • Electricity in different forms has been in use in pain management, called electromedicine, since the early 1900’s.  H-Wave is a method of electrical stimulation of muscle fibers; unlike the TENS units of the 1970s, H-Wave stimulates the smaller muscle fibers with low frequencies (1-2 hertz).  Research on this treatment has shown this does several things for the affected area: it does not cause pain due to contraction of larger muscles, nor bombard the nerves to block pain, but it is hypothesized to deactivate the sodium pumps of the nerve cells, giving longer lasting pain relief.  Also, it stimulates a fluid shift in the treated area, reducing inflammation.  Improvement of microcirculation and restoration of fluid balance in the body leads to healing and longer-term pain management and elimination. 

  • Heat has long been used in the treatment of injuries, because it draws blood to the sight of the injury, promoting healing.  Red light therapy, also called photobiomodulation, uses low-frequency red and near-infrared light to penetrate farther into the skin, to deep tissues that need healing.  This diagram shows how far red light penetrates, compared to other frequencies of light:

Types of red light therapy include infrared heating pads, blankets, hand-held light devices such as LightStim, and lasers used by medical professionals.  These increase the production of  nitric oxide in the body, which dilates (expands) blood vessels to improve circulation.  

Our recommendation for red light therapy would not be complete without some scientific evidence for its use.  Chronic Low back Pain reduction was shown to be from 6.5 to 3 in a group treated with red light, compared with 7.4 to 6 in the placebo group. (heliotherapy.institute).  Other studies show that red light therapy caused a 42% reduction in pain of the elbow, wrists and fingers, and following surgery for tibial (lower leg) fractures, the laser group experienced less pain and used less opioids for pain relief than the placebo group. 

  • If you have not read our post on Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, check it out!  This therapy is approved by the FDA for treatment of 13 different illnesses or conditions, and was actually proven to reverse the aging process, so you know that it’s doing good things for your body at the cellular level.

  • HOCATT is a therapy machine that combines 10 therapies into one 30-minute session.  The name stands for “Hyperthermic Ozone and Carbonic Acid Transdermal Technology”, which are only three of the therapies.  A patient will sit unclothed in the HOCATT machine, which encloses their body up to the neck.  The neck opening is closed with a towel, and the patient relaxes with a soft flow of oxygen below their nose, while the machine performs its therapies.  Here are four of them:

    • Whole body hyperthermia (increasing the body temperature) is accomplished by steam and far-infrared rays.  Increased body temperature simulates exercise and opens the pores of the skin for detoxification, reduces inflammation and accelerates the removal of lactic acid and so that other therapies are more effective.

    • Carbonic Acid is actually CO2, which when absorbed transdermally (through the skin), forces oxygen in the blood to be dumped into the surrounding tissues.  More oxygen in our tissues promotes healing. Healing with CO2 starts at the skin to improve skin conditions such as scarring and eczema, but also reduces oxidative stress at the cellular level under the skin.

    • The CO2 phase prepares the body for the ozone phase, by helping it to absorb more ozone.  Ozone has disinfecting and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as helps red blood cells to transport oxygen and improve circulation by flooding the body with oxygen. 

    • The high-intensity pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMF) reduces inflammation.  “Nano-second spark gap PEMF” technology in the HOCATT is based on earlier Rife machines, which emit low-energy electromagnetic frequency to kill and decrease toxic microorganisms such as bacteria and even cancer cells. 

Since these therapies can be quite expensive, here are some free methods of pain relief that are proven:

  • Deep breathing: “The more you fear pain, the more you feel pain.” (ascellus.com) This means that a measure of the pain experience comes from the fear it elicits.  In order to counteract the brain’s trained response to pain, deep breathing helps to restore the brain’s “pleasure response” and overcome physical reactions to pain, like increased heart rate and blood pressure. For more stress relief and life-extending outcomes, check our our post on deep breathing. 

  • Progressive Muscle relaxation: according to the Arthritis Foundation, this technique has been shown to relieve stress, anxiety and chronic pain.  It involves mindfully tensing and relaxing specific muscle groups along the whole body.

  • Exercise: gentle aerobic activities like swimming, biking and walking help to interrupt a vicious cycle of pain and immobility, when permitted by your condition. (health.harvard.edu)