Yoga & Meditation: Complementary Therapies for Chronic Pain & Inflammation

thepositivepear_meditation_yoga.pngOn November 11, 2016 at 11:11am, so 11-11-16 at 11:11am this blog will be four years old! All I can think is WOW!  In spite of my long hiatus from posting any updates, this blog continues to be a wonderful resources for “Spondys & Spoonies,” I still receive emails and FB messages from people thanking me for information that I’ve shared here, which is so very touching, quite amazing and extremely rewarding.  Anyone who continues to follow the blog, or checks back periodically to read posts, can probably gather that I’m a big advocate for holistic health and I’ve shared on a variety of topics relating to complementary therapies and alternative treatments and one of my absolute favorite posts, were those where I shared information on the wonderful benefits of yoga and meditation for Ankylosing Spondylitis, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I posted in those days as a lover of yoga and an avid practitioner, now I have the wonderful privilege of sharing information from the perspective of not only someone who practices yoga, but also as someone who teaches both yoga & meditation. Since starting this blog, I’ve become a Registered Yoga Teacher & Meditation Teacher. Though I’ve been in the Health, Wellness & Fitness industry for a very long time and have always helped people achieve their health, wellness and fitness goals in one capacity or another, I’m very excited to travel this new path. I’m even more excited to have the opportunity to work with “Spondys & Spoonies” in person as I help them to incorporate yoga & meditation as a means of helping to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. This a huge milestone towards the vision that I had for this project when starting it fours years ago.

I referred to yoga & meditation as complementary therapies, which speaks to the traction that yoga is gaining in the health industry, as providers incorporate “yoga as a therapy” into their practices.  While acupuncture, chiropractic treatment and nutritional counseling are some of the more common “complementary” therapies, yoga is quickly joining the ranks. Especially when considering the fact that Rehab Hospitals and clinics that provide occupational therapy, commonly incorporate Iyengar yoga into their patients health care regimens, as a means of helping them to build strength through proper alignment.  This is because yoga poses are isometric movements, which make it much easier for patients to achieve, in spite of inflamed tissues.  As opposed to the repetitive movements used in traditional physical therapy, that tend to exacerbate inflammation.  Iyengar and true Hatha yoga not only encourages proper alignment, but builds strength from holding the poses a lot longer than you would in a Vinyasa yoga and the use of breath helps patients to endure the temporary discomfort.  Incorporating yoga helps patients to achieve alignment awareness, which makes it easier for them practice the postures at home, thus contributing to a more successful recovery. 

Cancer Centers have been incorporating yoga into their cancer treatment programs for more than 10 years. Studies have shown that yoga helps to reduce anxiety, depression, fatigue and stress for some patients. Combined with meditation, the results have been improvements in sleep quality and a boost in patient mood and overall well-being.

Some medical centers are also incorporating yoga, along with other complementary therapies into their primary care. Doctors are actually referring patients to the on staff clinical yoga specialists, who works with patients to help develop a yoga sequence specifically for their particular ailment. This is exactly what I envisioned two years ago when posting an article on how yoga and alternative therapies were beginning to show up as elective courses at many medical schools across the country. This is so much better than a prescription for yoga that I spoke about in that post, because doctors and yoga therapists are now collaborating in medical centers to develop comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to healing. As someone living with chronic pain, who advocates for holistic health and appreciates the value of yoga as a practitioner and teacher, seeing western medicine incorporating so many aspects of eastern medicine and philosophy makes me very happy.

Is There A Prescription for Yoga In Your Future?

There is now neuroscience research that support yoga’s positive effects on anxiety, stress and depression. As the medical community continues to embrace the healing benefits of yoga does this mean that one day your doctor just might prescribe yoga for what’s ailing you?

We’ve heard about the amazing healing effects of meditative techniques such as relaxation, meditation and yoga for many years, including how these reduce the activity of the autonomic nervous system, alleviating stress-related maladies, including migraines, anxiety and depression, among others.  Now there’s additional medical research available to back these claims. Dr. Chris C. Streeter Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology at Boston University School of Medicine practices yoga and conducts research on its effects.

Dr. Streeter conducted a study with doctors of McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, comparing two groups of exercisers (group 1) people doing yoga and (group 2) people walking.  After 12-weeks, those in the yoga group showed greater improvements in their mood and anxiety levels compared to the walkers, and there was a positive correlation between increased  Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA), a key neurotransmitter in the brain. GABA levels were measured through brain imaging, and improved mood. The results of her study latest study is published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicinein 2010.

There is an estimated 20 million Americans practicing yoga.  It’s no wonder that yoga and alternative therapies have shown up as elective courses at many medical schools across the country, including Boston University, Dr. Rob Saper of BU a former burned out medical student in the 80’s took a year off to study at Kripalu, the yoga retreat in western, Massachusetts, which he says, inspired him to “try to change medical education and medical care in a way that’s more wholistic” with an emphasis on self-care.  Medical students at BU learn of  yoga’s research-based benefits, in hopes that these future doctors will be able to exploit their knowledge to help patients as they become comfortable enough to include this alternative therapy in their evidence-based practice (EBP), perhaps one day prescribing yoga as they would Prozac or even pain killers.

