Pain can be a result of injury, but in many cases how much pain we feel is a consequence of the decisions we make through our lives and is governed by our beliefs. How we deal with life’s challenges, what we choose to eat and drink, including the quality of antioxidants and minerals, how much effort we put into exercise, posture and weight control, how much sleep we give ourselves – all these are choices of which we are in control.
Unfortunately, most of us make choices which will at some point promote pain. Fortunately, the body is always attempting to regulate pain impulses and heal. With knowledge we can work with, rather than against this process and feel less pain.
How Do We Feel Pain
We have a myriad of tiny receptors all over our body, which pass information to sensory nerves and then to the spinal cord. The pain impulse continues up the spinal cord to the thalamus in the brain, which acts like a router and in effect makes ‘phone calls’ to three other parts of the brain:
- Sensory Cortex interprets nature of pain
- The mammalian Amydala assesses level of fear/emotion and decides if parts of the body need to shut down to prioritise fight or flight.
- The Cortex is the human part of the brain which finalises the decision process
Hence our brains really do decide, like a panel of judges, how much pain is appropriate for us to experience at any time. Pain is then translated into how much we hurt.
Although we naturally want to avoid pain, this acts as important and in some cases, critical feedback. Pain is a warning signal that something is wrong and should stimulate a response to change activity, not to repeat the cause of the pain. Thus if something is wrong and we block the pain, the risk is that we could continue an activity that harms us.
Imagine you are driving a slow, small car and you are waiting to turn onto a highway and big lorry after big lorry goes past and stops you continuing your journey.
Now translate that analogy, this time the pain signal being the car and other, more powerful signals being the lorries. If we can provide a continuous supply of powerful signals the pain never gets out to the spinal cord and up to the brain.
This is called pain gate theory and goes some way to explaining how and why we can reduce pain. What’s the first thing you do if you hurt your hand in some way? Most of us will shake it. This sends stronger signals to the brain than the pain and so blocks the pain.
Endorphins – The Body’s Natural Pain Killer
Endorphins are released at the point where the pain signals reach the spinal cord and prevent more pain signals being released. It is this process which prevents pain getting through immediately, sometimes after a serious injury. This “endorphin rush” allows an athlete to persist through pain.
Ten Top Tips To Reduce Pain
1. Massage– nice sensations travel seven times faster than pain impulses and block the pain.
2. Acupuncture raises endorphin levels and blocks pain at the gate. Also, it can be linked to electro acupuncture to boost the long-term effect.
3. Nutritious food and supplements. The correct food products are required to make amino acids which are essential to pain-killing hormones. Minerals and anti-oxidants all reduce inflammation and boost the immune system. Too many carbs/sugars metabolise into pain products: reducing the calories reduces the pain. Less obesity – less pain. If the cell is healthy, nutrient-rich and properly hydrated, with few toxins, pain is an unwelcome guest.
4. Reiki and meditation are known to change the brain wave frequency and biochemistry. New research suggests the state of mind impacts DNA transcription and chronic pain. Self-healing methods like these can focus the subconscious mind on reducing both stress and pain.
5. Review your lifestyle and regulate levels of stressful/fearful activity will boost positive emotional activities. Understand your natural biorhythms to make the best of your time awake. – makes you more productive and less stressed
6. Improving your posture, especially sitting, enables the large core muscles to take a load off the back.
7. Taking regular exercise boosts feel-good pain-killing endorphin levels, boosts metabolism, and helps to reduce obesity – fat cells store toxins and enhance pain. Many studies prove correct exercise significantly reduces painful chronic illness and mortality.
8. Tens is a portable hand-held, the medically-endorsed device that sends frequencies, 2HZ to 150HZ, through the sensory nerves to block the pain gate and boost happy biochemistry, such as serotonin and endorphins to kill pain, reduce depression and help sleep. The Tens electrodes can be placed along a nerve root and onto a painful point, or on to specific acupuncture points. With professional guidance, good quality Tens can significantly boost the effects of pain treatment.
9. Consider hypnosis. This fascinating and controversial subject can significantly reduce pain when practised by an experienced therapist. People have even had surgery whilst under hypnosis
10. A warm bath with alkaline salts and aromatherapy, especially lavender, helps with sleep. For more on sleep tips, read this article.
For more information about Nicky Snazell’s Pain Relief Clinic, call 01889 881488 or visit www.painreliefclinic.co.uk
Massage – Time For A New Perspective
Massage has a history which dates back thousands of years and for much of this time has been a primary medical treatment by Doctors, recognised for its ability to reduce stress, anxiety and pain, plus both help prevent and heal injuries and illnesses.
Earliest records of the use of massage in medicine were in Egypt, India and China thousands of years ago. Since then its use has expanded around the globe, with inevitable cultural variations, so we see Shiatsu from Japan, Tuina from China, Ayurveda from India and Swedish from Europe and so on.
Original concepts from India and China were to consider disease and illness as a manifestation of the body being out of balance and not in harmony with the environment. Massage was considered an important treatment to help restore balance and harmony.
In the West massage spread through Europe and was noted by Hippocrates, the Greek Physician, in 400 BC as an important part of overall health maintenance. The use of massage started to decline with the emergence of newer medical techniques and also suffered greatly due to the more unsavory euphemism for sexual services.
