Everyone suffers with pain at some time in their life. My battle with pain began when I was in my teens. I suffered with horrible pelvic pain and was diagnosed with Endometriosis at 15. By age 16 I underwent my first (of many) surgeries to try and stop the pain and spread of the disease. But, with every surgery came a new complication, more pain, worsening scar tissue, and depression. By the time I was 20, I was taking prescription narcotics on a daily basis with a handful of other meds to help me get through each day. I was unable to see a way out and was willing to try anything to not have a hysterectomy. Each year the pain worsened and spread. I felt like someone was standing INSIDE my body and jumping up and down on my pelvis. The pressure was immense. My back began flaring up with muscle spasms and my legs shot nerve pains from my back to my feet and I ached deep down in my bones. It never let up. It just didn’t. I was “tore up from the floor up” in every sense. I began spiraling down with depression and anxiety which worsened the physical pain. I tried all sorts of things to help alleviate the pain, but mainly I just scarfed down a TON of pills and had surgeries. Every doctor I saw had another prescription for me to fill and with each med came a new side effect. Thank goodness I found my way out, but it wasn’t easy.
Here’s a list of the MANY drugs I was prescribed along with their side effects. I found many of the side effects listed here on the actual pharmaceutical company’s websites, but I also found a great deal of information here at www.spine-health.com. Disclaimer: I’m not a medical expert. I’m just a person who has suffered with chronic pain for over 20 years that has found a way to manage chronic pain naturally.
Common Prescribed Medications for Pain and Their Side Effects
- Opiates: Hydrocodone, Oxycontin, Norco, Fentanyl, Vicodin, Lortab. All narcotic agents have a dissociative effect that helps patients manage pain. It does not actually deaden the pain, but works to dissociate patients from the pain (Side Effects: nausea, drowsiness, itching, constipation, hyperalgesia, respiratory depression, hormonal imbalance, tolerance, addiction, overdose, death.)
- Muscle Relaxants: Flexeril, Soma. These drugs do not act directly on the muscles; rather they act centrally (in the brain) and are more of a total body relaxant. (Side Effects: dry mouth, dizziness, tolerance, addiction, urinary retention.)
- Benzodiazapenes: Xanax, Klonipin, Valium. They should probably not be considered as first-line choices since potential benefits must be considered in the context of their side effects. (Side Effects: psychological dependence, worsening depression, overdose.)
- AntiDepressants: Prozac, Zoloft. (Side Effects: sexual dysfunction, trouble sleeping, trouble breathing, hives, unusual behavior.)
- Sedatives: Ambien,Trazadone. (Side Effects: reported activities include: driving a car “sleep-driving” making and eating food, talking on the phone, having sex, sleep-walking.)
- Anti-Seizure: Neurontin, Tegretol. The exact mechanism of action isn’t fully understood, but anti-seizure medications appear to interfere with the overactive transmission of pain signals sent from damaged nerves. (Side Effects: suicidal thoughts, dizziness, unsteadiness, weight gain, visual changes, rash.)
- Steroid Injections: (Side Effects: Infection, bleeding, weight gain, depressed immunity, raised blood sugar.)
- Other: Tramadol. This is a man-made analgesic. Its exact mechanism of action is unknown, but it is similar to morphine. (Side Effects: agitation, hallucinations, fever, fast heart rate, overactive reflexes, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of coordination, fainting; seizure, convulsions; a red, blistering, peeling skin rash, tolerance, drug interactions resulting in seizures.)
- OTC: Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Aleve (Side Effects: liver and kidney damage, ulcers, heart attack, stroke.)
Mind-boggling, isn’t it? So, in an effort to stop taking all of these medications, I scheduled a hysterectomy and set out to adopt a baby. Within a year I had accomplished both! I thought that the excitement and love of my new child would overcome any pain I might feel. Boy was I wrong. The overwhelming demands of being a new mom while trying to recover from drug dependency and chronic pain (yeah, it still wasn’t gone!) became too much to bear and I finally hit bottom in 2003.
How I Climbed Out of the Pain/Addiction Spiral
It wasn’t easy. It didn’t happen overnight. It’s not for the faint of heart. But, IT IS POSSIBLE! I turned my life around by:
- Completing an inpatient treatment program for addiction (proper detox and recovery)
- Participating in 12 step recovery/support groups
- Educating myself about holistic health
- Hiring a new physician that supported my wishes for natural treatments
- Eating clean – food is our very best medicine
- Getting adequate rest and sleep
- Making wellness a priority – regular massage therapy and chiropractic care
- Exercising daily (yoga, walking, swimming)
- Using essential oils
- Praying and meditating – enlarging my spiritual life
I learned that:
- The body was designed to heal naturally
- The mind, body, and spirit are all connected
- Identifying and dealing with the root cause is key
It’s been a long haul and I still experience pain. I still have bone spurs in my spine as well as nerve and scar tissue pain, discs are degenerating (aren’t everyone’s though?) and my bones still ache from time to time, BUT it’s totally MANAGEABLE! I feel better now than I have in 20 years. I’m not on ANY MEDS and have not had any surgeries since my hysterectomy in 2002. I see my physician once a year — seriously, ONCE a year for an annual check up. It used to be a full time job – a life sentence, but it’s not anymore.
