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General characteristics

General characteristics

Pain is a complicated phenomenon manifesting itself as unpleasant sensations within the body. It often serves to warn the person that all is not well and something, somewhere in the body needs their attention. For instance, the acute pain of a sprained ankle will tell us to rest the ankle until it is healed, pain has been helpful in this case. Sometimes pain can seem to serve no positive purpose such as in the painful joints of arthritis but even here it is signalling to us that our joints are not healthy and need improving before the pain will go away. Pain is often described as either acute (of sudden onset and short duration such as with a broken leg or a cut finger) or chronic (longer term pain such as in arthritis or rheumatism) but can also be intermittent or recurring such as in angina where pain in the chest is felt upon exertion. The effect of chronic pain on a persons life should never be underestimated as it can be extremely wearing and debilitating, leading to deep depression and difficulty with normal everyday living and relationships.

Pain arises from a variety of situations, some straightforward, some more complex. Pain can be a signal of danger to the body such as with a burning/freezing finger, can be due to increased pressure due to nearby inflammation/infection, from a mechanical injury such as a cut to the skin, ulceration or a broken bone, due to vascular changes such as an increase in blood flow pushing against pressure receptors in blood vessel walls, caused by friction from two surfaces rubbing together, muscular contractions such as in menstrual pain, damage to nerves themselves through infection or physical trauma, a lack of blood flow to an area can cause pain, such as in the chest pain of angina or the pain caused by claudication of the blood vessels in the legs and even nutritional deficiencies or poor diet can lead to pain.

Mood and the emotions also have a significant impact on pain levels. Positive emotions tend to ease and relieve pain whereas negative emotions tend to increase or intensify pain levels.

It is also extremely significant to note that virtually all of the ingredients present in painkillers (both natural and synthesised) are present in our bodies naturally, including endorphins (so called 'happy hormones') and morphine like substances. If our body is naturally equipped with all these incredible pain killing chemicals then the emphasis for future research into pain ought to be on accessing our inner pain killers. Perhaps this is why the placebo effect works so effectively for most people.

Healing objectives are wherever possible to treat the underlying cause of the pain, something in the body is awry and is crying out to be remedied. There are plenty of herbs and natural healing techniques that will ease or even kill pain but these should only be used as symptomatic relief whilst the cause of the pain is being sought out and rectified.

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Avoid refined carbohydrates, starches and junk foods. Sugar is known to increase inflammatory states within the body so cutting it out can have a positive impact on pain levels. Instead try wholegrains such as quinoa, millet, brown rice, amaranth, buckwheat and spelt.

Eat plenty of foods rich in the anti-inflammatory type omega fatty acids such as in oily fish and plant seeds like flax and hemp and walnuts.

Include plenty of garlic, ginger and turmeric in your cooking.

Magnesium, Calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin E and the B vitamins are all implicated in reducing pain by various methods so try and include plenty of food sources in your diet. Foods such as broccoli and leafy greens, carrots, peppers and many others will provide good amounts.

Eat plenty of berries such as cherries, strawberries, grapes, blueberries and blackberries.

Useful herbs

Useful herbs

Anti-inflammatory herbs such as chamomile, wild yam, turmeric, comfrey will obviously help relieve pain caused by inflammation and swelling, either due to mechanical injury such as torn flesh or tissue or infection (add immune enhancers to kill infection and relieve pain).

Prickly ash bark is a very effective pain killer for severe nerve pain from crushing injuries, inflammation of the nerves (neuritis), slipped and damaged discs, especially when accompanied by numbness or paralysis. Take a few drops of the tincture 3 times daily.

Compresses or infused oils of chilli and ginger are well known pain relievers for muscular related pain. They both work to drastically increase blood flow to and from an area therefore easing congestion, pressure and swelling.

Herbs containing salicylic acid (natural aspirin) include meadowsweet and white willow bark. Frankincense can also relieve pain in the joints caused from osteo-arthritis.

Herbs that help to lessen the pain response at the nerve junction (synapse) level and can be considered analgesic pain relievers include st johns wort, valerian, skullcap, pasque flower, wild lettuce, passion flower, hops and jamaican dogwood. Use in dried herb or tincture form throughout the day.

Anti-spasmodic herbs such as crampbark, black cohosh, wild yam and chamomile can help to relieve pain.

Other herbs that are known to have pain relieving actions include celery seeds, rose hips, violet leaves, devils claw (joint pains), cannabis, coconut oil, black cumin seed oil, figwort, rosemary essential oil, fennel seeds, peppermint essential oil, lavender essential oil and wintergreen essential oil (external use only with the essential oils).

Natural healing

Natural healing

Therapeutic massage can have quite profound pain relieving effects and has shown to be particularly effective for chronic back pain. The power of touch and loving, caring attentiveness should never be underestimated.

Alternating hot and cold compresses can help relieve pain as the blood flow to and from an area is greatly improved. Hot compresses and cold compresses alone can also provide relief depending on the cause of the pain e.g. too much blood flow will benefit from cold compresses, too little blood flow will benefit from hot compresses.

Castor oil packs can also help to relieve pain when it is caused by congestion or swelling. Place a warm flannel soaked in castor oil over the area and put a hot water bottle on top to enhance the dispersing and pain relieving effects. Remove the compress after half an hour or so and rinse the skin with soapy water.

Relaxing meditation techniques and positive visualisation have been known to reduce pain for many people.

Many people report that apple cider vinegar (1 -3 teaspoons in water daily) has relieved their pain, especially arthritis like pains.

Chronic or acute pain can effect the breathing pattern leading to structural or muscular problems. See a breathing specialist to ensure that your breathing is not exacerbating your pain or even the cause of it. Certain breathing techniques can also be used to help you relax and reduce pain.

Many people have found relief from pain with acupuncture.

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