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Table of Contents
Part One: Pain Prevention and Care
Chapter 1: Five Ways to Beat Pain
Chapter 2: Headaches
Chapter 3: Backaches
Chapter 4: Sciatica
Chapter 5: Arthritis
Chapter 6: Digestion
Chapter 7: Female Issues
Checklist #1: How Well Do You Prevent Chronic Pain?
Part Two: Heal Quickly and Painlessly
Chapter 8: Home and Field Injuries
Chapter 9: Sports Injuries
Chapter 10: Computer-Related Injuries
Chapter 11: Surgery and Recovery
Chapter 12: Skin Issues
Chapter 13: Toothaches
Checklist #2: Pain Prevention/Relief Supplies to Keep On Hand
Part Three: A Pain-Free Lifestyle
Chapter 14: Emotional Trauma
Chapter 15: Heart Troubles and Chest Pains
Chapter 16: Your Nerves
Chapter 17: Tonics
Checklist #3: What Aggravates My Pain?
Chapter 18: The Future of Pain Medicine
Chapter 19: New and Controversial Treatments
Further Reading and Resources
About the Author
OUR LIVES BEGIN IN PAIN. JETTISONED FROM THE SAFE COMFORT OF OUR mother’s womb, we are born into glaring light, noise, and challenges we must face alone. From the t...
OUR LIVES BEGIN IN PAIN. JETTISONED FROM THE SAFE COMFORT OF OUR mother’s womb, we are born into glaring light, noise, and challenges we must face alone. From the trauma of that separation we may eventually gain strength and wisdom or else seek reentry into darkness. This book is our journey of discovery and freedom from ignorance and slavery to that harmful lifestyle. Everywhere I go I meet people in pain who are bewildered, lacking an awareness of its cause and best remedy. Using a daily pain pill as commonly available as aspirin is a way of life for countless people. The illegal resale of prescription pain medicines has become black-market big business, while the public remains unaware of potential dangers associated with their use, especially in combination with medicines or certain foods. This book addresses a major international health problem, which is pain resulting from poor habits, aging, injury, environmental and political threats including terrorism, and a variety of everyday stress factors that too often lead to drug addiction, depression, and challenged immunity. Both personal and journalistic, Naturally Pain Free draws upon my own clinical experience as well as on research information from experts and treatment centers throughout the world. According to the American Pain Foundation:
Chronic pain is a complex condition that affects forty-two to fifty million Americans. Despite decades of research, chronic pain remains poorly understood and notoriously hard to control. A survey by the American Academy of Pain Medicine found that even comprehensive treatment with painkilling prescription drugs helps, on average, only about 58 percent of people with chronic pain.
Despite the fact that tremendous scientific advances have been made around the world in naturally preventing and treating chronic and acute pain and injury with respected Asian herbs and advanced medical treatments, most people rely on their old favorites—denial, alcohol, addictive medical drugs, and over-the-counter pain pills—that fail to address the actual sources of pain and often result in harmful side effects. Do you use the same pain treatment for a toothache, headache, arthritis, menstrual cramps, or sciatica? Do you have chest pains from a heart health issue or an emotional heartache? They are all very different sorts of agony, stemming from different origins. Different pains require specific, individualized prevention and treatment in order to reduce reoccurrence and complications.
Naturally Pain Free presents safe, pleasurable ways to avoid common pains and long-term ailments that sap vitality and spirit. Comforting, preventative treatments detailed here include cleansing and slimming foods, calming herbal teas, revitalizing baths, energy-balancing massage, targeted use of LED-light therapy and cold-laser treatments, and pain-relief exercises done while sitting or lying in bed. Why suffer pain while trying to relieve it? You have suffered enough. You may think of this approach as hedonistic pain relief; I think of it as smart pain prevention and treatment.
Herbal tonics are nature’s gems and address many health and beauty issues simultaneously. You can find Asian herbal capsules for sale at Walmart or in your local pharmacy, but you may not know how to use them. Shark cartilage, for example, gives us protein and minerals from the shark’s backbone. It supports and lubricates your stressed joints, while it improves flexibility of blood vessels and helps prevent cancers. If you grew up in a traditional Chinese family, you probably ate it in soup during lunar New Year celebrations. Ashwagandha root, originally from India and now available in health-food store capsules, supports adrenal health and thereby improves physical endurance, memory, and sexual vitality, while it reduces lower back and leg aches and muscle fatigue. Aloe vera, the desert plant, is a supreme internal cleanser and a topical skin treatment for burns. If you were alone in the desert, it could keep you alive and pain-free. Drinking aloe juice reduces inflammatory pains, acid indigestion, menstrual cramps, and a wide variety of discomforts. These are among my favorite herbs.