This very concern in fact led to the formation in the UK of the Society of Trained Masseurs, later to become the Society of Chartered Physiotherapists that we know today. Thus physiotherapy has its roots in the power of hands on healing.
In more recent years massage has had a new dawn and become available in a many forms. You can now take your pick from intensely relaxing treatments on warm water beds, to deep pressure for the less faint hearted. The basic aim remains the same: to help heal on both the physical and emotional level and enhance the overall quality of life.
Unfortunately, the true value of massage is not widely recognised in the UK and for many it is still pigeon holed as an occasional luxury, or for many men, not something they would do. But let’s go back briefly to history again. Hippocrates recognised the importance of exercise, healthy diet, rest and massage as the ingredients for maintaining or restoring health. Certainly evidence exists for example that through the ages, the Olympics have made use of this philosophy.
Now fast forward to the present day. In the 1984 Olympics, massage was listed as a medical treatment to be provided. In fact many top athletes have their own masseur. For these, diet, exercise and rest go without saying. The message is no different to that proposed by Hippocrates 2400 years ago. You can be sure massage was intensely used in the London Olympics.
In the East, massage is considered a normal medical treatment and we can look much nearer home for cultural differences to perhaps break down British prejudice. In Germany, massage is considered an important part of their preventative and treatment health care. It is quite normal for a German Doctor to prescribe a course of massage, and not drugs, for the treatment of conditions such as back pain, neck stiffness and stress.
Stress we all know is on the increase and quite simply can be a killer. The body cannot heal itself if it is continually stressed. Scientific studies have shown that excessive and uncontrolled variation in heart rate caused by stress leads to increased sickness and disease. Furthermore, just relaxing at the end of the day with your favourite tipple, cannot undo the damage caused by a full day of stress. At the clinic we measure heart rate variance (HRV) and many patients are shocked by the result. Modern technology such as HRV merely amplifies just how accurate our ancient forefathers were about health.
Time and again we see patients at our clinic, who for either physical or emotional reasons would greatly benefit from regular massage, but will not as they cannot get over the stigma of it being either a luxury or not really of therapeutic value. Without doubt, many patients would retain a more pain free existence and be less stressed, if they could overcome these barriers and adopt the attitude of many other countries.
Perhaps it is time to look again with a new perspective at massage and all it can offer you.
If you would like more information on the massage we offer or our HRV technology, then please contact the clinic on 01889 881488 or visit www.painreliefclinic.co.uk
Why you get back and neck spine pain
With our hectic modern lifestyle, there can be so many reasons why we don’t have a healthy spine and as a result suffer back and neck pain. As I have explored in my previous articles, keeping healthy involves four key things; state of mind, diet, exercise and posture.
The spinal cord and nerve roots are housed in a bony structure, the spine, to minimise fraying and compression to sensitive neural structures, further protected by cushioning discs and strong muscles.
If you are unable to eat a healthy diet or have chronic stress, the gut cannot absorb nutrients effectively. The body then starts to crave these missing nutrients and literally rapes the spinal bones of minerals to sustain the vital organs. This accelerates wear and tear in the small finely chiseled spinal facet joints that allow us to twist and turn. They become prematurely arthritic and fire off pain receptors.
Daily impacts due to heavy footsteps on solid surfaces, cause faster wear and tear. Furthermore with sustained poor posture in walking and sitting, amplified by not drinking enough water, the cushioning discs will crack and bulge. Then the fragile nerves are put at further risk by weak muscles. They turn into sensitive dysfunctional nerves which cause muscle contractures, accelerating arthritis, disc damage and general aging.
Hence the way we move will affect the harmonious flow of movement up through all the small joints in the spine. The correct structural alignment of feet, legs, pelvis and spine is very important, especially if you are very active and sporty. The science of how we move is called biomechanics, a physical expression of health, and a predictor of future problems.
So many times symptoms appear totally unrelated to the spine and yet unless recognized and treated the culprit lies dormant and the problem keeps reoccurring. Many times the symptoms of pain, numbness, weakness and pins and needles can be anywhere else in the body but the spine. So often, seemingly unrelated painful conditions such as osteoarthritis, tendinitis or unrelenting sports injury can only be resolved specialist neuropathic treatment to the spine. I firmly believe if anyone has a problem anywhere in the body the neural link to the spine must be assessed. Furthermore with shortened muscles compressing nerves such as sciatica in the leg, or brachialgia in the arm, the best way to quickly release the tight muscle contractures is with laser and a specialist pain treatment called Gunn IMS. We are the only centre in Europe to offer teaching internships in IMS pain relief, after being awarded the highest accolade in treatment and lecturing internationally on this subject.
We very much embrace this approach in the clinic, with our specific diagnostic physical and functional tests . We may also need to arrange an MRI to look inside the spine, and if we want to know if the bone or cartilage cells are healthy enough to repair and hydrated now we have leading technology to tell us.
It’s so exciting the way science is progressing, as now it is possible to repair sports injuries and arthritis at the cellular level. German scientists have pioneered a therapeutic version of MRI that can regenerate cartilage and bone cells throughout the body, including the disc and spine. Following a visit to the German research facility with our inhouse surgeon, we are proud to have joined over 150 European orthopaedic consultants who have helped over 150,000 patients with this non invasive technology.