Pain is one of the ways our body signals it needs our attention.
Pain can be caused by any number of conditions and issues. The characteristics of the pain we experience can tell us a lot about where the pain is coming from and why it is there.
Pain is caused by the activation of receptors in our body and alerts us to a problem. These pain receptors are called nociceptors.
Nociceptors can be categorized by the type of nerve fibres activated, and lead to a different experience/type of pain in the body:
- Superficial Somatic Pain Fibers – Transmit pain signals very quickly in response to sharp, superficial damage to skin or superficial tissues requiring immediate attention. This type of pain is easy to locate and can be stimulated by extreme heat/cold, physical trauma, or chemicals.
Example: Pricking your finger with a needle or placing hand on a hot object.
- Deep Somatic Pain Fibers – Transmit pain as dull, achy and poorly localized pain from tendons, joints, bones, muscles, fascia and blood vessels.
Example: Pain from a broken bone or sprained ankle.
- Visceral Pain Fibers – Transmit dull, aching and diffuse pain signals caused by damage deeper in the body (ie. organs). This pain may accompanied by nausea or vomiting and can be stimulated by stretch, lack of blood flow, or inflammation.
Example: Abdominal pain and/or nausea from a swollen liver.
There is another type of pain that we experience which arises from the activation of nerves. This type of pain is called neuropathic pain.
Neuropathic pain is typically experienced as burning, tingling, a pins-and-needles sensation, stabbing, shooting or electrical pain.
- Central Neuropathic Pain – Pain caused by damage to and/or activation of nerves in the spinal chord.
Example: Pain, numbness and/or tingling in feet from Multiple Sclerosis.
- Peripheral Neuropathic Pain – Pain caused by damage to and/or activation of nerves in the arms, legs, hands and feet. Can arise as the result of physical trauma, metabolic disease (type 2 diabetes), and/or infections (shingles virus).
Example: Pain or tingling in hands/feet arising from type 2 diabetes.
Hypersensitivity pain is pain which arises from the faulty processing of pain signals in the brain. In some conditions, individuals experience great pain from touch and pressure which should not normally be painful.
Fibromyalgia is one condition characterized by hypersensitivity to touch and pressure. Though the exact cause of the pain in fibromyalgia is not fully understood, some experts believe it could be linked to an issue in the pain processing center of the brain. This faulty way of processing pain may come from multiple causes:
- neurotransmitter imbalances
- mitochondrial deficits
- irregular blood flow to the brain
- cellular metabolic imbalances
When we experience pain, our body is signalling that there is a deeper process going on internally in our body which needs to be addressed.
Fibromyalgia is a condition where a person experiences wide-spread chronic pain across their body. The pain is often above and below the waist, and is experienced on both the left and right sides of the body. The pain may be experienced with only gentle touch to the skin, and may wander across the body.
Individuals with fibromyalgia also often experience other symptoms including:
- Pathological post-exertional fatigue (physical and/or mental)
- Difficulty recovering after physical exertion
- Unrefreshed sleep
- Brain fog & poor concentration
- Dizziness upon standing
- Digestive issues (bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal discomfort)
- Urinary issues (difficulty urinating, incomplete emptying of bladder)
- Sexual issues (vaginal dryness)
- Difficulty modulating temperature (intolerance to heat or cold, sweating episodes)
- Recurrent sore throats & flu-like feelings
- Sensitivities to medications, environmental chemicals and/or foods
These symptoms may come on after a physical trauma, such as a car crash, illness, medication use or some other cause and typically lasts at least 6 months.
Chronic pain is not only physically exhausting, but also emotionally draining. As a result, individuals suffering from this condition may find they start to develop emotional symptoms they never had before, such as depression, anger or suicidal thoughts. These symptoms are as real as any other and need to be addressed too. Having a knowledgable, supportive health team, in addition to supportive friends and family, is an important part of the journey to recovery with this condition.
TREATING CHRONIC PAIN
STEP 1: Establishing a diagnosis & identifying the cause of the pain
Establishing a diagnosis is the first step towards understanding why your body is sending you pain signals and what type of attention it needs.
