Alternative Health Methods Can Help With Chronic Pain

Doctor uses needles for treatment of the patient. acupuncture needles. alternative healthcare

I’ve had a pain in the muscles in my upper arm for months, apparently from lifting weights improperly. Aspirin and other over-the-counter pain medicines helped, but the discomfort emanating from my “rotator cuff” soon returned. I recently read Ann Romney’s book In This Together (2015, St. Martin’s Press) about her long struggle with multiple sclerosis (MS) and was impressed with her advocacy of acupuncture, reflexology and yoga to relieve her pain. It gave me a new appreciation and understanding of how alternative methods could alleviate my pain as well as the pain of several of my health coaching clients who suffer from MS.

MS affects at least 400,000 U.S. citizens by attacking their immune systems via the myelin sheath, which guards nerves in the brain, eyes and spinal cord. The cause is not known. Steroids calm an inflamed immune system, and in Mrs. Romney’s case, they stopped the attack, but did little to alleviate her fatigue.

Mrs. Romney — wife of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney — turned to alternative treatments, including acupuncture and massage of areas of her feet, hands and ears. The idea was to stimulate nerves and release natural painkilling substances produced in her own body. Done properly, such treatments — combined with exercise and improved diet — not only gave her pain relief, but also reduced her overall fatigue.

“I’m so glad I pushed myself beyond my comfort level and tried new things; they’ve made all the difference in my recovery, and I’ll never forget those who encouraged and cheered me along. We all need people like that in our lives,” Ann Romney says.

Think about this. She took the time to broaden her understanding of what causes her discomfort and pain. She accepted advice from her friends, worked with specialists and “got with the program,” so to speak. It did not include surgery or other drastic medical remedies — only knowledge, understanding, willingness and working with others who helped Ann push herself beyond her comfort level.

“Gradually, reflexology, equine therapy (occupational therapy that involves working with horses), acupuncture, and a healthy diet improved my energy levels, which is what I needed to break through the block of ice I was stuck in. It didn’t happen all at once, but there were incremental improvements,” she says.

Now, let’s return to my situation regarding shoulder pain. I’ve been seeing a specialist in acupuncture and reflexology, who helps clear my nerve blockages and consistently encourages me to stick with the program. I am continuing to exercise routinely — and properly — and eat a balanced diet. Like I encourage my MS clients, I am following my own advice to be patient, follow the advice of their medical specialists, push themselves sensibly beyond their comfort levels and think positively as practiced by Ann Romney.

And together, we are all making great progress!

Lisa Burbage

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