Thanks to much research, the medical community continues to embrace the healing benefits of yoga among other natural and alternative healing methods, this is a wonderful news for those of us with who live with invisible chronic illnesses, and their multitude of symptoms, and many of which we might choose to manage naturally.  Yoga is also great for chronic pain, it also lowers levels of inflammatory proteins, and helps with many other ailments.  As an avid yogi and sufferer of Ankylosing Spodylitis, Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue & Immune Dysfunction, I for one look forward to seeing yoga or even acupuncture appear on doctor’s electronic prescription pads. Perhaps doing so will garner even more support from insurance companies, hopefully making alternative treatments affordable and accessible to everyone.

Natural Stress Management Techniques

Natural Pain Management

Only One Workout Away!

You’re only one workout away from a good mood!  It’s fairly common knowledge that exercise has incredibly positive effects on the body, but exercise can also improve mental health.

It takes only 10 to 30 minutes into cardiovascular exercise or strength training to release endorphins, which helps to reduce stress, and relieve symptoms relating to anxiety, depression, tension, fatigue and anger, while also improving vigor & self-esteem. The release of endorphins also helps to reduce pain (including chronic pain) & enhance the immune system.  Having workout partners or joining a group exercise class gives you the added bonus of socializing with people who share your interests and common weight loss & fitness goals. Continued exercise will also help to delay the effects of aging.  Having a regular workout routine is much like having your very own fountain of youth! After your workouts you experience a sense of euphoria and a higher level  of energy. You will also likely sleep better after a good workout, feel more energetic the next day and find yourself in a better mood.

So come on, what are you waiting for let’s get moving!

Courtesy of Shake Fitness

Electrotherapy Pain Management For Ankylosing Spondylitis & Other Chronic Pain Conditions

Pain is unfortunately an unavoidable part of the amazing human experience.  Its the body’s warning system, a way of signalling that an area of the body requires more attention.  However, long-lasting persistent pain serves no useful purpose and when living with daily chronic pain, the body’s warning system quickly becomes something that we’d rather shut off.  When treating chronic pain and nervous system disorders like Fibromyalgia & chronic pain & inflammatory condition such as Ankylosing Spondylitis, the recommended course of treatment usually includes NSAIDs and for AS, immunosuppressants & self-administered injectables or biologics, such as genetically engineered DMARDs.  Though many of these drugs are proven to reduce the rate of damage to bone and cartilage as with Rheumatoid Arthritis, these drugs may cease to work in time and often produce negative side effects.  Including some which may outweigh their benefits.  There are many who would rather not risk stomach upset, bleeding ulcers, further joint discomfort, compromised immune systems, or risk developing other diseases or conditions and prefer to seek alternative anti-inflammatory options & natural pain management. However, for those who have no choice other than the use of drugs, alternative pain management may also compliment their course of treatment.

One exciting and very effective form of natural pain management is electrotherapy.  Electrotherapy is the use of electrical energy as a non pharmacological, non narcotic, non addictive, non invasive treatment for  pain, muscle spasms, muscle weakness, lack of circulation and compromised range of motion.  Electrotherpay works by blocking pain signals, preventing them from reaching the brain. This form of alternative treatment can effectively treat symptoms such hyperalgesia associated with Fibromyalgia, as well as the chronic pain and inflammation associated with Ankylosing Spondylitis.  Rather than completely numbing the body to pain and blocking its mechanism for healing the joints and regenerating cartilage, as with long term use of certain medications.

There are many forms of electrotherapy available for home use, also known as Electrical Stimulation Devices.  The most commonly self administered ESDs is (TENS) Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. TENS uses electrical current applied at a high frequency to stimulate the nerves.  A TENS unit is compact and portable, clipping nicely to a belt loop or  placed in a small purse. It usually has dual channels with two leads attached to each channel.  Each channel has both a positive and negative wire, colored either red or black.  Electrodes are usually provided with the purchases of your TENS unit and are best when they are rubber and adhesive, which will allow close contact with the skin. After several uses, the electrodes might loose their ability to remain sticky, so it is highly recommended that to have an extra set on hand.  Proper placement of the electrodes is important to benefit fully from the use of TENS.  The electrodes of opposite polarity may be placed close to one another, but never touching, as the body will reap zereo benefit.  Place the negative electrode on the site of pain and the positive electrode adjacent to it or near a nerve supply to the painful area.  On sensitive areas such as the knee, instead of placing the negative electrode directly on the patella, you might place the negative and positive electrodes on opposing sides of the patella. Perhaps one above the knee and one below.  There are immediate benefits to this treatment depending on the frequency used, low frequency releases endorphins and higher frequencies release harmones that are responsible for regulating pain.  Long term use might provide up to a 60% improvement in both acute and chronic pain conditions. Whereas some might find that the effectiveness of TENS diminishes over time.  Of course, effectiveness and results will vary from person to person.