How I Manage Pain Naturally
SOURCE: Essential Oil Desk Reference and Essential Oil Pocket Reference by LIfe Science Publishing
Essential oils for Musculoskeletal Support
Warnings: Avoid using on infants and very small children as the above oils are hot and cause skin irritation. Wintergreen is not to be ingested by children as it can cause death in large quantities. If you are pregnant, check with your doctor first.
I’ve learned how to listen to my body and take care of myself. Pain is an opportunity to Pay Attention Inward Now (Iyanla Vanzant).
Essential Oils for Emotional Support
When addressing emotional pain, it’s best to diffuse or inhale essential oils as this stimulates the Limbic System in the brain which is the seat of our emotions. I’m not sure who coined the phrase, “Deal with the ISSUES in your TISSUES,” but I love it and it rings true for me. I’ve relied on two great books to help me with these issues: Releasing Emotional Patterns with Essential Oils – Carolyn Mein, D.C. and You Can Heal Your Life – Louise L. Hay
Essential Oils for Rest and Recovery
It’s important for me to follow a bedtime routine. I like to bathe in a mixture of essential oils and epsom salts, then apply my oils (layer or mix with a carrier oil/lotion), and take Sleep Essence.
- BLM/A – combines Idaho Balsam Fir, Clove, and type II collagen, MSM, and glucosamine sulfate combined to support joint and tissue health as well as cell function,
- Ningxia Red – energizes, fortifies, and replenishes the body/mind, overall immune support
“Seeing a qualified chiropractor is another wise option if you suffer from chronic pain. I am an avid believer in the chiropractic philosophy, which places a strong emphasis on your body’s innate healing wisdom and far less reliance on Band-Aids like drugs and surgery. Chiropractic, Osteopathic, and Naturopathic physicians receive extensive training in the management of musculoskeletal disorders during their course of graduate healthcare training, which typically lasts from 4-6 years.
Due to their comprehensive training in musculoskeletal management, numerous sources of evidence have shown that chiropractic management is much safer and often more effective than allopathic medical treatments, particularly for back and neck pain. In addition, researchers have also found that chiropractic adjustments affect our bodies on a deep cellular level.
What that means is that chiropractic care may affect the basic physiological processes that influence oxidative stress and DNA repair, so in addition to addressing any immediate spinal misalignment that might cause pain, it can also address deeper dysfunction in your body.”
Regular chiropractic treatments have been such a life-saver for me. I highly recommend finding a good one in your area, not only for yourself, but for your whole family.
- Raindrop Technique – balances energy, lifts spirits and reduces stress, calms troubled mind, reduces inflammation, supports immune system, relaxes stressed muscles, relieves body of bone and joint discomfort.
- Deep Tissue – realigns deeper layers of muscles and connective tissue.
- MyoFascial Release – releases muscle tightness and pressure
Check your area for someone trained in the above techniques. I’ve had wonderful experiences with all three approaches and continue to incorporate them into my regimen.
- Walking and swimming – low impact and easy to do, helps build both strength and cardiovascular fitness
- Yoga – improves flexibility, strength, and awareness for body, mind, and spirit
“Yoga as a tradition also makes the distinction between pain and suffering. Pain is an emotional or physical hurt, whereas suffering is how our mind reacts to the pain. Since our mental reaction to pain and suffering can add to our experience of chronic pain, the practice of Yoga provides a framework to develop a new relationship with our painful body as it helps to cultivate steadiness, ease, acceptance and compassion.
As a complete mind-body system, Yoga offers practices for reducing stress, releasing muscular tension, coping with difficult emotions and for training the mind to be less reactive to painful sensations. Unlike pain pills, which can often become less effective over time, Yoga becomes more effective over time as it creates profound changes to the body, nervous system and well-being. In addition to this, a carefully set up Yoga practice is unlikely to intervene with other pain treatments and the side effects of Yoga are almost always POSITIVE. Yoga is likely to make you feel happier, healthier, stronger, more flexible and relaxed and more effective in your life.”
Poses to Try:
Seated and Standing Forward Bends
You can find these and more as well as practice videos and excellent articles at www.yogajournal.com
Yoga has been one of the most important components to my healing of mind, body, and spirit from chronic pain, depression, anxiety and addiction. Yoga meets you where you are. I highly recommend finding a teacher in your area or consulting with me to get started on your practice.
“Meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace and balance that benefits both your emotional well-being and your overall health, and these benefits don’t end when your meditation session ends. Meditation can help carry you more calmly through your day and may improve certain medical conditions. When you meditate, you clear away the information overload that builds up every day and contributes to your stress.” Mayo Clinic
There are many types of meditation. The Mayo Clinic website provides some helpful ways to get started.
Take the first step
If you are ready to manage your pain naturally start slowly. I recommend starting with a walk around the block, purchasing your essential oils, and reading one of the books I mentioned. Make a commitment to yourself to try something new each day. Change happens slowly, but it CAN happen. I’m living proof.
Oily Gurus www.oilygurus.com
Essential Oil Pocket Reference, Life Science Publishers
Stop Pain Vijay Vad, MD
You Can Heal Your Life, Louise Hay
10 Mindful Minutes, Goldie Hawn
The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle
The Yoga Journal Online www.yogajournal.com