Preventing pain before it starts

  • Written by Guest Column by Allison Apfelbaum
Now that the warm weather has returned many of you may be jump starting your exercise routines.  This may trigger aches and pains in your body.  This can be mild, moderate or even severe pain in which the body remains in an activated state for months or even years without significant relief.  Having pain everyday can take a toll on a person’s physical energy and emotional well-being.  Chronic pain can present itself as headaches, joint pain, neck pain, back pain, or even elsewhere like the abdomen or pelvis.  Other side effects from constant pain can result in fatigue, lack of sleep, depression, anxiety, anger, or irritability.
Pain sensitization is a syndrome that results from the nervous system becoming sensitized to pain at a lower threshold, thereby activating more easily.  Previous stimuli that did not produce pain, now becomes more readily able to produce increased pain sensation. There are various alternative treatments to pain aside from prescription medication including manual therapy, diet, nutrition, and supplementation to treat chronic pain.  Many prescription medications are just temporarily blocking the sensation but not treating the cause.  It is important to address the inflammatory factors and things like posture and sleep when treating chronic pain.
Did you know that reducing inflammation in various ways in the body could reduce chronic pain sensations? Some people choose to take
NSAID’s like aspirin or Ibuprofen, however over time these medicines can have side effects.  When the body interacts with an inflammatory food or substance it produces a cascade of proteins, markers, and cytokines.  This reaction may cause swelling and water retention as well as a general feeling of malaise.
Vitamin D3 and magnesium for example are inversely related to pain.  Theracumin, made from the yellow pigment found in turmeric, is a powerful anti-inflammatory that can work on the similar pathways as Ibuprofen reducing the inflammatory response without side effects.   It is interesting to know that many of the pharmaceuticals we use in daily life came from a root or a plant in its most natural form.  For example, aspirin is made from the white willow bark root.
Exercise, posture and movement are on the top of the list for pain prevention as well.  Ergonomics at work is very important, the posture in which you sit at your desk.  If the keyboard is too low or too high it could be putting stress on your wrists, as well as chair height, desk length and computer level.  Looking down too often can really take a toll on the neck and shoulders.  This includes looking down at your cell phone.
Trigger point injections are another type of therapy that can be very helpful in breaking a cycle of pain when nothing else is working.  A trigger point is a tight band of tissue in the muscle that becomes sensitized.  A trigger point injection is a small needle, which injects a little local anesthetic into the point to reset the muscle contraction and relieve pain.  The results when effective can be immediate and long lasting.   Hands on therapy is an alternative way to relax a trigger point. 
Overall, finding out the cause of pain and breaking the chronic daily cycle is important when finding relief.  I hope these suggestions provide insight and resolution into the aches and pains you or a loved one may be experiencing.
Allison Apfelbaum is a Naturopathic primary care doctor at Tree of Health Integrative Medicine in Woodinville, WA.  To learn more, go to or to schedule an appointment call 425-408-0040.

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