Pain. It's a sensitive topic for many who deal with it on a regular basis. Pain can be acute or chronic, it can come in waves or in shocks, it can feel meaningless or be a symptom of an obvious injury.
No matter what, pain is simply a message. It is your body and mind responding to some kind of injury, emotion or inflammation and is telling you to slow down, to pay attention, to take some time to recover. Unfortunately, we don't live in a society where there's much sympathy for pain or the time it takes to manage it, not to mention dealing with the root cause. Just pop a few Tylenol already and get back to work!
I'd love to dig a little deeper here though and give some space for this thing we all experience and try to ignore. Let me be clear though, this article is in no way meant to diagnose or prescribe, and please be sure to check with your health care provider before jumping on any herbal protocol.
So, let me begin by saying that pain is lucrative. So lucrative in fact, it is worth over $70,000,000. Over 20% of people world wide experience chronic pain. This kind of pain can be relentless in is constant presence, or it can come and go over hours, days or weeks and linger on and off like that for years. Over 50% of North American adults claim to have regular migraines. Chronic pain has resulted in school drop outs, loss of jobs, inability to work full time and social assistance. With all of that said, not a lot of research has been done on improving common pain medications. There are some new pain blocking technologies finally surfacing through grass roots organizations and innovative thinkers, thank goodness!
I would love to point out yet again, that pain is a symptom. Sometimes (arguably, often), it is psychosomatic, but that does not negate the legitimate pain that exists. This pain is 100% real and is created in the brain, through reflex, emotion and memory. Other pain is caused by injury, inflammation, pressure and degradation of the body through illness or disease. Regardless of how or where it is felt, it is a bodily response to something, be that physical or emotional.
So how do we deal with it? It's worth looking into the root cause of pain and finding out if there's some way to address that. Could it be psychosomatic? At least 98% of you will give an empathetic 'No' on that one, but I urge you to dig deep with an open mind. Dr. John Sarno has studied this for many years and has had amazing results with those suffering from back pain primarily, although his book and techniques help with several other chronic pain issues. This one is a mind bender and worth the read!! For the cost of one little book, you could possibly change your life.. so what's the risk in trying?
For inflammation, there are several herbs and foods that can help. Many of our culinary spices are fantastic and addressing inflammation in the body, look to turmeric, ginger, rosemary, cinnamon, garlic and cayenne and try adding more to your foods. Other herbs you can use are chamomile, lemon balm, echinacea, kava kava, ashwaganda, holy basil/tulsi, sage, mint, and rhodiola which have all been used to ease inflammation and are available and easy to take as teas, tinctures or herbal capsules.
You might try avoiding inflammation causing foods such as gluten, sugar, processed foods and pasteurized dairy.
One of my favourite methods for addressing pain is actually going to the nervous system. Many of the herbs listed above also help to calm the nerves and engage a more 'rest and digest' state. This then helps the muscles relax, the mind and body be able to detoxify, the immune system be able to engage and promote a general sense of calm. Body oiling is a great way to do this!! And, you can use anti-inflammatory herbs to do so.
We can also use analgesic herbs for more direct pain relief. This list of herbs can be used in a variety of ways including as tea, salve (ointment), compress, body oil and herbal pill. These herbs include Arnica (external only unless taken as a homeopathic remedy), calendula, hops, meadowsweet, white willow, st. johns wort, feverfew, cayenne and more! I use these and other herbs in our Pain Salve, our Moon Salve (for menstrual cramping), and our Pain Elixir (seasonal only).
Another great way to address pain is with aromatherapy. I am not a certified aromatherapist, but my dear friend Diane is and she's written an incredible guest post about it here. Please check it out to learn more!