Question: Given your focus and expertise, if someone is in chronic pain and you could only give him/her one piece of advice to put them on a path to recovery, what would you tell them?
Why ask this question? Well, we feel that it's a good idea to seek information from multiple outlets to gain new perspectives. It's great to learn new things.
We believe that chronic pain should be attacked from multiple angles such as with movement, mindset, and nutrition.
We scoured the web to find experts of different specialties who are knowledgeable in the field of chronic pain. See what they have to say about recovery from chronic pain.
1. Rachel Paul, Registered Dietician, The College Nutritionist. Rachel helps students and grads look and feel amazing.
"Stick to real, whole foods as much as possible - fruits, vegetables, eggs, chicken, and meat, cheese, milk, yogurt, etc. I agree with Michael Pollan: "Eat real food, not too much"."
2. Dr. Keith Kantor, Founder/CEO of NAMED, a program that leverages nutrition to help those struggling with substance abuse or mental illness.
"Eliminate inflammation using a specific diet and natural hydroxide alkaline water."
3. Steven Ariens, Pharmacist. Steven is a chronic pain advocate and consultant.
"I find it hard to talk about "recovery" for patients dealing with chronic pain, especially the estimated 20-30 million that are dealing with intractable chronic pain and have a valid need for 24/7 opiate therapy. They may not be short-term terminal but most/many/all are incurable.
I think that patients need to think "small" rather than "big" when seeking out a healthcare provider. I would look for a practitioner that recognizes and deals with palliative care and/or a practitioner that has a boutique or concierge practice or a pain clinic within a teaching hospital.
From a pharmacy perspective, looking for an independent pharmacy where the patient will be dealing with the Pharmacist/owner.. they tend to be less likely to "play games" with patient's medical needs and quality of life. The Pharmacists at the large chains get paid every two weeks regardless if they don't fill a patient's controlled substances. The chains have large utilization of floater pharmacists and I have heard horror story after horror story.. of floaters refusing to fill control meds [such as opioids]… even for regular patients of the pharmacy… they don't know the local prescribers and they don't know the pt and apparently many don't look back at the patient's history at the particular store… it is just easier to "just say no".
4. Stephanie Iyer, Pharmacist. Stephanie authored of journal publication discussing the use of short-acting opioids.
"In my experience, chronic pain is often related to depression and mood. I would encourage providers to screen for depression and anxiety but also for patients to keep an open dialogue with their providers about mood. In addition to pharmacologic treatment, patients can really benefit from group or individual therapy. Addressing these issues can have a positive effect on how patients deal with chronic pain and their outlook on their goals of pain therapy."
5. Dr. Linda Girgis, Primary Care Physician. Linda is also a social media influencer and author.
"I would tell them to consider all options. Chronic pain is such a difficult thing to treat, not only because of the pain itself but because of everything we know about the opioid problem. We have to balance relieving pain by not making the problem worse (i.e. addiction to pain meds). Yes, many people need these medications. But, other modalities need to be tried as well, such as non-addicting pain medications, physical therapy, acupuncture and many more. Don't say "no" to anything without at least considering it. Also, if you went to physical therapy in the past and it did not help, consider giving it a second shot if your doctor recommends it. Every therapist is different and you may get a different result with a new one."
6. Laroushna Witty, Certified Holistic Nutritionist, Optometrist, and Crossfit Trainer, Lou Lou's Wellness. Laroushna provides evidence-based nutrition counseling/coaching and nutrition education.
"My recommendation would be to follow a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet consisting of vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds (in addition to minimal salt and no added oil). These foods contain all the nutrients essential to keeping our bodies running optimally as well as give it the ability to recover and heal itself. By cutting out pro-inflammatory foods like animal products, refined sugar, and refined grains, we significantly minimize inflammation which is often the cause of chronic pain."
7. Chris Chase, Performance Director for the Memphis Grizzlies.
"It's so important, I think, to have an open mind for somebody in chronic pain to explore all options and things that can help you out.
Things like needling or cupping or different modalities that are, again, pain-site modalities that may help you relax.
