Does living with chronic pain feel like it’s limiting your life? It doesn’t have to. You can help manage your pain condition with a few basic self-care steps, and add more fulfillment to your life in the process. So, if you are ready to take more control over your chronic pain symptoms, you should commit the following self-care habits.
Keep Clutter From Making Pain Worse
Did you know that clutter can cause health issues? Too much stuff in your life and home can actually lead to more stress, which in turn can worsen feelings of pain. To prevent your home from aggravating your condition, use these tips from HomeAdvisor to get it decluttered and organized. Focus on creating a positive flow throughout all of your interior spaces, but also take organizational steps that make your daily life easier, such as a Lazy Susan in the kitchen or a Murphy bed in multi-use rooms.
Use Exercise to Keep Endorphins Flowing
When you live with chronic pain, you may find it difficult to stay active. Pain can make exercising feel stressful, but the truth is that physical activity can make your pain more manageable. Moderate to strenuous exercise helps your brain pump out more endorphins, natural chemicals that boost your mood and lessen the effects of pain. For older pain sufferers, even a light workout can be enough to produce the natural high needed to curb unwanted symptoms.
Explore Alternative Methods for Pain Relief
Working out is not the only natural remedy for your chronic pain condition. People who suffer from pain often attempt to avoid prescription pain medications and the negative side effects that come with them. You can try a variety of holistic, healthy approaches to reducing your pain symptoms. From acupuncture to yoga to meditation, these alternative practices show real potential for relieving chronic pain. CBD oil is another treatment gaining popularity, but you should do your homework to make sure this solution is best for you.
Avoid Foods That Worsen Inflammation
Exercise and diet work together to help you manage your weight, but this combo can also help you manage your pain. You already know that a workout can weaken feelings of pain, but watching what you eat can help as well. Studies suggest that sticking to a diet of anti-inflammatory foods can help calm your immune system, as well as inflammation that can lead to more feelings of discomfort. Cutting processed foods is a major first step, but also try to fill your plate with healthy berries, whole grains, and green veggies.
Reduce Stress to Reduce Your Pain Symptoms
If you feel like your pain gets worse in times of stress, you are not imagining things. Chronic stress can bring on inflammatory responses inside your body, which can cause disease and increased pain symptoms. In addition to decluttering your home, you should find other practices that keep your stress levels under control. Learning to stay present can go a long way in treating stress, anxiety, and pain, so try to focus on your immediate surroundings when you begin to feel overwhelmed. A few deep breaths will usually do the trick.
Sleep Well to Improve Your Overall Wellness
The relationship between your pain and your sleep habits can be challenging to manage. On one hand, feelings of pain can make it harder to fall asleep, but a lack of sleep can lead to more severe pain symptoms. You can try to break this harmful cycle by changing up your routine around sleep. Create a bedroom that is conducive to relaxation and sleep, and make sleep a major focus in your health and wellness plan. If you have a hard time getting your mind to relax at the end of the day, try using one of the stress-relieving practices above or add some proven sleep-inducing activities to your nighttime rituals.
Chronic pain doesn’t have to be an obstacle that keeps you from living your best life. By adding some essential self-care to your normal routine, from getting enough exercise to managing stress, you can keep chronic pain from being the center of your life.
‘The Vaccine Debate’ is a huge and controversial topic and it’s one I’m asked of my opinion countless times by my patients. And as I always maintain, if you don’t know anything about a topic, you shouldn’t comment. It’s my biggest bugbear when people slate acupuncture having never had any experience of it. A person must be informed before they pass comment.
So with this in mind, I came across a lecture being held by Dr Jayne Donegan (MBBS, DRCOG, DCH, DFFP, MRCGP, MFHon), a practising GP, talking about her comprehensive studies into vaccine efficacy. So I hopped on a train to London last week to hear what she had to say.
Just to give you some background to Dr Donegan’s journey, she is a practising GP in London who does not specialise in Immunology but has an interest in vaccinatable diseases and the current vaccine program. She noticed that the current research into vaccinatable diseases was thin on the ground and she decided to conduct her own study into this area. In doing so, she became an expert in her field and was asked as expert witness to a case in which an estranged husband and wife were embroiled in a court case, whereby the mother didn’t want their child to be vaccinated and the father did.
