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.

Enjoy Summer-Eat Healthy Fruit While Reducing Pain and Inflammation

This is a fun time of year because it’s not only easier for people to make healthier food choices, it’s easy to find fun, healthy foods. Have you checked out your local farmers markets and food co-ops? If not, this is a great time to locate those nearest in preparation for your summer food shopping. A fun, easy and very healthy food to begin with is “fruit” it’s sweet, delicious and easy on the digestive system. Which is good for those who battle digestive issues such as IBS and IBDs. We’re less likely to crave comfort foods this time of year, so consuming more fruit is a great way to begin our day and a great way to wrap it up, by eating nice healthy fruit filled desserts. Fruit has incredible healing benefits, offering enzymes, healthy carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and cancer fighting tannins & flavonoids. For us Ankylosing Spondylitis & Autoimmune Arthritis Sufferers, fruit also offers amazing anti-inflammatory properties, while reducing pain and swelling. According to the Article: Inflammation and Foods That Fight via Arthritis Today, it is very important to consume a variety of colorful, fresh fruits and vegetables routinely for best results.  This is one of many steps toward achieving and maintaining a healthy “holistic” lifestyle. By eating fruit we reduce inflammation, pain and swelling, while increasing energy levels and wellness.  We also reduce the likelihood of developing age-related and degenerative diseases such as certain types of cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.  We also enjoy the added benefit of improving skin appearance, our moods and mental sharpness. Some of my favorite anti-inflammatory & low-glycemic fruits are: berries, cherries, apples, pineapple, grapefruit, kiwi, plums & of course pears. What is your favorite fruit? Enjoy your summer even more by adding healthy, delicious fruit to your diet!

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

Eat Foods High In Amino Acids to Feel Great & Manage Symptoms

Amino Acids are protein building blocks and proteins are the building blocks of life itself.  There are 20 which are crucial to human heath, relating to growth, repair, and maintenance of body tissues.  Nine of these amino acids are considered essential and required through proper nutrition, which will enable the body to produce the required protein.   These are: leucine, isoleucine, valine, lysine, threonine, tryptophan, methionine, phenylalanine and histidine.  The eleven non-essential amino acids are arginine, alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamine, glutamic acid, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.

Many non-essential amino acids may not be required for protein building, but through much research it has been discovered that they are instrumental in healing and relieving symptoms of many conditions, thus used therapeutically.  Many with chronic health conditions often have deficiencies of both essential & non-essential amino acids. Conditions and symptoms such as,  Allergies, Ulcers, Anemia, Osteoarthritis, Autoimmune Arthritis such as Rhumatoid Arthritis & AS, lupus, cerebral palsy, certain cancers, depression, cognitive issues,  insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, associated with CFIDS (chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome), musculoskeletal pain and discomfort associated with Fibromyalgia, Ankylosing Spondylitis, IBD, ADD (attention deficit disorder) & ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), as well as others. Amino acids work synergistically with many drugs and treatments, so interactions are not ordinarily a concern, but if you have decided to supplement with amino acids, your doctor should be informed.  A few Therapeutic aminos are L-histidine, L-Carnitine, L-Taurine & L-Tyrosine.  L-Trosine is often low in individuals battling depression, as well as those suffering with kidney disease. L-Theanin is found in green tea and is said to help relieve the symptoms of stress and anxiety, while enhancing focus and concentration. Which is perfect for those who are cognitively challenged, as with ADD & ADHD, Chronic Fatigue & Fibromyaglia.

Nine of the essential amino acids can be found in protein rich foods such as red meat, poultry, seafood and dairy products. Plant foods, such as vegetables, fruits and grains, will only provide some of the nine essential amino acids. For this reason, a vegetarian diet should be balanced to ensure  that amino acids are derived from all parts of  the diet. Vegetable sources of protein such as nuts, beans, and grains are incredibly healthy, because they not only provide amino acids, but additional nutrients such as fiber, vitamins A and C.

If you are able to eat and digest protein rich foods such as meat, poultry, seafood & dairy products then you are more than likely getting your required amounts of amino acids.  However keep in mind that many chronic health conditions can prevent absorption of many vitamins, minerals and amino acids through food intake, so supplementing might be required. Since our protein requirements are actually lower than most people consume, below are many fruit & vegetables sources of amino acids which you can easily add to your existing diet:

PLEASE NOTE: This is not a low-starch or low-carb food friendly list, rather its to provide overall information on foods which are high in amino acids.

Alanine – Main source being alfalfa, but also found in: celery, carrot, lettuce, cucumber, turnips, green pepper, spinach, plums, apples, guavas, grapes, oranges, almonds and strawberries.

