Feb 11

One of the most common psychiatric problems associated with chronic pain is depression. While depression can affect people of any medical profile, those with chronic pain are at a high risk of becoming depressed. In fact, chronic pain sufferers are three times more likely to develop psychiatric problems than individuals who are not dealing with long-term pain.

Medication is a common treatment for depression, but it can have serious side effects, including addiction and loss of energy and mental acuity. The high cost of many medications is, of course, another serious downside.

Luckily, not all solutions are pharmaceutical ones, and some effective alternate treatments are low-cost and natural. Regular cardiovascular exercise, meditation, dietary changes, acupuncture, and journaling can all help alleviate depression. While no one treatment is effective for everyone, natural treatments lack the negative side effects of medication, so there is little risk in trying a natural treatment before trying medication. It may be all you need.

Jogging for Joy

The physical benefits of cardiovascular exercise are better known than the mental health benefits. This situation is changing as more and more research on the mental health benefits of exercise is published.

Exercise can be as effective as medication for people with mild to moderate depression. Not only can it reduce or eliminate depression; it can also help prevent relapse. People who exercise regularly are less likely to become depressed again, possibly because they feel empowered to regulate their mental health.

Meditation and Inner Peace

Thanks to the brain’s ability to change itself at any age, meditation can alter the structure of key brain regions. These brain changes can lead to reduced depression and anxiety.

There are many different forms of meditation, but mindfulness meditation is the best researched, and an increasing number of medical professionals are being educated about its benefits. If mindfulness meditation alone is not successful in treating depression, it can be combined with aerobic exercise for greater effectiveness.

You Are What You Eat

Sometimes all you need to do to change your mood is to change your diet. What you eat has a big impact on how you feel. People who eat low-quality diets tend to have more problems with depression than those who eat mostly healthy foods.

Cut down on your junk food intake. Read the labels on the packaged food you buy and monitor your sugar consumption. Eat whole grains, veggies, and brain-healthy foods like salmon. It shouldn’t be a surprise that when your body feels better, you feel better.

The Acupuncture Approach

While skeptics decry its use, recent research suggests acupuncture is an effective drug-free treatment for depression. From the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine, physical and mental health problems are the result of blocked chi (roughly translated as “life force”) in the human body. No one is really sure how acupuncture works, but tradition holds that it alters the flow of chi.

Journaling for Relief

Journaling has not been as well researched as the other treatments mentioned in this article, but it costs virtually nothing and is easy to do. Simply write down your thoughts about your life situation and your emotions. Try to be non-judgmental. Some journalers feel that writing by hand, with a pen and paper, is more conducive than a computer to thoughtful reflection (at least you won’t be tempted to check your emails or Facebook), but use whatever medium you find works for you.

The better educated you are on the subject of natural treatments for depression, the more empowered you will be to address it. Whatever your situation in life, you may already have the ability to treat your own depression.

Self-treatment is not always effective, however, and the care of a professional may be necessary to treat your condition. Pain Care Clinic of Idaho offers acupuncture, yoga, meditation and other treatments to help people in the Boise area cope with depression, as well as treatments to address chronic pain directly. Call 208-629-2492 for an appointment.

Jan 21

In today’s society we are all too quick to turn to pharmaceuticals for pain management. And the costs can really add up. There’s a pill for joint pain, there’s a pill for muscle pain, and there’s a pill for headaches.

We believe pumping your body full of pharmaceuticals is the wrong way to go about managing your pain. Chemicals can harm the body, and they can mute your mind, body, soul connection. Plus, there are numerous benefits to narcotic-free chronic pain relief.

It Puts You in Tune With Your Body

When you take a pharmaceutical, odds are that the drug will numb your body in some fashion. This might be a relief in the short term, but it sets you up for damage in the long term. If you numb your ankle pain, for instance, you may do damage to your ankle without even feeling it. This will cause you to reach for more pills.