It's important to remember that some of this stuff isn't an N=1 situation where it may help you but somebody with the same pain, pain site, same symptoms, it may not help them."
Read his full answer here.
8. Alana Howey, Physical Therapist, and Orthopedic Certified Specialist at Live Your Life. Alana applies a holistic approach to rebalancing the entire body system. She specializes in treating temporomandibular dysfunction, headaches, and cervical dysfunction.
"The most important thing for people in pain to do is to keep moving. Discontinuation of movement leads to a downward spiral loss of function, depression, and anxiety, and then more pain. Physical therapists are uniquely skilled at finding the level of movement that a person can tolerate and benefit from, as well as assist with the gradual progression of tolerated activity. A close second advice to recover from chronic pain would be to keep breathing and to learn breathing techniques that facilitate relaxation. Diaphragmatic breathing is sometimes the first movement that this population needs to start with. It is the foundation of movement and calms the nervous system."
9. Dr. Kerry Petsinger, Physical Therapist, Doctor of Physical Therapy, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. Dr. Petsinger also offers coaching services to help people achieve their biggest goals.
"Keep seeking solutions. There are many causes of chronic pain, and an individualized approach to your specific cause can be very beneficial. If you have tried some treatments and haven't found them helpful, keep seeking solutions."
10. Mitch Starkman, Physiotherapist at The Movement Centre. Mitch offers personalized physical therapy services to help you achieve your goals. FYI:A physiotherapist is essentially the same as a physical therapist. The primary difference is the region. The profession is known as a physiotherapist in Australia, Canada, and Europe.
"I think the number one answer I can give for patients with chronic pain would be: to think positive! I love positivity journals that are quick and easy to begin to shift the mind away from what we "can't" do and more towards what we CAN DO! One amazing resource I refer patients to all of the time and use myself is "The 5 Minute Journal" (I have no affiliation with them at all!). With 5 minutes per day, you can totally change your thinking! Pain can totally get you down, and that makes it hard to get moving, get stronger and feel better! I find this can be a great way to shift our focus away from the pain and open the doors to being strengthening and moving forwards with their Physiotherapy."
11. James Wenkheimer, Registered Nurse, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist at Underdog Health and Fitness. James blogs about various health and fitness topics.
"If I only had one opportunity to help someone with chronic pain, I would focus on mobility. Most of the time, I hear that people won't move because of the pain, but I instead believe they have pain because they don't move, or don't move properly. I had a client, with lower back pain that I was able to reduce if not alleviate just by improving the muscle and connective tissue ‘harmony' that impacted and touched his spine.
I can't tell you how many times I've heard people complaining of being in pain but have very poor movement habits. They always assume the pain has caused their immobility, instead of poor mobility habits causing their pain. The cliche of "if you don't use it, you lose it" is very applicable to movement.
So that would be my one piece of advice; either learn to improve your movement pattern or find someone who can."
12. Dana Corriel, MD Board-Certified Internist and Director of Quality of Highland Medical, PC @drcorriel, http://drcorriel.com. Dr. Corriel is also a blogger who writes about life outside the exam room.
"One piece of advice for someone with chronic pain would be, "Believe in yourself." It may be a cliche, but it applies in so many medical arenas. First and foremost, belief helps build strength, and can certainly help heal. Patients on the road to recovery often feel defeated, and alone. Believing in yourself helps lift your spirit, and gives you the mental energy needed to fight and stay on the right track. Also, if you fail in your attempt, belief can set you on the right track again, and ready for another try."
13. Annette Tersigni is a Registered Nurse and medical yoga therapist at YogaNurse®.
"The YogaNurse® Model of Care is a three-part remedy to relieve SAPS. Stress, anxiety, pain, and suffering. It includes 1. deep breathing, 2. gentle stretching, and 3. rest. The combination helps to ease pain by relaxing the central nervous system via deep, slow breaths, increase ROM- range of motion via the stretching which increases circulation to muscles and all organ systems, and the rest component- guided relaxation or meditation builds on the first two or is an excellent component in itself, combined with the deep breathing.
