CAM(eo) Appearances

So, you have a diagnosis and you’re armed with a brand new prescription from you doctor (as we discussed yesterday).Your doctor (and the medication he prescribes) is considered part of conventional medicine.

If you also visit a chiropractor or acupuncturist for treatment, you’d be in the field of complementary and alternative medicine – CAM for short.

CAM tries to prevent and treat different conditions with techniques such as:

  • healing touch
  • energy
  • herbal medicines

Many CAM therapies have been around for centuries. But do they really work?

There is research to show that some CAM techniques can help with problems like pain and nausea. But other alternative therapies don’t have enough medical evidence to determine if they are effective.

Acupuncture

203. acupunctureWhat it is: This traditional Chinese medicine technique uses thin needles to stimulate various points around the body. Each point corresponds to a specific condition. The aim of acupuncture is to restore a balance of energy and good health to the body.

The evidence: Many of acupuncture’s benefits still haven’t been confirmed. That’s because more studies on acupuncture need to be performed. But evidence suggests that acupuncture may help ease some chronic pain conditions, including:

  • headaches
  • low back pain
  • osteoarthritis of the knee

Chiropractic Medicine

imagesWhat it is: Chiropractors specialize in adjustments – manipulating the spine to put the body into better alignment. People typically visit the chiropractor when they have pain in their lower back, shoulders, and neck. But many chiropractors claim adjustments can also improve overall health.

The evidence: Chiropractic medicine does seem to provide some relief for lower back pain. But it may not be any better than other back pain treatments.

Studies have also found the technique effective for:

  • migraine and neck-related headaches
  • neck pain
  • joint conditions
  • whiplash

But there isn’t much data on the effectiveness of chiropractic medicine for FM.

Energy Therapies

Energy therapies use magnets and therapeutic touch to manipulate the body’s energy fields and improve health.

Here’s a round-up of some common energy therapies:

Magnetic Field Therapy

What it is: Magnets are thought by some to have healing abilities. Centuries ago, people believed magnets could treat everything from gout to baldness. Today, they’re worn inside bracelets, shoes, and other accessories.

The evidence: There’s no conclusive evidence that magnets are effective pain relievers. There are a series of studies currently looking at a magnet therapy called transcranial magnetic stimulation which may help manage the symptoms of FM. Any results are preliminary. More study is needed to see if the therapy is effective.

Magnets are generally safe. But they can disrupt the function of pacemakers, defibrillators, and insulin pumps. That makes them potentially dangerous for anyone who uses these devices.

Reiki

reiki-handsWhat it is: The premise of Reiki is that it accesses the body’s natural energy to speed healing. The practitioner hovers his or her hands over the patient’s body. Or he or she places them lightly on the person’s skin.

The evidence: There is something to be said for the healing touch when it comes to bringing about a state of calm. One study showed that Reiki was effective in bringing about an increase in:

  • happiness
  • relaxation
  • feeling of calm

Therapeutic Touch

What it is: Advocates of this technique suggest that the power of touch may direct energy flow and treat pain and disease.

The evidence: It’s hard to tell for sure whether therapeutic touch works. There have been few good studies done on this technique. Researchers have investigated its effects on wound healing, pain, and anxiety. But most studies had mixed results. There is no conclusive evidence of effectiveness.

Herbal Medicine

Plants form the foundation of herbal medicine. They’re taken in several forms including pills, powders, or extracts to treat a variety of conditions. Herbal medicine can be divided into three types:

Ayurvedic

What it is: Ayurvedic medicine originated in India more than 2,000 years ago. It focuses on balance of the mind, body, and spirit. Hundreds of different herbs are used to:

  • protect the body against disease
  • relieve pain
  • improve general health

The evidence: Most studies performed have been small. They cannot provide conclusive evidence that Ayurvedic herbal medicine works.

There’s also a serious caution to using Ayurvedic products. One study found that Ayurvedic herbal medicines from South Asia had dangerously high levels of:

  • lead
  • mercury
  • arsenic

Chinese

12882850-chinese-food-therapy-traditional-chinese-herbal-medicineWhat it is: Chinese herbal medicines include gingko and ginseng. They are not used to treat a specific symptom or disease. Instead they are meant to restore balance to the body as a whole. These medicines can be taken in many forms, including pills, powders, and teas.

The evidence: Chinese herbal remedies have been studied but the research hasn’t been well-designed enough to draw any conclusions on effectiveness.

Regarding safety, there have been reports of heavy metals and other toxins in certain Chinese herbal remedies.

Traditional

A number of different herbs are grown in the Western world that are considered “Western” or “traditional” herbal remedies. Most studies on these herbs have been small. So it’s hard to know for sure whether they work. A few herbs that have shown possible benefit include:

  • Chamomile for relieving stomach upset.
  • Cranberry for preventing urinary tract infections.
  • Flaxseed, garlic, and soy for lowering cholesterol.
  • Peppermint oil for preventing heartburn.
  • St. John’s wort for relieving mild to moderate depression.