All cultures value herbal traditions, whether as natural medicine or in cooking. With wise use, herbs are tools for prevention and treatment of pain and injury. To reduce confusion whenever possible, I avoid using traditional Asian medicine terms unless they are necessary to explain a specific treatment. For example, the Chinese word “qi” can refer to a measure of vitality, circulation, or organ functioning. However, I use the term to explain qi tonics or Chinese herbs such as panax ginseng that enhance our natural energy and support the health of internal organs. Most people do not realize that the origin of an herb is only part of its use. Many herbs and spices such as clove, cinnamon, and ginger are shared by many cultures. The difference comes in how they are used to affect our health. Students sometimes ask me whether people born in the West can use Asian herbs to treat pain or illness. My answer is, “Of course they can.” Herbs do not have to originate in your backyard to be effective. Their best use depends upon a correct diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up.
How can you find an herbalist? Accredited herbal health professionals are listed by their associated organization such as the NCCAOM (National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine) located in Washington, D.C. and online. Ethnic communities throughout the world sell herbs that have been used with confidence for centuries, and a growing body of international research available online supports their use. Some people prefer to follow their nose by consulting an herbalist recommended by friends in order to get a sense of how he or she works and of whether the treatment may be effective. In that case, it is important to supply as much information as possible about your condition, ask questions, and give the treatment time to work. Herbs are not like daily vitamins that we use to supplement nutrition. They should be adjusted by an herbalist when necessary according to your energy, immunity, and even the seasonal changes. An Asian view of wellness is holistic in that it aims to enhance your individual vitality and mood in order to reduce pain. It ties everyday pains together with deeper issues such as circulation, inflammation, and digestion.
I have come to think of my physical pain as a life-saving warning to adjust my posture and nourish vitality with the right foods, herbs, and body treatments. Using nature’s way to ease pain, I refresh my commitment to lasting good health. We grow into our bodies in a spiral of past and present habits and desires. Body shapes mind and mind shapes body. Pain also shapes us, allowing us to use our experiences to develop clarity, understanding, and personal growth. How we as individuals experience pain greatly determines our attitudes and expectations of it. The Lebanese-American poet Kahlil Gibran wrote, “Much of your pain is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.”
Pain presents important communication about what is happening to us; some people accept it as normal, knowing more or less what to expect, while others feel threatened and deeply harmed by the same pain. Dr. Matthew Gammons, MD, specializes in sports medicine at Killington, Vermont, the largest, most active ski mountain in the northeastern United States. He says, “It is not a matter of courage or fortitude that allows some people to more easily bear pain. Emotional factors and nerve communication are involved as well as injury.” A sensitive health professional can often identify physical injuries as well as the deeper harm pain does to the nervous system and emotional balance. However, few untrained people are able to recognize the nature of their pain, its origins, and natural treatment. This book brings together many approaches to prevent and ease some of your worst hurts and fears.
Is there such a thing as good pain? Many dancers, athletes, and bodybuilders believe there is. Building muscle mass stretches, sometimes tears connective tissue, and it hurts unless steps are taken to rid the body of acid waste by-products. A natural diet to alleviate workout pain includes alkaline green drinks and homeopathic natrum phosphate to reduce acidity. Drinking water to stay hydrated is helpful but not enough to ease muscle pain. Over-the-counter painkillers and steroids have bad side effects. There are better ways to deal with workout pain; you can find those ways in chapters covering injury and energy tonics.
Here is a different example of good pain. As I take the elevator to surgery on the fifth floor, I smile, anticipating a warm greeting from my longtime friend, Dr. Gerald Ginsberg, MD, FACS., Director of Plastic Surgery at New York Downtown Hospital. He has reshaped my Hungarian thighs using liposuction. His beauty treatments are a pleasure because they are my choice and I know the pain is both tolerable and temporary. They involve good pain. During our time together, we chat about family and vacations, which enhances a healing atmosphere. To support his expert treatments, I use a traditional Chinese herbal medicine to avoid excess bleeding, swelling, and bruising, and speed healing to a fraction of the usual time. In other words, I control my pain. The Chinese People’s Army uses the same capsule of astringent and circulation-enhancing herbs to stop hemorrhage from gunshot wounds and help prevent infections. Office surgery avoids the usual risks and expense of general anesthesia and a hospital visit.