Knowing the cause of the pain, and its characteristics, helps us to understand which treatments are likely to be effective for pain management.
For some types of pain, establishing a diagnosis can be easy. For other types of pain, the cause is less apparent and further medical investigation may be necessary:
- Lab testing
- Radiographic (x-ray) investigation
- Referral to a specialist by a medical doctor
- Specialized laboratory testing
Step 2: Address the Underlying Cause
The second “step” in treating chronic pain, is to address the underlying cause of the pain.
As mentioned earlier, in some conditions the underlying cause is obvious. However for other conditions, the cause is not as easily apparent or understood. With these conditions, different treatments may be tried before an effective one is found.
Pain Medication, A Temporary Fix
Pain medication or “pain killers” are one common prescription given to aid in the management of chronic pain. These medications can be a helpful to temporarily stop us from experiencing the pain, however as they act by dampening the pain signals and/or blocking the pain signals from entering the brain – they do not fix the underlying issue.
There are many different causes of chronic pain, making individualized treatment extremely important.
Naturopathic Medical Treatment for Chronic Pain
Treating chronic pain is not a “one-treatment-fits-all” scenario. Each condition requires specialized and individualized treatment to properly address it.
Naturopathic doctors have many tools in their toolbox for treating chronic pain which are natural, evidence-based and can provide significant benefit in various conditions. Some of these treatments may include, but are not limited to:
- Natural anti-inflammatories
- Nutritional support for nerves, joints and/or muscles
- Immunomodulating botanicals
- Hormone balancing
- Dietary prescriptions
- Stretch and/or exercise prescriptions
The treatment for each specific condition requires customization and individualization for it to address the underlying cause and provide benefit.
Fibromyalgia is another chronic illness which requires specialized treatment. Fibromyalgia is not a “one-treatment-fits-all” condition. However, there are a number of treatments which have been found to be generally beneficial in this condition.
Individuals with fibromyalgia often benefit from nutritional supplementation which promotes:
- Energy production within the mitochondria of cells
- More restful sleep
- Adrenal support for stress
- Digestive healing & intestinal microbiome balancing
- Neurotransmitter production for mood
- Healthy cognitive & brain function
With fibromyalgia, it is important to have a naturopathic doctor and medical doctor who understand your health needs and are knowledgable in treating your condition.
Having knowledgable, collaborative health care professionals on your side are a crucial part of the journey towards pain-free living.
DR. NOELLE, ND
Noelle is a naturopathic doctor dedicated to providing patients with excellent care and natural solutions for all their unique health needs. She integrates standard medical diagnostics with evidence-based natural therapies and enjoys collaborating with other health care professionals to ensure her patients have the best care possible. She looks at the “bigger picture” of health and helps patients create an internal environment for physical healing and mental wellness.
Noelle has a huge heart for her patients and desires to help people on their way towards vibrant health, a thriving mind and pain-free living.
Fighting Fibro Program – A Journey Towards Pain-Free Living
Noelle has designed a Fighting Fibro Program for individuals with fibromyalgia to help them on their journey towards pain-free living. Through the program Noelle will guide you in implementing foundational treatments for pain-reduction, energy production and mental-wellness. She will also provide you with a customized treatment plan to address your body’s unique biochemistry and individualized health needs.
Noelle will work with you step-by-step on your journey towards feeling more vibrant, both mentally and physically.
Dr. Noelle has a huge heart for her patients and wants to help her patients start their journey towards feeling better and living happier.
To meet Noelle and learn more about how she can help you, book an free 15-min consult today.
Start your journey towards Vibrant Health and a Thriving Mind today!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Written by Dr. Noelle, ND
Dr. Noelle is a naturopathic doctor dedicated to providing patients with excellent care and natural solutions for vibrant health and a thriving mind. Noelle integrates standard medical diagnostics with evidence-based natural therapies and enjoys collaborating with other health care professionals to ensure her patients have the best care possible. Noelle has a huge heart for her patients and really wants her patients to feel like they are thriving in life – physically, mentally and emotionally – rather than just surviving.
Helping patients towards VIBRANT HEALTH & a THRIVING MIND . . . Naturally.