The Overlooked Causes of Chronic Pain and an Alternative Approach to Cure Them March 06 2015
We’ve all heard how a natural approach to food is the best. We know that we shouldn’t eat high fructose corn syrup. We’ve all wondered if we should be buying free range chicken eggs. We’ve visited local farmer markets to pick up local produce. We understand that there needs to be a natural approach when it comes to our food. But what about a natural approach to our medicine? While a conventional medical approach has been working miracles for the past 50 years, we have lost a little of our magic for healing our bodies, not just treating the illness.
There are many natural and alternative approaches to illnesses and autoimmune diseases that, unfortunately, are not used now days. Healing our whole bodies is so much more complicated than just eliminating the symptoms to a disease.
To explain the Natural approach to chronic pain completely, an understanding of two philosophical models needs to be explained. My approach to treating patients follows the philosophical model of naturopathy. This model identifies a disease and works with the healing mechanisms of the body to bring about a cure. Its main focus is to identify the cause of the disease and stimulate the bodies’ own healing mechanisms to eliminate the disease. The philosophical model that most conventional Doctors follow is allopathy. This model identifies the disease and uses treatments like drugs or surgery to suppress the symptoms of the disease. If the symptoms of the disease are eliminated the disease is cured in the allopathic model.
So when I talk about using a natural approach towards chronic pain, I follow the philosophical model of naturopathy. I would treat chronic pain first by looking for the causes of chronic pain. The main causes of chronic pain are food sensitivities, ligament laxity, neuropathic pain, oxidative stress, increased intestinal permeability, and hormonal imbalance. To do this, I would take a thorough history, physical exam, and order laboratory tests to identify the cause of the chronic.
Explanation of the Causes of Chronic Pain
Food sensitivities: There are many foods that people can be sensitive to and the main symptom of food sensitivities is wide spread pain. Food sensitivities are different than a food allergy. People with food allergies usually have instantaneous reactions to the food right after eating, such as wheezing, difficulty breathing, rash etc. Food sensitivities don’t have an immediate reaction after eating the food. It can take several hours or days for symptoms to present and they are more subtle. They do not show up in conventional food allergy testing, because the tests used look at the IgE allergic response (the instantaneous response) and not the IgG4 immune response (the slow response).
Ligament laxity: The body is constantly under physical stress and trauma with walking, running, twisting, picking things up etc. This places stress on the ligaments in the body and stretches them out, so they are looser than they use to be. A good example of this is a rubber band. The rubber band is strong and tight when it is new and hasn’t been stretched. When the rubber band is stretched over and over it doesn’t go back to how it was when it was new, because it has lost some of its elasticity. This is what happens to our ligaments over time. When the ligaments become loose it causes the joints to not be in proper alignment. When the joint isn’t in proper alignment wear and tear occurs on the cartilage and decreases the cushion in the joints. The loosening of the ligaments and degeneration of cartilage leads to joint pain all over the body. This is common in the knees, shoulders, hips, low back, and neck.
Neurogenic Inflammation: The body has many nerves in the skin which can be damaged and become inflamed with trauma or over stretching of the body. When these nerves become inflamed they produce chemicals that send a constant pain signal to the brain. Many times when these nerves become inflamed the pain is severe and a definite location can’t be identified.
Oxidative Stress: The body is constantly experiencing oxidative stress and the body usually has mechanisms to deal with this stress. Many individuals with chronic pain have a defect in a gene for the production of the enzyme 5MTHFR. This enzyme is needed for the production of the amino acid methionine, which is needed for various mechanisms in the body. A defect in this gene is quite common, which can lead to deregulation of inflammation in the body and leads to wide spread pain throughout the body.
Increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut): The understanding of how increased intestinal permeability leads to chronic pain is quite complex. I will give the most simplified explanation that I can give. Increased intestinal permeability occurs when the intestinal wall is damaged by continual use of pain killers, antibiotics, heart burn medications, and many others. This damage decreases the intestine’s ability to keep certain constituents of food from leaking out of the intestines, which is where this condition has gotten its nick name “leaky gut”. When these food constituents have leaked out, the immune system sees it as foreign and starts to attack the foreign material. Because of the constant stimulation of the immune system, the body also attacks normal tissues in the body. This leads to a wide spread inflammatory response. This inflammatory response that occurs can lead to pain all over the body.
Hormonal Imbalance: A deregulation of hormones in the body leads to various symptoms and one of these symptoms is wide spread pain. The major hormones that are involved are the thyroid hormone, cortisol, estrogen, and progesterone. A decreased production of thyroid hormone and cortisol leads to inflammation and the sensation of pain. Many women have too much estrogen being produced and too little progesterone being produced. This can be the cause of many symptoms one of the consequences of this in women is chronic pain.
As we can see, there are multiple causes of chronic pain. While we would all love to have a quick fix that works for everyone, our bodies are a lot more complicated than that. It takes a trained professional to know exactly what the cause is and the treatment protocol for your pain. But there is hope for individuals with chronic pain. Who knows, it may be just as easy as not eating eggs.
For a more information and treatment of chronic pain and other conditions a consultation with the author Dr. Jacob Schmutz, a specialist in natural and alternative medicine, can be made by visiting our appointment page.