Holistic Pain Management

Table of Contents

Pain is a universal human experience that can significantly impact our quality of life. Pain can be debilitating and challenging to overcome, whether acute or chronic, physical or emotional. While conventional medicine often focuses on treating symptoms with medications or surgeries, holistic pain management takes a more comprehensive approach, considering the mind, body, and spirit as interconnected elements of well-being. This article will explore the principles and practices of holistic pain management and its potential to provide long-lasting relief and healing.

What Is Holistic Pain Management?

Holistic pain management is a multidimensional approach that addresses pain from various angles, aiming to alleviate discomfort, restore balance, and promote overall wellness. It recognizes that pain is not solely a physical sensation but can also be influenced by psychological, emotional, and spiritual factors. By considering the whole person and their unique circumstances, holistic approaches seek to enhance the body’s innate healing abilities while addressing the underlying causes of pain.

The Principles of Holistic Pain Management

  1. Individualized Care: Holistic pain management recognizes that each person’s experience of pain is unique. It acknowledges that genetics, lifestyle, environment, and personal history can all contribute to the perception and manifestation of pain. Therefore, treatment plans are tailored to the individual, addressing their needs and circumstances.
  1. Integrative Approaches: Holistic pain management integrates a variety of therapeutic modalities from both conventional and complementary medicine. These may incorporate but are not limited to physical therapy, acupuncture, massage, mindfulness and meditation, nutrition, herbal medicine, yoga, and energy healing. By combining various approaches, patients are provided with a diverse toolkit for pain relief and healing.
  1. Mind-Body Connection: Holistic pain management recognizes the powerful connection between the mind and body. Emotional and psychological factors, such as stress, anxiety, depression, and past traumas, can intensify pain perception. Techniques like cognitive-behavioral therapy, relaxation exercises, and mindfulness meditation address these underlying emotional contributors and promote mental well-being, which can alleviate physical pain.
  1. Lifestyle Modifications: Holistic pain management emphasizes healthy lifestyles to support healing. This includes regular exercise, proper nutrition, adequate sleep, stress management, and avoiding substances that can exacerbate pain, such as alcohol and tobacco. Lifestyle modifications can enhance overall well-being, reduce inflammation, and improve the body’s resilience to pain.
  2. Multimodal Treatment: Holistic pain management utilizes a multimodal approach, combining various therapies and interventions to address pain from multiple angles. This may include a combination of conventional medical treatments, complementary therapies, lifestyle modifications, and mind-body techniques. By combining different modalities, holistic practitioners aim to provide comprehensive relief and improve overall well-being.
  3. Nutrition and Lifestyle Modifications: The impact of nutrition and lifestyle on pain management cannot be overstated. A holistic approach emphasizes the importance of a balanced diet, rich in anti-inflammatory foods, to support overall health and reduce inflammation. Furthermore, lifestyle modifications like regular exercise, adequate sleep, and stress management techniques are crucial in pain management. These changes contribute to physical well-being and enhance the body’s natural healing processes.

Holistic Pain Management Practices

  1. Physical Therapies: Physical therapy plays a crucial role in holistic pain management. Techniques such as manual therapy, stretching, strengthening exercises, and hydrotherapy can help restore mobility, improve muscle strength, and reduce pain. Heat and cold therapy, electrical stimulation, and ultrasound may relieve temporary pain.
  1. Complementary and Alternative Therapies: Holistic pain management incorporates a broad spectrum of complementary and alternative therapies to address pain. Acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine practice, involves inserting thin needles at particular points on the body to restore energy flow and alleviate pain. Massage therapy can help relax muscles, improve circulation, and release tension. Herbal medicines, such as turmeric, ginger, and devil’s claw, may have natural anti-inflammatory properties. These therapies work harmoniously to support the body’s healing processes and provide relief.
  1. Mindfulness and Meditation: Mindfulness and meditation practices are integral to holistic pain management. Individuals can develop a new relationship with their pain by cultivating present-moment awareness, and reducing reactivity and emotional distress. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and other mindfulness-based interventions have shown promising results in reducing pain severity and improving overall well-being.
  1. Nutrition and Supplementation: Proper nutrition is vital in managing pain and supporting overall health. A diet high in anti-inflammatory foods, such as fruits, whole grains, vegetables, and healthy fats, can help reduce pain and inflammation. Some supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and magnesium, may support pain management.
  1. Emotional and Spiritual Support: Holistic pain management recognizes the importance of emotional and spiritual well-being in the healing process. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help individuals reframe their thoughts and beliefs about pain, reducing its impact. Engaging in practices that nurture the spirit, such as meditation, prayer, or engaging in creative outlets, can offer solace and support during challenging times.