Dr Donegan gave evidence on the side of the mother but unfortunately they lost the case. It was decided that Donegan’s research was not well sourced and so didn’t serve as effective evidence. She was then asked by the General Medical Council to revoke her statements and if she did not, pressure would be applied so that she may lose her medical practising licence. After 3 traumatic years for Donegan and her family, she was called to the General Medical Council for her case to be reviewed. After looking at all the evidence and research Dr Donegan had acquired over the years it was decided that her research was the most comprehensive body of research ever conducted, certainly in the UK, in this field. That it was all accurately sourced, and the case against her was subsequently dropped. Despite this, the UK vaccine program drives on.
It is important to note here that Dr Donegan states that she is neither for nor against the use of vaccines, she is simply relaying the evidence she has gathered in her comprehensive review of ‘Childhood Vaccinatable Diseases and their Vaccines’. The full review can be purchased at (http://www.jayne-donegan.co.uk/articles) It certainly makes for an interesting read, but could be seen by some as a bit heavy on the medical wording so I’ve already done the hard part and actually read it! I’ll endeavour to break it down as accurately and succinctly as I can here and point out some of the more relevant points. Apologies in advance if this goes on a bit!
The development of vaccines to protect the public against diseases such as smallpox, measles, mumps, rubella, tuberculosis, diphtheria, whooping cough, poliomyelitis and meningitis has been widely heralded as one of the biggest advancements in medical health in the twentieth century, with general public and medical opinion being that the introduction of vaccines for these diseases has served to near eradicate them from modern society.
However, Donegan’s research, which consisted of her painstakingly going through all the reported deaths of these diseases in England & Wales from records held at the Office of National Statistics (graphs of which can be found in her review) show that these diseases were already on the decline before vaccines ever came into play.
Taking whooping cough as an example, “at least 99% of the people who used to die of whooping cough in the nineteenth and early twentieth century has stopped dying before the vaccine against whooping cough was introduced, initially in the 1950s and universally in the 1960s.” (extract taken from “The Doctor’s Dilemma”, Donegan 2009)
Measles is a similar story, as 99% of deaths had dropped before the introduction of the vaccine. Even better, looking at children below the age of 15 there was a 100% decline of deaths from measles between 1905 and 1965, which was 3 years before the vaccine was introduced in the UK. (Donegan, 2009)
So what is the reason for this natural decline to these once upon a time, killer diseases? It is widely believed by general medical opinion that the reason for the decline of deaths caused by such diseases for which there is no vaccine, like typhus, cholera, rheumatic and scarlet fever is because of better sanitation and living conditions. It would surely then make sense that these same constraints have led to a decline in other diseases. People are living longer due to better health through better nourishment and so, general immunity had to improve with it. And so it did in the early 1900s.
So how did vaccines go on to further improve our immunity? Well, the evidence would suggest that they didn’t. And some medical professionals even go on to speculate that they are actively damaging immunity.
When a person, of any age, contracts a ‘wild’ strain of a disease, i.e. one carried through contamination from one person or organism to another, the body has several defence mechanisms to eradicate it from the body. We develop mucous, we sneeze, have vomiting or diarrhoea, fever and sweating, and so on. These are all ways in which the body works to eject the virus and in so doing, builds antibodies to the disease so that a healthy person would be extremely unlikely to ever be susceptible to the disease again.
When we vaccinate, we give a shot of ‘live’ vaccine, i.e. a small dose of the disease itself, subcutaneously, so that it finds its way into our bloodstream. Thus bypassing those coping mechanisms outlined above.