Dr. Gerry has often remarked upon my ability to stay calm and focused, while staying awake, during plastic surgery. He and I have the same goal, and I have total confidence in him. I am realistic about what to expect from treatments and I use natural pain-treatment methods during surgery. I breathe deeply, apply targeted acupressure point stimulation, and follow up with additional remedies to speed healing. After years of treating others’ chronic pain issues, including female complaints, arthritis, computer-related pains, and everyday injuries, I know how to deal with pain. I have maintained a private health practice, and I presently write and answer health queries from around the world on my own and other websites. I can say with certainty that no over-the-counter or prescription pain medicine builds health. The more you know about your pain—its origins and effective, affordable treatments—the more calm, focused, safe, and content you can remain. The purpose of this book is to educate you about your pain in order to help prevent and eliminate it.
Sometimes, despite all our best efforts, pain conquers us because of injury, aging, and life’s shocks. Maybe you jog or play tennis. Maybe you lifted the front room easy chair the wrong way and wrenched your back. Maybe you twisted your ankle, which is swollen and painful. Perhaps you have a chronic, debilitating illness that requires pain sedation. I am pleased to share my knowledge on natural and controversial pain therapies ranging from stem-cell injections to meditation and even marijuana. Luckily, a new frontier of regenerative medicine is slowly coming to light in America and is more advanced elsewhere. Once thought unimaginable, regenerative medicine accelerates the natural healing process to fully restore the health of damaged tissue and organs. Chapter 18, “The Future of Pain Medicine,” features cutting-edge pain treatments, including my personal experience with platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and bone marrow stem-cell injections that use my own blood and stem cells to treat severe arthritic damage and pain.
This is truly an exciting direction in sports medicine and orthopedic surgery that hopefully will someday replace risky, expensive joint-replacement surgeries and enhance healing for all sorts of illness and injuries. I am thrilled to share my positive experience with this approach because it points the way to advanced treatment of acute and chronic pains. Great health research news is coming from China. Wujing General Hospital in Beijing specializes in autologous (taken from your own blood and bone marrow) stem-cell transfer treatments for heart disease, diabetes, and neurological illnesses, including Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. We are at the dawn of a new day in medicine. This discovery, as important as the invention of surgery and antibiotics, brings up to date the ancient theories of qi and self-healing. We can heal the body with the body itself.
Chronic pain is exhausting, demoralizing, and aging. Acute, disfiguring injury is among our greatest fears. Pain depletes enthusiasm and life force. However, people since earliest times have treated pain with natural remedies from mud and bee stings to modern high-tech drugs and electrical stimulation. This book is your guide to treatments suited to your needs and budget. Chapters address different sorts of pain, ranging from superficial irritations affecting the skin’s surface to heartaches. Scientists now know that the brain reacts to social rejection as though it were injury. Because body is connected to mind and emotions in a sensitive balance, wellness may be enhanced while treating either. For example, an essential oil can lift energy and mood, enabling positive thought and action. We strive to achieve total wellness, ease of movement, and comfort in order to achieve our best work and relate to others in positive, meaningful ways. The pleasure of beautiful music, loving touch, and pleasant natural aromas from cooking and flowers are no less important to well-being than a drug or surgical technique. They are the comforts of a loving home.
In modern Western society we stress aggressive action by using “painkillers.” An Eastern approach, proven throughout the centuries, strives to ease discomforts and achieve balanced circulation and emotions in order to enhance vitality. A healthy body is the perfect home of an open mind and generous spirit. An important source of our productivity is the confidence and enthusiasm resulting from the pain-free lifestyle described in this book. Why is a natural approach better? You may be able to temporarily ignore being overweight, having beauty problems, or having low energy, but no one can ignore a pain that stops you in your tracks. Try to sedate it, but sooner or later pain threatens vitality and shortens life. How we observe pain often points to the prescribed treatment approach. A research scientist might describe it like this: “Pain follows C-fiber activation, central sensitization, spinothalamic tract activation, insular cortex activation, and so on” in an inevitable chain of events. But chemical reactions do not express our experience. Pain hurts! It can be sharp, dull, deep, surface, hot, tingling, and all sorts of other feelings. Natural doctors, yogis, and parents have found ways to make pains stop. We need to pay attention to factors that aggravate our pain, such as age, excess weight, stress, diet, weather, emotional upset, and fatigue, and try to alleviate the underlying causes. This book will help. Good health provides comfort and well-being, and we are ill to the extent that we vary from this sensation.