Result: Greater ease by shifting the focus from the pain story to a more positive experience in the mind, body, and spirit."
14. Gene Gresh is the lead pharmacist at The Feel Good Lab.
"My advice to anyone in chronic pain would be to first understand that it's never just one thing that you can do to support your recovery.
The first step should be to examine what you're exposing yourself to in the areas of nutrition, physical activity, sleep, and mental health. Research the changes you could make in those areas and don't be afraid to try new things. Everyone is different, so a combination of food, exercise, sleep, and meditation that works for you will likely be different than what works for someone else.
If you need a good place to start, I often look at nutrition first. What you eat has an enormous impact on how your body deals with pain. The wrong food can actually cause you to stay in pain. The right food can accelerate recovery. Consider starting with a food inflammation test to see what foods are not helping your situation. You'd be amazed at the changes in pain levels I've seen occur when we change someone's nutrition."
15. Dr. Beau Pierce is a sports chiropractor and social media influencer who focuses on functional medicine and healthy lifestyle.
"So, what I would suggest is that every person (and whether that's a person that's in chronic pain or not) should be seeing a chiropractor.
Being able to assess the nervous system and adjust misalignments of the spine, in essence, "turns down the noise," so to speak, to the brain.
The second thing that I would suggest, which is a nutritional thing, is to get rid of all the "whites" -- white sugar, white bread, and white dairy. Those things all cause an inflammatory response inside the body once they are consumed and that can also increase the amount of inflammation."
Read his full answer here.
16. Kimberly McGeorge, Naturopathic Doctor, Coalition of Natural Health, Secret to Everything. Dr. McGeorge is experienced in alternative health and energy healing.
"One piece of advice? YOW!
I would say reduce inflammation. The "how" is a book and pain is absolutely individual. So discovering why YOU are in pain (all the factors) is where we begin.
But if I had to say one thing, it would be focusing on reducing inflammation in the body AND balance your emotions (see I just can't say one thing).
Foods, stress, lack of breath, nature, and meditation, lack of connection to your spiritual side all contribute to inflammation. Autoimmune and purification are other issues to look at as well. I would look at genetics and what genes are turned on or off and then correct this with lifestyle, nutrition, and supplementation.
I would analyze the pain individually (which is where we excel) and allow the person to tell me why they are in chronic pain and how to resolve it.
I think I'm going to say extensive genetic testing and personalized evaluation in order to reduce inflammation and reduce pain."
17. Deborah Drake, Naturopathic Doctor, Natural Answers for Invisible Illnesses. Dr. Drake focuses on finding natural solutions to help those with chronic pain and invisible illnesses.
"Find out if there is anything you can do to correct the underlying problem.
Exercise or physical therapy, walking, sleeping on a good schedule, drinking plenty of water and so many other little things in life can make a huge difference in our quality of life.
There's no one single cure for most illnesses we see today. There are a lot of little things that can be done that will work together."
Read her full answer here.
18. Vicky Santiago, Clinical Hypnotherapist and Rapid Transformational Therapy Practitioner. Vicky specializes in ‘buffering' behaviors like drinking, overeating, and screen addiction.
"Pain is a messenger, sent by our subconscious minds.
If you find yourself saying things like "I can't cope, this is killing me, it's a nightmare", your perceived pain will be much stronger than the actual pain signal. Instead, aim to create a new inner dialogue that serves you."
Read her full answer here.
19. Michael Shortall, Personal Trainer, and Physical Therapist, Graduate Fitness. Michael offers personal training and physical therapy services.
"Given my everyday experiences with my personal training and physical therapy clients, I would have to say the single most important thing for the treatment of chronic pain is improving movement habits.
The body will adapt and protect itself in the presence of pain. What can start as an acute injury can become a chronic pain as a result of a lack of motion in the joints and surrounding tissues.
Once the initial pain symptoms subside. It's crucial to bring all joints through their full range of motion daily.
The old cliche is true. Use it or lose it."
20. Dr. Zafirah Muhammad Ph.D., Naturopathic Doctor, Look Better and Feel Better. Dr. Muhammad addresses health issues that affect women from a natural approach.