If a child were to naturally contract an infection of Bordetella Pertussis (whooping cough), the inhaled organism sticks to the hairs lining the airways where it then multiplies, causing inflammation, which blocks the narrow airways. The body then works to produce IgG, IgM and IgA antibodies which are important in stopping the bacterium from sticking to the hairs and multiplying. “Vaccination against pertussis does not produce this IgA antibody which is so important in protecting against further infection.” (Harrison’s, 1987) (Extract from Donegan, 2009)
“The incidence of pertussis death and disease was falling well before the vaccine was introduced in the 1950s. In 1978 when United States passed laws requiring proof of vaccination before school entry to increase vaccination uptake there was a recognisable increase in the incidence of whooping cough in that country. This has continued to the extent that there are now five doses of pertussis vaccine in the US immunisation program. (Gangarosa et al, 1996) In 1996 a study in California showed that 12% of adults with persistent cough had undiagnosed whooping cough. (Minerva, 1996)
Because of continuing increases in pertussis notification in the UK, especially in young babies, below the age of 1 year, an ‘accelerated’ schedule of vaccination was introduced (vaccination at 2m, 3m, 4m instead of the previous 3m, 5m, 10m) to try to reduce the incidence of the disease.
But despite vaccination rates of 94% in under twos the incidence of pertussis has been increasing since 1995.” (Donegan, 2009)
So, rather than the vaccines just being ineffective, are they going on to cause further damage than if you were to just contract the disease naturally? Bearing in mind that deaths from whooping cough would only occur in very sickly children anyway, and we currently in the NHS advise against immuno-impaired children having vaccines as it is thought they may not be able to cope with the small dose of live virus that would be administered.
“In 1994 Dr Michel Odent published a retrospective study which compared the incidence of asthma in 243 children who had been vaccinated against pertussis with 203 who had not. Vaccinated children were over five times more likely to suffer from asthma and twice as likely to have had ear infections than unvaccinated ones. (Odent et al, 1994) In 1997 another retrospective study of 1,934 patients born between 1975 and 1984 from one general practice in Oxfordshire showed that children vaccinated against pertussis were 75% more likely to develop asthma, hay fever and eczema later in life. (Pulse, 1999) (Taken from Donegan, 2009)
There are however difficulties when assessing the safety of a vaccine, as it is not only the disease that is injected into the person. The vaccine needs to be carried in a solution so to preserve the vaccine.
Is it the disease itself causing further auto immunity problems such as the ones mentioned above, or is it the other components in the vaccine? I’m sure we’re all aware that vaccines used to carry, albeit low levels of mercury, considered to cause kidney damage to the adult and neurological problems to an unborn foetus and there is some evidence to suggest the possibility of a causal link between mercury exposure in vaccines and developmental disorders (Simpsonwood, 2000). This prompted the USA in 1999 to remove thiomersal (containing mercury) vaccines from the program. “By 2001, steps were eventually being taken to remove it from vaccines in the UK, but only after all the old stocks had been used up (Pulse, 2001) UK parents were reassured that the mercury containing vaccines being administered to their infants and children were safe and effective until as late as September 2004 when they were finally replaced by mercury free versions. (Extract from Donegan, 2009)
Nowadays, instead of mercury, our vaccines contain aluminium and formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is considered carcinogenic and used in preserving cadavers. Aluminium has been linked to Alzheimer’s and aluminium saucepans are banned in the catering industry for this reason. “People drinking aluminium contaminated drinking water in Camelford, Cornwall suffered considerable damage to cerebral function (Altman et al, 1999) (Taken from Donegan, 2009)
Furthermore, the current MMR vaccine contains antibiotics, Neomycin and Kanamycin. We are advised against using antibiotics in children as it is known to affect the microbiome which protects us against germs, breaks down food to release energy, and produces vitamins. Indeed, Paul Wischmeyer, MD, a professor at the University of Colorado in anaesthesia, with a special interest in nutritional biochemistry postulates that a child subjected to antibiotics within the first 6 months may have their microbiome altered so that it may never recover to its potential capacity. (“Role of the microbiome, probiotics, and ‘dysbiosis therapy’ in critical illness”, Wischmeyer, 2016) Certainly we know that doctors are reluctant to give young children antibiotics and yet they are present in the MMR vaccine. Therefore, if we are administering antibiotics to all children via the MMR vaccine, we could be affecting their lifelong immunity.
So are there ways around ensuring that our children stay safe to disease but that are not vaccinated? Well yes, and thankfully they’re very easy. A child that is breast fed, then given a healthy diet, who is not subjected to industrial chemicals and has warm and airy living conditions (i.e. a healthy child) should be able to develop natural immunity to all of the vaccinatable diseases. If they should develop, for example measles, they would likely not die from the disease or be rendered disabled if they were healthy when they contracted the disease. Natural immunity is considered far better as the child will have developed its antibodies via the correct pathway. Not only is natural immunity better for the child, it is better for their children, as antibodies developed through natural immunity pass better via the placenta, meaning their children should have better natural immunity and so on.