Holistic pain management provides a comprehensive approach to pain relief and healing, considering the interconnectedness of the mind, body, and spirit. By addressing the underlying root of pain and incorporating a range of therapeutic modalities, individuals can achieve long-lasting relief and enhance their overall well-being. While conventional medicine has its merits, holistic approaches offer a complementary and integrative approach that empowers individuals to take a functional role in their healing journey. By embracing the principles and practices of holistic pain management, we can foster a more compassionate and comprehensive approach to pain relief for individuals worldwide.

Here we discuss this with Dr. Manon Bolliger, a naturopathic physician, to get her thoughts on this topic.

Naturopathic Medicine For Pain Management

NourishDoc: Hello, everyone. Well, in pain management, most of us have gone through some type of pain, whether shoulder or knee, but what are the holistic ways we can manage it? That is the topic of discussion today with Dr. Manon Bolliger; she has 30 years of experience as a naturopathic physician, helping people like us get over stress and pain management. Welcome, Thank you so much.

Dr. Manon: Well, thank you for having me here, I think it’s the main difference with holistic pain management is that we’re not just dealing with shutting up the body. In other words, if the body is in pain, we’re not just finding a way to quiet it. We want to get to why it has this pain. So, we’re digging deeper into the whole person.

The thing is, there’s no such thing as a part of the body that is the total of you that’s in pain; you’re in pain, manifesting in your shoulder or your neck or the trauma from the car accident which could have a physical component which is often the case with physical pain.

But it also has an emotional component, and so what happens many times when people, for example, have a car accident, and that’s a common pain that you need to manage and deal with, they go to their doctor who says, okay you need to see somebody who does some physical therapy, usually, at least in Canada, you go to see a physiotherapist, and they’re working the muscles, the joint, they are rehabilitating before dealing with the trauma to the person.

So, what happens is that they don’t heal very quickly. It may take a year, two years, or three years. So, in my practice, I’ve now retired. However, in my practice, I would see people that I say, well, what happened? They said, well, I had a car accident, and when I recognized it that people must deal with the trauma of the shock, the trauma of what happened, and that’s not typically being addressed with people who go with physical therapy because they’re just working on the body.

Then if you go and get help with just emotional therapy, they’re not working with the fascia, which is the body’s whole circulatory system. It allows everything to flow and communicate throughout the body. So that the body can rewire and heal. So I guess what I’m saying is when people are in pain, you have to find out what came with it and what was happening to you at that moment, and usually there, that’s where we start finding the answers.

NourishDoc: So, what you’re saying is whatever the real pain could be, knee pain, I had a shoulder pain, but this is not only the physical part of it, there’s also another moving part that has to be done together so that the pain can go away easier, right? That’s what I’m understanding.

Dr. Manon: Correct, and of course, there’s a spectrum. Sometimes, if you have shoulder pain, we do some work on the shoulder, which might be fine. But many times, when people are in chronic pain, it’s because there is some quick-fix approach that doesn’t deal with the whole person, and that’s what makes it different in a holistic view of the person. We deal with anything that triggers and sustains pain.

NourishDoc: So, what would be your approach? We want to tell the viewers that if they are suffering from any pain, it could be for any reason. What would it be like if they were seen by physiotherapists and sought counseling or emotional or diet? What would be the framework? That’s what we want to understand.

Dr. Manon: Yeah. So, I mean, the framework I use is called Bowen Therapy. I’m the CEO of Bowen College. So, it’s my pet passion but the reason it’s so important. It’s a therapy where less is more. So we’re not massaging. We’re not cracking things. We’re not like families can do this to each other. It’s very gentle, effective, and very simple. So but it has a context.

So all the practitioners trained through college do a general assessment of what’s going for that person, the etiology when it happened, and also know the mind-body connection. So that we might use aspects of Chinese medicine and all of that’s available for us to know the best way to treat that person. One of the things I’m so excited about at Bowen College is that we need a physical approach in so many cases.