On the other hand, take medical acupuncture as an example. This holistic approach to pain management will put you in tune with your body. You’ll understand pressure points in your body much more thoroughly, and your body will still be alive to tell you that you’re doing further damage to yourself if it occurs. It’s a much more sustainable approach to pain management.

It Puts You in Touch with Those Around You

When you are under the numbing effects of pharmaceuticals, you might miss what’s going on around you. You might miss the fact that having a loved one near you literally heals your pain. Or you might miss the fact that touching your favorite pet can also heal pain.

With a narcotic-free approach to pain management, your senses are left intact to enjoy the world around you. Because, as we’ve mentioned above, the positive influences in the world around you can literally heal you and help to manage your pain.

Lend A Helping Hand

Studies have also shown that volunteering for a good cause reduces stress in the body. When stress is reduced, harmful hormones are also reduced in the bloodstream. But in order to lend a helping hand, you’ll need to get some chronic pain relief, especially for chronic neuropathic pain if you have it.

But pain medication can make it difficult to volunteer, especially if the volunteering requires any sort of physical labor. It’s hard to build a house for Habitat for Humanity when you are feeling spacey.

Something for Everyone

But pain management in Boise, Idaho, doesn’t have to be New Age and all medical acupuncture. There is something called the Scrambler unit that can gently massage your muscles in order to relieve pain. This advanced medical device uses electronic leads to gently change the electronic signal that your nerves are giving to your brain. Each signal is tailored to the unique individual and the new signal being retrained in your body is a signal of “non pain.” Essentially, it re-trains your muscles to tell your brain that everything is okay.

Jan 14

There are limitations to conventional medical treatments of chronic pain. Of course, there are a variety of pharmaceutical approaches to pain management, but almost all of them have negative side effects, including dizziness, nausea, and the risk of developing a dependence on the medicine.

Because conventional medicine does not always have effective responses, Complementary and Alternative Medicine is an important option for many who suffer from chronic pain.

Benefits of Yoga for Chronic Pain

Yoga is an effective treatment for chronic pain because it works both the mind and the body. As a low-impact exercise, it provides gentle stretching that can ease stiffness and pain. As a meditation procedure, it helps to keep the mind alert and calm, and reduce the perception of pain.

Studies have shown that yoga is “effective in the treatment of chronic pain, including osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and fibromyalgia. In the studies reviewed, patients saw significant reductions in joint pain, muscle stiffness, and overall physical discomfort while greatly improving their flexibility, range of motion, and muscle strength.”

Five Exercises

Keep in mind that for beginning practitioners, it’s always best to get experienced guidance when trying yoga. Proper form is important, and watching videos can only take you so far. If you have a serious condition such as disc diseases, you should also check with your doctor before trying yoga. If you can’t do the poses by yourself, pillows or foam supports may make it easier.

Cobra pose. This is a simple exercise that can help greatly with lower back pain. Lie facedown on the floor with your legs stretched straight back and toes pointed backward. Place your forearms on the floor and push upward, lifting your chest but keeping your thighs and groin on the floor. Don’t forget to breathe! Lift as far as you can without pain, hold the pose for a few seconds, and slowly lower again.

Dolphin pose. This is an easier variation of the well-known downward dog pose that does not stress the arms as much. It still provides a strong full-body stretch that loosens and strengthens the legs and core. Start on your hands and knees, with knees directly under your hips and forearms flat on the floor. Press your toes to the floor and lift your buttocks toward the ceiling. Straighten your legs if you can, but keeping them bent is okay. Keep your upper body straight as well — don’t flex your back or push your head into the floor. Hold for a few second and then lower again.

Butterfly pose. This stretch helps painful hips and backs. Sit on the floor with your legs in front of you. Press the soles of your feet together and keep them together as you move your knees apart, lowering them as far to the floor as you can (but don’t force it!). Hold as long as comfortable, and then raise your knees again.

