Understanding the causes and mechanisms that underlie chronic pain is essential to finding treatments that offer the best chance at healing. Learn why a holistic approach offers the best chances for recovery.
According to the National Institutes on Health (NIH), pain effects more Americans than heart disease, diabetes and cancer combined. Chronic pain is a leading cause of disability, and one of the most common reasons Americans access the health care system.
Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts longer than 6 months. With chronic pain, the pain signals can persist in the nervous system for months, and even years. Some research suggests that chronic pain results when nerves become damaged. When this occurs, treating the underlying injury does not always resolve the chronic pain. There is a significant physical and emotional toll paid by chronic pain sufferers.
Sometimes chronic pain can begin after an injury, trauma or infection in the body. In other cases, there is an ongoing source of pain. And yet, for others, there was never an injury or trauma, or any obvious evidence of a problem with their body.
The psychological and emotional toll that chronic pain takes on a person is known to make pain worse. Chronic pain causes a vicious biochemical cycle in the brain and nervous system. Stress, fatigue, insomnia, anger, anxiety and depression are involved in a complex relationship with chronic pain. When these symptoms are present with chronic pain, they can even cause the body to produce less of its ‘natural painkillers’. Likewise, chronic pain has been shown to weaken the immune system.
There are many different causes for chronic pain, and some kinds of chronic pain have numerous causes. Other times conventional medicine is unable to identify a clear cause for chronic pain. Diseases can be the underlying cause of chronic pain. Common examples include chronic headaches such as migraine and cluster headaches, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, fibromyalgia, neuropathy, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, endometriosis, PCOS, interstitial cystitis, Lyme’s disease, multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), mold toxicity, environmental illness, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Often patients will go to their doctors complaining of chronic pain, and leave with a prescription for medications such as opioids (painkillers), muscle relaxers, and sleep medicines. Since chronic pain can persist for months and years, many patients become addicted to these medications. The opioid abuse epidemic (opioid epidemic) began to take hold in the 1990s, at the same time as there was a push in the medical field to do a better job treating pain. Doctors began to look at pain as the “5th vital sign” in 1995 by the recommendation of the American Pain Society. In doing so, pain treatment became a priority for doctors. Prescription painkillers remained the mainstay of treatment for chronic pain until early 2016, when the FDA and CDC began taking steps to address the opioid abuse epidemic. At about that time, the New England Journal of Medicine quoted the director of the CDC as saying, “We know of no other medication routinely used for a nonfatal condition that kills patients so frequently.”
Given that for many people, chronic pain is persistent, it is essential to explore alternative pain management and treatment options through functional medicine and integrative medicine approaches. Livingwell Preventive Medicine specializes in these natural treatments for your chronic pain.
Dr. Stacy Livingwell uses an integrative and alternative approach to chronic pain treatment. She uses functional medicine to help you find the root causes of your illness, instead of just treating your symptoms. This means searching for underlying triggers contributing to your chronic pain, and treating the “whole person”, not just the pain. Dr. Stacy will take the time to get to know your life story and personalize treatment to your specific needs as an individual.
We look at chronic pain as a symptom, the way that the body tries to bring attention to an underlying problem. The goal of conventional treatments (like painkiller medications) is to get rid of the pain, but in doing so these medicines mask the root cause of the pain, often causing the pain to become even worse. You must find the root cause of the pain and work to correct the underlying causes of pain in the body. Our alternative pain treatment clinic works with you to identify these triggers, and to correct them.
Our treatment methods include a combination functional medicine, holistic and natural treatments, personalized according to your individual needs. This approach repairs the damage done by chronic pain to the mind, body and spirit. All of these aspects of wellness must be brought back into balance.
Through mind-body medicine and wellness coaching we help you to change the way you experience chronic pain.
- Wellness coaching
- Stress reduction
- Mind-body medicine (yoga, meditation, biofeedback, progressive muscle relaxation….)
Using innovative lab testing, we search for underlying causes of your chronic pain, and personalize the treatments to your individual needs. We use the most gentle and least invasive methods possible to achieve wellness.
- Innovative lab testing to detect underlying imbalances
- Prescription medications when needed
- Nutritional assessment and counseling
- Nutritional supplements
- Herbal medicine
- Medical cannabis treatment (medical marijuana) when appropriate
- Sleep evaluation and support
- Program of physical activity, movement and exercise
- Referrals to area specialists (acupuncture, massage, craniosacral therapy….)
Meaningful relationships are essential to a healthy spirit. Important connections that give your life meaning and purpose are at the core of spirituality. We work with you to explore your relationships with the world around you- friends, family, nature, the outdoors, and for many people, a higher power. Strengthening these relationships emphasizes love, faith, and hope in the treatment of your chronic pain.
- Relationships with family, friends, spirituality
- Nature and outdoor activity
- Support system building
- Referrals to therapists and counselors
- Chronic headaches such as migraines, tension and cluster headaches
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), environmental illness, mold toxicity
- Chronic infections like Lyme’s disease, Shingles, yeast overgrowth, Candida
- Joint pain from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis
- Nerve pain from neuropathy, Diabetes
- Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)
- Multiple sclerosis
- Inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
- Pelvic pain from endometriosis, PCOS, interstitial cystitis