Although herbal remedies are considered “natural,” they can cause side effects. They may also interact with drugs you’re taking for other conditions. Talk to your doctor before taking any herbal medicine.

Like everything else, what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. So, it will be more trial and error…but we’d all like to hear any of your experiences with CAM therapies.

Realistic Expectations With Pain Management

I read this post by  (Creator and founder of FibroTV.com) in FibroTV Blog and thought it might get you thinking about how YOU manage your pain:

Realistic Expectations With Pain Management When You Have Chronic Pain

Pain management is essential when you have a chronic pain condition. Unmanaged pain can rip your life apart in all areas. When most people think of pain management the first thing that pops in their head is pain medication or medication to control the pain. There are many other options than just medication and you can also use an integrative approach to manage your pain by using medication and non traditional treatments  for pain management. Having realistic expectations with pain management is also very important. When you have chronic pain nothing is going to take away all the pain and if you keep reaching for that you are setting yourself up for a lot of frustration, discouragement, and disappointment. The only way to resolve pain completely is to address the underlying cause if at all possible.

Medication is not the only option, in fact it should be your last option!

We have been taught all our lives that when you hurt or get sick you go to the doctor and get a prescription. Medication has it’s place for pain and for sickness but why do we always reach for that first?  Medication does not fix anything they just cover up symptoms and is just another toxin in the body that can cause more pain and illness. There are some people who would have NO quality of life without medications or would not be able to stay alive without medication and these are not the people I am addressing. We really need to think if medication is the right thing for us or just a quick fix. We tend to want the most amount of results with the least amount of effort in this world and sometimes that is not the healthiest approach. You need to ask yourself some serious questions when debating how you want to manage your pain and make a personal choice that is best for YOU and your overall health. You need to be your own advocate and be very clear to your medical providers your wants and needs when it comes to pain management. Doctors are taught to write prescriptions and do not come from a place of healing the underlying cause so it is something you will have to do for yourself and make your wishes clear if you want to try alternative options.

Alternative options for treating chronic pain

  • Meditation Meditation cultivates an “awareness that develops when you’re paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment,” says Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, former executive director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, in Worcester, Mass. The idea is if you can calm and focus your mind and your body you may be able to control your pain and the degree to which you feel it.”You cannot experience pain unless you focus on it,” says Gabriel Tan, PhD, a pain psychologist at the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center, in Houston. “Let’s say you’re focusing on your pain and then the next moment a person comes into the room with a gun and threatens to kill you; you won’t feel pain because you’ll be focusing on the man with the gun. Meditation helps you shift your focus in somewhat the same way,” explains Tan.
  • TENS unit  “TENS” is the acronym for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. A “TENS unit” is a pocket-size, portable, battery-operated device that sends electrical impulses to certain parts of the body to block pain signalsThe electrical currents produced are mild, but can prevent pain messages from being transmitted to the brain and may raise the level of endorphins (natural pain killers produced by the brain). For some chronic pain patients, a TENS unit provides pain relief that can last for several hours. For others, a TENS unit may help reduce the amount of pain medications needed. Some patients hook the unit onto a belt turning it on and off as needed.
  • Chiropractors Chiropractors can treat chronic pain. They use a variety of non-surgical treatments, such as spinal manipulation, to address chronic pain symptoms, such as inflammation and muscle tension.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of talk therapy that helps people identify and develop skills to change negative thoughts and behaviors. CBT says that individuals — not outside situations and events — create their own experiences, pain included. And by changing their negative thoughts and behaviors, people can change their awareness of pain and develop better coping skills, even if the actual level of pain stays the same.
  • Aquatic (water) therapy Aquatic (water) therapy is quickly becoming well-known for its amazing effects on decreasing chronic pain, speeding recovery, and improving function. Aquatic therapy, or pool therapy, consists of an exercise program that is performed in the water. It is a beneficial form of physical therapy that is useful for chronic pain. Aquatic therapy uses the physical properties of water to assist in patient healing and exercise performance.
  • Restorative Yoga Restorative yoga turns on the healing relaxation response by combining gentle yoga poses with conscious breathing. Although these poses may look as though you are doing nothing, this is far from the truth. Restorative yoga rests the body but engages the mind. The breathing elements of each pose make restorative yoga an active process of focusing the mind on healing thoughts, sensations, and emotions.
  • Dietary Changes and Proper Nutrition   You are what you eat, at least that’s the old adage. It’s also one I believe in — what you put into your body has a big effect on how you feel. There are Foods that fight fat, detox foods, and foods that help you get stronger. There are even foods that help you sleep better and look fresher. Adding to the list of foods that fuel with a purpose are foods that help ease pain. Whether it’s a headache, post-workout soreness, chronic pain or an injury, there are foods that  will help ease the pain away in a totally natural way.
  • Reiki Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by “laying on hands” and is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.
  • Massage  Massage for chronic pain works by interrupting the cycle of chronic pain. When you have pain in a certain area of the body, the muscles tighten around that area to “protect” it, mobility is limited, and often, circulation is reduced. Additionally, pain that began with an injury or illness can cause emotional and psychological stress that exacerbates the pain and even remains after the physical condition has healed. Massage for chronic pain restores mobility by loosening tight muscles and trigger points and by lengthening muscles. Massage also improves circulation by increasing blood flow, as well as promotes relaxation and helps relieve emotional stress and anxiety that can contribute to chronic pain.
  • Acupuncture A new study of acupuncture — the most rigorous and detailed analysis of the treatment to date — found that it can ease migraines and arthritis and other forms of chronic pain.The findings provide strong scientific support for an age-old therapy used by an estimated three million Americans each year. Though acupuncture has been studied for decades, the body of medical research on it has been mixed and mired to some extent by small and poor-quality studies. Financed by the National Institutes of Health and carried out over about half a decade, the new research was a detailed analysis of earlier research that involved data on nearly 18,000 patients. The researchers, who published their results in Archives of Internal Medicine, found that acupuncture outperformed sham treatments and standard care when used by people suffering from osteoarthritis, migraines and chronic back, neck and shoulder pain.