A primary function of pain is communication. Political torture forces confessions. Pain always gets a reaction. Pain is a message from a specific area that something is wrong. You might tell me, “I have a headache.” I would ask, “Where exactly does it hurt? Describe the pain.” With my help, identifying and relieving your sources of pain may easily be done at home—without relying on clinics, expensive drugs, surgery, and machinery. Some people go to the dentist only after feeling a toothache. It is smarter to have regular checkups. Regular, natural pain prevention gives us the opportunity to enhance health and avoid discomforts of illness and aging.
Do men and women experience pain differently? It’s hard to say. An April 2008 Clinical Update from the International Association for the Study of Pain entitled “Gender, Pain, and the Brain” finds many relevant factors such as hormonal fluctuation, differences in body size, skin thickness, blood pressure, social expectations, and differences in psychology such as anxiety and depression. It’s not surprising that scientists find gender-related response to pain inexact. However, I think women react intuitively to pain. Some expect it monthly and for that reason are better prepared to handle it. We recognize its effects and are up for the challenge. We want a quick answer, not studies and diagrams, for injury and discomfort. This book is a tool to stop suffering.
Drugs have their place, which may be the hospital and battlefield more than the home. Prescription drugs should be monitored by medical professionals. Opiates are widely used in hospitals and following surgery to block pain, as are anticholinergic drugs that reduce spasm of smooth muscle in the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, and urinary tract. Many side effects are associated with these drugs, including hallucinations. One of my friends used a prescription drug for sciatica pain and cut up his bathroom towels with scissors in his sleep. Another client, using a drug for migraines, had the delusion that snakes were in her bed. Lawsuits are pending for people who were able to drive a car or commit crimes while under the influence of a popular sleep remedy. Morphine causes dizziness and headache, hampers digestion, and stops normal elimination. So can Oxycodone, or a combination of a narcotic and Tylenol, which is widely prescribed by doctors and sold illegally on the black market. It can be addictive to users and their unborn children.
One of the saddest and riskiest aspects of chemical pain-relief is drug withdrawal. We now have newborn junkies who must withdraw from painkillers their mothers took during pregnancy. An April 2011 New York Times article outlines the problem. A mother buys the prescription painkiller Oxycodone on the street. She takes it for the first twelve weeks of pregnancy and then tries to quit cold turkey. That results in her unborn baby having seizures, which could cause miscarriage. The mother takes methadone to reduce her drug cravings and withdrawal. But the baby nearly dies of withdrawal from methadone.
Taking a natural approach makes pain a tool for recovery. By recognizing the source of a chronic pain and preventing and eliminating it with foods, herbs, massage, movement, and a healthy outlook, we reinforce wellness. The body’s subtle communication—the impulses that course through acupuncture meridians, chakras, and the surrounding ether, our network of wellness—remains intact as we gain resilience.
Your Comfort Zone
We each have a preferred location and climate that has nothing to do with our place of birth, work, or relationships. It is our comfort zone. Mine is a warm tropical beach. A light breeze from the south is blowing. It is late afternoon and I am in my solitary space singing a raga. Warmth, quiet, peace, and music are healing for me. Despite midsummer heat, if I eat too many cold, raw foods or iced beverages, if I linger in a cool swimming pool too long, I get deep chills that hurt muscles, joints, and bones. Usually a cup of cinnamon tea helps normalize my internal temperature and gets my blood moving to reduce pain. For me, internal or external cold retards circulation, causing stabbing pain.
Your pain may improve with cold treatments such as ice and anti-inflammatory aids; mine does not. You have to concede there is that difference among us: Some require warmth and others colder treatments in order to reduce chronic pain and enhance comfort and general health. Treatments recommended for everyone may not work for you or me, which is why I’ve outlined a number of recommendations to each ailment discussed in this book.
You may be reading these words in book form, or on your computer or mobile phone on a train or plane. My herbal suggestions are easy to find in your kitchen, in your health shop, in large chain stores and supermarkets, and online. Throughout Naturally Pain Free, I have provided appropriate Internet links to sources for top-quality natural health products featured in the book and, in some cases, links for additional reading. Most chapters include sections called “Letha’s Advice” in which I share practical tips or personal insights on methods described in the chapter. The healing practices covered in detail in the book have been applied in my teaching at various educational centers in the New York area, including Beth Israel School of Nursing and Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center.
All research and product information is updated regularly with health articles, videos, books, and my personal comments to inquiring readers at my interactive, multilingual website, www.asianhealthsecrets.com.
Length: 9 in
Width: 6 in
Weight: 15.92 oz
Page Count: 336 pages