But we don’t want to be working on the body. We want to be working with the body. In other words, it’s more interactive and allows the body to reset. So we’re not playing God like we’re going to fix this. We’re giving the body information with the understanding that it’s not broken. It just needs rewiring, and we allow the body to reset itself. But in so doing, so many clients, patients, and family members, depending on who’s doing it have a renewed sense of trust and love for their own body’s ability to heal. So it’s profound work, and yet it’s so simple.

NourishDoc: Okay, so can you give us an example of a client I want to make sure we tell the viewers a little more specifically about the steps? So, talk about any client you have, for example, acupuncture, naturopathy, and diet. In that case, that’s the level I want us to at least share with our viewers.

Dr. Manon: Okay, so let’s take a patient diagnosed with torticollis. So, their neck is injured from a car accident. That would be a great example. As a naturopath, I might look at, like you’ve mentioned, other therapies, other modalities like homeopathy, acupuncture, and all of these other things. However, my emphasis in my practice was Bowen Therapy.

I work with Bowen Therapy because the understanding, the philosophy behind that, is that the body has the blueprint to self-repair if you can trigger it if you can allow it and speak to it. So a person, for example, has whiplash, that type of injury, and came from a shock because they weren’t expecting the sudden bumping of the car.

Maybe they had their child in the car, and they were very surprised, shocked, and afraid for their life because, at first, they didn’t know how bad the accident was. If they came into my practice, I would do kidney movements, which the kidneys are the organ of fear in Chinese medicine. So I would make Bowen Therapy, the Kidney Move, to allow the fear to dissipate. I might work on respiration by moving on the diaphragm so they can take that breath; many people say it took my breath away.

We can give the breath back and do it structurally with the autonomic nervous system. So, we’re always trying to be in balance between our sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. But it’s the parasympathetic system that allows the body to heal. That’s why breathing, meditation, and all these wonderful self-help techniques work. They put you in a parasympathetic, same with bone therapy. But it happens during the treatment.

So, I would then do the reboot treatment, deal with their kidneys, address their neck, and typically, with two to 3 visits, they would be finished. They would not have any more neck issues. They would be relieved, their anxiety would be gone, and they wouldn’t have any residual side effects. I know this because I’ve seen so many patients, let’s say, after a car accident, who didn’t do bone therapy; they went for physio.

They went for counseling because they had night dreams. They were worried; they had flashes of car accidents but couldn’t heal. That’s why I compare to the people who come for Bowen Therapy how this can speak to the body and allow the body to heal very quickly. So that would be an example of whiplash and what one would do.

Emotional Stress-Induced Pain

NourishDoc: Okay. We just wanted a quick 10-minute session today. Thank you so much. Yeah, and anything else you’d like to add? I like to keep it succinct so that people can digest the information. We are launching our whole platform where people can go through much content at their own pace.

Dr. Manon: I’m trying to think what else I could add. Is it worth mentioning the mind-body reboot? The part where sometimes what I’ll say it. You cannot use it if it doesn’t make sense. Okay. So the other aspect is that I gave an example of something that truly is physical but has mental and emotional components, and sometimes it’s the other way around. It will manifest physically, but the cause is mental and emotional.

A common example is when patients wear their shoulders like earrings, right? You see it in their structure. They need to be at ease. They’re not comfortable. They’re not; how could they be breathing properly? Their body doesn’t feel right. But it’s not ultimately the body’s problem. It comes from a mind-body connection.

So another workaround, another door; you can open so many doors to allow the healing process. But another door is bringing to consciousness what the body is holding unconsciously. So the body’s holding the stress, and you don’t know why. But when you bring it out, and you can, you’re trained to be able to speak about it; then it’s like an insight. Oh. It helps. That’s what’s happening, and you learn to reposition to get a better posture, etcetera. But it may be because of some doubt, so that’s an example.

NourishDoc: Sure. Well, thank you so much. These are great examples for us to understand why the holistic approach is so important for managing pain. Well, thank you so much for being with us. To all the viewers, please keep supporting us. We are over 220000; I haven’t stopped counting, but we are launching a platform with all your support and expert support. So, stay tuned, and have a great rest of the week. Thank you. Namaste.


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