Pain and Complementary/Holistic Therapies, Part II

(Originally published July 16, 2014)

In an earlier entry, I talked about the dangers inherent in the rising over-prescription (and overuse) of opioid painkillers.  Addiction. Abuse. Overdose. Contributing to social ills by migrating into street drug trade.

There are SO many ways to rid yourself of pain, or at least drop it down to a manageable level, without resorting to opioid drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, and others.

Let’s hit one of the standard non-opioid drugs right away: NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These include aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and others. While not perfect, are at least not addictive.  However, if you have problems with ulcers or GERD (reflux disease) maybe NSAIDs are not your best choice, anyway, even if they are better than opioid drugs.  And although it is not an NSAID, it is sold as an over-the-counter (OTC) analgesic. Some headachepeople will take acetaminophen for pain, but studies have shown that it is more effective as a febrifuge (fever reducer) than as a pain reliever, for most people.

A word about “rebound headaches.” Many pain relievers, both prescription and non-prescription drugs such as NSAIDs, will cause rebound headaches in some people, if not taken correctly. For example, the back pain that the medicine was taken for may go away, but in a couple of hours, the person may experience a headache as the body “rebounds” from the effects of the pain reliever.

Just a note here: I recently read someone’s online tirade about how “the only thing that works” is opioids, and how “all those alternatives are just a waste of time.”  I beg to differ–alternatives DO work.  But not all alternatives, nor pharmaceuticals, work for everyone.  Case in point: my mother was very, very sick for a long time due to a disabling injury from a fall down concrete stairs. The doctor prescribed oxycontin (a continuous-release form of oxycodone, a heavy-duty opioid) for her.  It didn’t touch her pain, and actually made her sick.  So, sometimes, even the big guns (opioids) don’t do the trick.

So remember: NOT ALL THERAPIES WILL ALWAYS WORK FOR EVERYONE.  If there was one therapy that worked at all times, for all types of pain, for every patient, that’s the only thing people would use and there would not be so many options available. This applies to surgery, conventional pharmaceuticals, herbal medicines, acupuncture, Qi Gong, Reiki, or anything else.

Supplements That Can Help With Pain

Here is a sampling (by no means comprehensive) of three supplements you could try to help with various types of pain. As with ANY supplements you may take to help with a medical condition, it is ALWAYS a good idea to check with your physician first, to make sure there are no contraindications.

The below recommendations come from Dr. Mehmet Oz, by the way. (1)

Vitamin B-12: this supplement helps to ease your back pain by encouraging your body to thicken its protective coating (the myelin sheath) around your nerves, so they don’t “short circuit” and cause pain.

Boswellia extract: Boswellia, also known as Indian frankincense, is an herbal extract that alleviates joint pain by reducing cartilage damage. Available at health stores, be sure to purchase boswellia extract with a concentration of at least 40% to get the most benefits.

Powdered ginger: oils contained in ginger reduce inflammation at the site of the joint. Take a half-teaspoon a few times a day for the next 7 days by adding the powdered ginger to hot water in the mornings, stirring it into your lunchtime lemonade, or concocting whatever ginger drink tastes best to you! You can also take a ginger tablet or capsule in doses of 1 to 4 grams every day either all at once or divided into smaller doses.

Topical Applications

Topical applications are things that you apply directly to the painful area.  Think of commercial products such as BenGay™ or Tiger Balm™.

Capsaicin: capsaicin temporarily desensitizes pain-prone skin nerve receptors called C-fibers; soreness is diminished for 3 to 5 weeks while they regain sensation. Capsaicin ointments and creams are sold in pharmacies and health stores.

Arnica: arnica comes from a European flower; although its healing mechanism is still unknown, it does have natural anti-inflammatory properties. Arnica ointment and gel are available in health food stores. Rub arnica preparations on bruises or strained muscles.

The above two are recommended by the Prevention website. (2)

Other Treatment Therapies

One thing that we need to think about is what the substances above, along with opioids, are intended to do.  The focus of all of these analgesics, both conventional medical pharmaceuticals and alternative medicines, is the relief of pain.  Relief of pain, as welcome and desired as it can be, is not the same thing as healing!

Compare an illness or injury to a flat tire.  If you have a flat tire, you may need to get to an important appointment, so you get to an air hose and re-inflate your tire.  This allows you to get on to your appointment on time, but it has not resolved the issue.  Only patching or replacing the tire will fix the real, root issue.

In the same sense, relieving pain, although it provides us with comfort, does not fix the issue.  Only healing the root cause of an illness or injury (when possible) will make a lasting difference to your health.

Complementary therapies such as Reiki and other energy healing techniques work toward both relief of pain AND healing the illness or injury.  And remember–this is a point I always try to drive home–healing is a personal thing.  You work together with Nature to heal yourself, regardless of what doctors, surgeons, Reiki practitioners, acupuncturists or anyone else may do.

That said, Reiki works in multiple modes to help your body deal with pain and speed healing.  First of all, Reiki will help you to relax. Doctors know, and research shows, that relaxing the body–getting rid of tension–helps decrease pain in many instances, even in the case of serious illness. (3)  Further, relaxation helps the body to  heal. (4) (5)

And remember, science shows us that the body is composed entirely of energy, whether we realize it or not. And within our bodies, sometimes the energy flowing through the various pathways (meridians or nadis) and the processing centers (chakras) can get out of kilter. Sometimes it can be at a lower level than it should be for some reason, or maybe a chakra can become unbalanced such that it is processing energy at an excessive rate.  These energy imbalances in the body can cause both physical health and emotional health issues. And sometimes cause-and-effect can get reversed: an emotional health issue may cause energy imbalance in a chakra, for example, and that will in turn produce physical issues in the body. (6)  (Think of ulcers caused by stress.)

Energy healing via Reiki can help to address these energy imbalances, helping to restore good energetic equilibrium to the body, and allow Nature and the body to work together to heal more quickly and thoroughly.

I encourage you to consider adding Reiki to your arsenal of pain-fighting and healing. You can find a local Reiki practitioner, or you can obtain Reiki healing at a distance (yes, it works at a distance!), or even better, you can learn how to heal yourself with Reiki. I practice self-Reiki every day, and my health has continually improved ever since I began doing so! There’s no reason you can’t do the same thing.  If you would like to be trained how to do this, get in contact with me, and I’ll be happy to discuss it with you!


(1)   The Dr. Oz Show

(2)  Prevention magazine

(3)  The American Cancer Society website

(4)  The New York Times article

(5)  Pamela Miles, Reiki In Medicine 

(6)  Dr. Frank Lipman, website


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