"The first thing is to address diet because the food that you eat makes every cell in the body. Eliminate sugar. Limit dairy, animal, fish, and poultry to once a week. Increase alkaline water intake. Increase fresh fruit and veggies. Whole grains only. Exercise as much as possible without injury. If not possible then stretching. I would look at the cause of the chronic pain to determine the best herbal remedies to alleviate pain symptoms. If a client is taking opioids I would address liver and kidney supplements to support the organs."
21. Brett Snodgrass, Family Nurse Practitioner, and chronic pain expert, @TheNPMom.
"I would highly recommend staying active, working and cognitive behavioral therapy"
22. Holly Dalton, Certified Yoga Instructor.
"Then I started to really understand what yoga meant to me, it meant using my breath, and different poses or tapping into my "chakras" as tools to calm my mind, my stress, and my anxiety whenever I felt triggered and the pain would not cease.
Yoga is the union of body and mind.
I learned that I could positively change my life without medication for my anxiety, thus healing or reducing my chronic pain.
Yes, you read that right, teaching a person to learn to relax is very challenging but necessary.
Chronic pain is debilitating, finding the "root cause" of it can be difficult. However, no matter what the cause, if you can introduce a yoga routine into your day, even if it is only for five minutes and only consists of breathing, relaxing and meditation, you will notice an overall difference in the way you feel."
Read her full answer here.
23. Jasmine Rausch Leventhal, Certified Yoga Therapist from International Association of Yoga Therapists, ROOT Yoga Therapy. Jasmine specializes in working with chronic health conditions like chronic pain, autoimmune disease, depression, and anxiety.
"My one piece of advice would be to encourage the patient to find a simple even breathing pattern and give themselves space to mindfully and non judgmentally observe and acknowledge all sensations and qualities that are showing up in the body and mind.
When working with chronic pain patients, I noticed that many (if not all) of them are very connected to the sensations of pain and often forget that there are parts of us that are not in pain (even if it's our eyelids or the tip of our nose). Allowing ourselves to connect with parts that are not in pain, can be a powerful tool in offering an experience of ease and relief, even if it's just for a moment.
Also, focused breathing is key to stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system and will jump start our healing. Those of us living in chronic pain are also living in a stressed state. And in my experience, the breath often shows up as short and shallow. The only way to break the pain-stress cycle is to stimulate the relaxation response and invite in a more even paced breath pattern with a focus on lengthening the exhalation.
This helps us let go of tension in the body, so we can notice and welcome in what we are experiencing instead of fighting it. In this relaxed state, we are also in a better place to receive and witness thoughts and sensations that actually feel good. This often brings a sense of hope and safety."
24. Kayla Kurin, Yoga Therapist and Health Advocate, Aroga Yoga, yoga for chronic illness.
"The one piece of advice I would give is to find a team of healthcare and complementary healthcare practitioners whose views align with your own and actively understand your symptoms and the severity of your pain. It's also important that this team is willing to work together to find the root of the problem as well as lifestyle and mindfulness-based practices to ease chronic pain rather than only medication or surgery. Finding a team that can help you approach your pain holistically is incredibly important!"
We even found a Shaman for you!
25. Rev. Vanessa Hanks, Shamanic Practitioner, Intuitive Healer, Independent Spiritualist & Metaphysical Minister. Owner of "Becoming Spirited" an Intuitive Healing Practice, Canandaigua, NY www.becoming.live, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
"I truly believe that Western medicine and its wonderful advances can be married with shamanic and intuitive healing, energy healing and naturopathic approaches to wellness.
Chronic pain does not have a one size fits all approach.
My advice as a shamanic practitioner and intuitive healer is to combine the advice of your medical doctors and professionals with knowing yourself, loving yourself, and being open to the diverse healing methods available to support holistic body, mind, spirit, emotional, and energetic healing."
Read her full answer here.
We hope that you have found this advice helpful. Hopefully, you have learned something new and are able to appreciate a different perspective.
Feel free to reach out to the experts directly to discuss further.
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