Medications Medicines can often help control chronic pain. Many different drugs, both prescription and non-prescription, are used to treat chronic pain. All these medicines can cause side effects and should be taken exactly as they are prescribed. In some cases, it may take several weeks before medicines work to reduce pain. To avoid dangerous drug interactions, tell your doctor all the medicines you are taking (including herbal and other complementary medicines).

Your Choice! Your Body! Your Life!

When it comes to pain management you have to make choices that are best for you because it is YOU that has to live with the consequences and results of that choice. Everyone feels pain different and copes with pain different. Just because Suzi Q is doing something that is helping her it does not mean it will help you. We are all very unique beings and your chronic pain management is going to be as unique as you. The one thing I do recommend to EVERYONE with chronic pain and illness is to eat a well-balanced and nutritious  diet. Even if it does not resolve any of your pain you will be healthier and be able to cope better. You can never lose by eating healthy :-)

A (Rei)Ki to Effective Pain Management

I have a friend who I met at high school. We weren’t great friends then, but I knew her. When I started working at the casino, I met up with her again. For a while, she seemed to be more friends with my brother than me. She was always very relaxed, laid back and also on a different shift to me. We’d go out now and then but I don’t think it was a major relationship in either of our lives.

Now, we have both left the casino; and I have eagerly embraced her yoga-teaching, reiki-practising, kinda-hippy, relaxed friendship. She is a wonderful addition to my support network – she offers unrivalled understanding and support; she reads all the things that I send her about FM, my blog and my Facebook page (unlike most of my family); and she puts up with shopping trips with me (even though she HATES shopping!)

This friend, I have mentioned a number of times, is Thais. We keep talking about having regular yoga and reiki sessions, except that each time she comes over, we get distracted. I have no idea by what; I guess it’s just stuff that friends talk about.

But sometimes, and not often enough, she treats me with reiki. Reiki is a treatment in which healing energy is channelled from Thais to me, to enhance energy and reduce stress, pain, & fatigue. It is supposed to work by opening up a channel between healer and patient to transfer energy, and restore the body both physically and mentally.

By ‘laying on hands’ on specific parts of your body or even just positioning hands slightly above your body, a qualified Reiki practitioner can help bring relief to your chronic pain and make you feel better than you have in years. It is an ancient Japanese technique, also called ‘biofield’ therapy.

During a reiki session, muscles are relaxed, and energy flow is unblocked. This helps reduce physical tension and pain. Anxiety and stress also are reduced, helping to unblock and release emotional pain. Although you may not be completely pain-free, you feel relaxed, refreshed, and better able to cope with your condition.

A number of reiki clinical trials was recently reviewed by the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, which concluded that there was strong evidence that biofield therapies help reduce the intensity of pain in general.

No serious side effects or risks have been identified in the medical literature on reiki, and it is considered to be a very low-risk intervention. Since reiki is facilitated either with a very light touch or with no touch — slightly off the body — it provides a therapeutic option for those who are in pain or unable to be touched – that would be some of us.

Sounds too good to be true? I can only tell you about my experience. When Thais and I do finally get round to trying some out, I always feel deeply calm and relaxed (in fact, we want to try to reiki me to sleep one night and see if it helps with the quality of my sleep). I don’t know if this is just because Thais is a calming influence to be around at any time, or if she is actually channelling her energies into me.

Has any-one else had some experience with reiki? Perhaps with a practitioner that they did not know personally (for a less biased opinion)?