Arginine – alfalfa, carrots, green leafy vegetables, beetroots, cucumber, celery, lettuce, radishes and potatoes.

Aspartic acid – carrots, celery, radishes, cucumber, mint, tomatoes, turnips, lemons, grapefruit, apples, plums, pineapples, melons and almonds.

Cystine – alfalfa, beet roots, carrots, cabbages, cauliflower, onions, garlic, apples, pineapples, raspberries, raisins.

Glutamic acid – found in carrots, turnips, cabbages, celery, beetroots, mint, lettuce, spinach and papaya.

Glycine – carrots, turnips, celery, mint, alfalfa, spinach, garlic, potatoes, figs, oranges, raspberries, pomegranates, melons and almonds.

Histidine – radishes, carrots, cucumber, beetroots, celery, garlic, onions, turnips, alfalfa, spinach, pineapples, apples, pomegranates and papaya.

Hydroxy glutamic acid – carrots, mint, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, grapes, raspberries, plums.

Hydroxy praline – carrots, lettuce, beetroots, turnips, cucumber, plums, cherries, figs, radishes, grapes, olives, pineapples, almonds and coconut.

Lodogorgoic acid – carrots, celery, spinach, tomatoes, lettuce and pineapple.

Isoleucine – papaya, olives, coconuts, almonds, apricots, pistachios and walnuts.

Leucine – coconuts, almonds, apricots, papaya, olives, pistachios and walnuts.

Lysine – carrots, cucumber, beetroots, mint, celery, spinach, turnips, alfalfa, germinates soyabeans, plums, pears, papaya, apple and grapes.

Methionine – cabbages, garlic, cauliflower, pineapples and apples.

Norleucine ( NLE a form of lucine)

Phenylalanine – carrots, beetroots, spinach, mint, tomatoes, pineapples and apples.

Proline –carrots, beetroots, lettuce, turnips, cucumber, plums, cherries, figs, grapes, olive, oranges, pineapples, coconuts and almonds.

Serine –radishes, garlic, onion, carrots, beetroots, celery, cucumber, mint, spinach, cabbage, alfalfa, papaya, apples and pineapples.

Threonine – carrots, green leafy vegetables, alfalfa and papaya.

Thyroxine – carrots, celery, lettuce, turnips, spinach, tomatoes and pineapples.

Tryptophane – beetroots, carrots, celery, spinach, alfalfa and turnips.

Tyrosine – alfalfa, carrots, beetroots, cucumber, lettuce, mint, spinach, green pepper, plums, strawberries, cherries, apples, melons, figs and almonds.

Valine – carrots, turnips, sweet gourd, celery, mint, beetroots, tomatoes, apples, pomegranates and almonds.

When supplementing  look for free form amino acids and you’ll want products with a full amino acid profile, many will read “amino acid complex.” such as with protein powders or protein drinks. Amino acids work synergistically with vitamins and minerals, thus working naturally with our bodies. Though it is preferred that we obtain vitamins, minerals, as well as amino acids through our diet, when we are chronically sick or have malabsorption issues such as those related to chronic inflammation & IBD, supplementing  just might be required. Be careful of taking excessive amounts of amino acids and be sure to follow label instructions.

Braggs Liquid Aminos

Food based Amino Acid Supplements: Braggs Liquid Aminos NON-GMO soy (contains 16 amino acids/8 essential.) This product is great to use in place of regular and potentially GMO contaminated soy sauce. Should not be cooked or heated.

Coconut Aminos

Coconut Aminos by Coconut Secrets contains 17 naturally occurring amino acids. Nutrient-dense, certified organic, dairy free, gluten-free, soy-free and raw-vegan friendly.

By ensuring that you are eating foods that are high in amino acids, or that you are supplementing via a well balanced protein powder or free form amino acids, you are improving your chances for optimal health, greater energy, strength, recovery, improved muscle definition, beautiful skin, better mood, better memory and enhanced brain function. Incredibly beneficial in combating fibrofog, pain and stiffness relating to Ankylosing Spondylitis and the multitude of symptoms associated with Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome, including depression.

Amino Acids, Angelo P John research based on amino acid cancer therapy, amino acid, amino food guide courtesy of Naturopathy for Perfect Health. The Healing Power of Organic, Real Food, Superfoods & Whole Foods, Nutritional, Gluten-Free, Diary-Free, Low-Starch & Inflammation Friendly Recipes

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

(All rights reserved.  Please feel free to share this article in its entirety, excerpts or links provided full & clear credit is given to The Positive Pear Blog)