Mountain pose with shoulder stretch. For shoulder/neck pain. Stand straight upright and reach your right hand back to the back of your neck, and your left hand around your back. Move the hands together slowly and clasp them, keeping your spine straight. (If you can’t clasp your hands, hold a strap or rope between them.) Then slowly lift your right elbow as far as you can and hold a few seconds. Release and repeat on the other side.

Supine torso twist. Another pose useful for back pain. Lie flat on your back with your arms out in a T and your feet on the floor, knees up. Slowly lower your knees toward the left side. Go as far as you can without lifting your shoulders from the floor. Hold for a few seconds, then return to center and repeat the exercise toward the right side.

To learn more about how to manage and relieve chronic pain, contact the Pain Care Clinic of Idaho at 208-629-2492 or visit paincareclinicofidaho.com.

Jan 07

Sciatica is pain in the lower back or legs caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve. The largest nerve in the body, the sciatic nerve stretches from the lumbar spinal cord in your lower back all the way down to your feet and is responsible for transmitting sensory information from these areas of the body. Sciatic pain is usually felt extending from the lumbar area to behind the thigh, and can even reach below the knee. In most cases is it felt on only one side of the body at a time.

Pain from sciatica can range from mild to severe, and it may feel like it’s radiating over a large area or be sharp and localized. Transitioning from sitting to standing and vice versa can trigger sharp sciatic pain, as can any sudden lower-back movement. Those suffering from sciatica can experience leg numbness, “pins and needles,” burning sensations, foot numbness, limping, and muscle weakness.

Common causes of sciatica are a herniated disk pressing on the nerve, trauma to the lower back, pregnancy, joint dysfunction, degenerative disc disease, and spondylolisthesis.

Herniated disc: This is one of the most common causes of sciatica. A herniated or bulging disc can cause disc material to push against a nearby nerve root, compressing the nerve tissue and causing sciatica. In addition to this pressure, a herniated disc also contains hyaluronic acid, which can cause nerve inflammation, compounding the pain from the compression.

Degenerative disc disease: Though the name is frightening, this is the most common cause of lower back and neck pain and is simply a byproduct of aging. One of the symptoms of degenerative disc disease is inflammation that can irritate the sciatic nerve. Another symptom is muscle spasms attributed to the body attempting to stabilize the spine to prevent additional damage, which can impinge on the sciatic nerve in the process.

Pregnancy: Weight gain and elevated fluid retention associated with pregnancy can compress the sciatic nerve where it passes through the pelvis. An expanding uterus can also compress the sciatic nerve at the base of your spine. In the third trimester, when the baby begins shifting into the birth position, its head can end up pressing against the nerve.

Spondylolisthesis: This condition is most prevalent in older individuals, characterized by the bones, joints and ligaments in the spine gradually weakening and losing their ability to keep the spinal column properly aligned. As these spinal components shift, they can encroach on the sciatic nerve, putting pressure on the nerve and causing pain when standing or walking.

Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction

The sacroiliac joint connects the spine with the pelvis. Sciatic pain arising from sacroiliac joint dysfunction is not true sciatica, as it does not involve compression of the nerve root, but stems from joint inflammation that can irritate the nearby sciatic nerve. The symptoms, however, can be similar.

There are three million cases of sciatica in the United States each year. Sciatica is usually self-diagnosable and may not require lab tests or medical imaging. Some cases of sciatica can benefit from self-care treatments such as applying an ice pack to the affected area, regular physical exercise, and stretching. More serious cases may require physical therapy, massage, acupuncture or chiropractic treatment. In addition to these physical treatments, some severe forms of sciatica may require an epidural steroid injection to alleviate the pain, pain medication, anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants or analgesics like Tylenol.

Sciatica pain can last weeks or months, depending on the root cause and treatment used. There is no quick fix, but the right treatment and management can relieve the pain and allow the resumption of normal activities. For diagnosis and treatment recommendations, contact the Pain Care Clinic of Idaho to schedule an appointment. Call (208) 629-2492.

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