The second ESDs that we’ll discuss in this article is (MENS) Microcurrent Electrical Nerve Stimulation.  MENS uses microcurrents that are so small, typically less than 600 microamps, that there is no discomfort or discernible sensation during application. MENS might prove more beneficial to those who are sensitive to the stronger current of TENS, such as children.  This form of electrotheraphy can normalize sensitivity and improve cell metabolism and heal at the site of pain.  Due to the ability of Microcurrent to heal at the cellular level its often used for wound healing and for treatment of pain and swelling. Microcurrent therapy has proven quite effective and works well with the body’s own electrical system.  Often used to treat swelling and pain from ligament strain, bruises, the spinal area, neck pain (beneath the collar) plus joint and back pain.  MENS is also a safe treatment method for treating injury, swelling and pain in children.  There are portable microcurrent devices readily available for MENS treatment.

I’ve personally used various TENS units for over 15 years, with very positive results for back & neck pain associated with multiple car accidents. Once diagnosed, I continued the use of TENS for musculoskeletal pain and symptoms associated with Ankylosing Spondylitis & Fibromyaglia.  When using TENS on both my neck and back prior to bed, I have a decrease in the morning pain & stiffness often associated with AS.  This allows me to wake up a simply get moving, without the usual waiting around for muscles to loosen and for the pain to subside on its own.  TENS has also been great for reducing or eliminating much of the dull, nagging aches or intense pain in my heels, knees and calves associated with plantar fasciitis and achilles tendonitis, as well as the more severe pain in connection with sacroiliitis.  I’ve recently discovered a device that incorporates both TENS & MENS, which I highly recommend. Its manufactured by Current Solutions, who has several ESDs combination electrotherapy units available.  The Intensity TENS/MENS Micro Combo is the most reasonably priced, best reviewed and now recommended by The Positive Pear. Click here to view & purchase.

Be sure to read ALL manufacturer instructions and when in doubt please contact a Chiropractor, Acupuncturist or Natropathic Doctor.  Prior to beginning any alternative treatment program please consult with your doctor, to avoid any potential harmful interactions with drugs or conditions that you may have aside from, or in addition to musculoskeletal disorders.  TENS & MENS units should not be used for undiagnosed pain, and should be completely avoided by those with heart disease, pace makers, implanted defribrillators or abdominal hernia and when in doubt about the use of TENS with these conditions contact your doctor or health care professional. In addition, use of TENS or MENS near the throat, face or head should always be avoided.

Many insurance companies will cover the purchase of TENS units via reimbursement for cases of chronic pain, once you’ve met their criteria.  This might include a failure to respond to several months of conventional medical treatments, including medications (NSAIDS) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and physical therapy. The purchase of MENS units may not be reimbursable, being a new therapy compared to TENS.  In spite of its known use in Japanese physiotherapy since shortly after World War II, it still might be classified as experimental or investigational. Be sure to check with your insurance provider to verify your coverage for either the purchase of  Electrical Stimulation Devices or professional electrotheraphy treatments.

There are many therapies that fall under the umbrella of electrotherapy such as Noninvasive Cortical Electrostimulation & Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation (CES) which use micro-current. Proving quite effective for the treatment of anxiety, stress, depression, insomnia, drug addiction, headaches, ADHD, cognitive dysfunction and hyperalgesia associated with Fibromyalgia. While also improving mobility in conditions such as Multiple sclerosis, Parkenson’s and stroke. CES are designated class 3 devices by the FDA. Be sure to check out other natural pain management articles here on The Positive Pear. Wishing you many pain free days ahead.

Pear Reference: Aetna Health clarifies the use of TENS and its recommendations by doctors for chronic pain. Spondylitis Association of America: Lists TENS as one the many alternative therapies found useful for AS patience. Arthritis Foundation Clarifies that TENS will not cure AS or any form of arthritis, but suggests the usefulness of  TENS for fibromyalgia & chronic back pain. TENS falls under the category of Acupuncture for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. There have been many studies proving the efficacy of both Acupuncture & TENS, that many insurance companies now consider these acceptable forms of alternative treatments. Cortical Electrostimulation Study, Cerephex Cortical Electrostimulation Study

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A Future with Disease Modifying Drugs not just Symptom Modifying

A Future With No Pain?

In the words of George Carlin “My Philosphy? No pain, no pain” Those of us living with chronic pain would love to have a “no pain, no pain” kind of a future, but is this possible? According to Dr. Elliot Krane “The future holds the promise that new drugs will be developed that are not symptom modifying drugs, that simply mask the problem as we have now, but there will be disease modifying drugs that will actually go right to the root of the problem” attacking issues such as chronic pain.”  WOW! Does this mean that there is there indeed hope for those of us who suffer with chronic pain conditions such as Ankylosing Spondylitis & Fibromyalgia, as well as other chronic pain disease?  There does currently exist (DMARDs) diseases modifying antirheumatic drugs or biologics, but the potential side effects are numerous. The idea of a future with better performing (DMAs) is something that definitely provides food for thought, especially for those of us who choose not to take drugs for our chronic health conditions, simply because they tend to do nothing more than mask symptoms and often with severe side effects. Here’s to the future of research!