There is also a further benefit which I can see and which of course is of interest to me as a fertility specialist, and which was talked briefly about in the lecture but not mentioned in the review, that boys vaccinated with mumps vaccine could be affecting the quality of sperm we now see in the developed world compared to that in the non developed world. “Sperm counts in the West plunge by 60% in 40 years as ‘modern life’ damages men’s health” (Headline from The Independent, Johnston, 2017) This study thought that pesticides, chemicals, diet, stress and smoking might be to blame. No mention was made of vaccines but it would not be absurd to think that the mumps vaccine may be having an effect, since mumps virus when contracted post puberty can cause infertility in men.
So what happens when you tell your mum friends you decided not to vaccinate? They all tell you you’re threatening the health of their vaccinated children and they won’t talk to you in the playground, no? Well actually thats a complete fallacy. The vaccinated children are affecting the health of your unvaccinated child as they are carrying the live disease for a period of time until they have made the antibodies, rendering your child more susceptible. Also, vaccinated and unvaccinated children will still be carriers of the disease. For example, streptococcus, otherwise known as meningitis bacteria can live quite happily in the noses of children and adults with no cause for concern.
So is your unvaccinated child in more danger than those that have been vaccinated? Well no! As we have outlined above, a healthy child can live its entire life developing natural immunity to these diseases or it may never come into contact with them in the first place. Of course we know that diseases such as mumps and measles can be more serious, albeit still manageable when a child reaches adulthood, so you could have a child tested before puberty to see if they have developed natural antibodies to the disease and if they have not, you could consider vaccinating, which is something Donegan suggests a parent might want to do if they are concerned. However, a better way would be to take your child to the old fashioned ‘measles parties’, if you can find one in existence, when they are young so that they contract the disease and so develop natural immunity and better yet, pass this to the next generation.
With this constant drive to rid our children from ever getting sick in the first place we are, like it or not, affecting their ability to deal with disease that may come to them later in life. Children need practice at making their own antibodies, at dealing with the inflammation caused by such diseases so that their bodies, when called into action for more serious disease, can work more effectively at curing themselves. This is always something I have put forward in my clinic. For one because it just makes sense, and two because it is something we are taught in our Chinese Medical studies. It’s also a viewpoint that is seen by many Western medical professionals and yet we continue to vaccinate for diseases that were never really a problem.
So why do we continue with the vaccine program? When we know they are ineffective, since people need booster shots of certain vaccines through their lifetimes and can still go on to contract the disease anyway. And as we stated earlier that these diseases are now steadily on the rise since the introduction of vaccines. Well I won’t outline my thoughts here. Those that know me will already know my answer to this. So I will leave you to mull this one over yourselves…
I hope you found this an interesting read. You will see there has been more of a focus on whooping cough but this was just to serve as an example of how a vaccine has affected one disease. There are many more examples for other vaccinatable diseases in the review. I have done my best to extract the useful bits just to give an overview but if you have the time, do please have a visit of Dr Jayne Donegan’s website (www.jayne-donegan.co.uk) as you will find lots of interesting articles on the subject, including how-to manuals in treating your child should they develop a fever.
I often wonder what patients think happens when I decide to stick a needle in the sole of their foot. Did you offend me? Do I not like the colour of your shoes? Or did I just get out on the wrong side of the bed today? It's usually the shoes...
But no, in reality there is a massive process that goes on before an acupuncturist can decide which are the most useful points for you. And believe it or not, I do try to avoid the dreaded sole of the foot if I can, but sometimes that is just the best point. And I think most of you would agree it sounds worse than it is ;)
So if you're incredibly bored and would like to find out more of the science behind Chinese Medicine and exactly what it does take for an acupuncturist to do their job then please watch the five short videos below where I try my best to explain it all...
The Five Elements
That my brand of acupuncture was only producing baby girls!
But I'm proud to say we have two new baby boys born in August to throw into the mix. Look out girls!
Well done mamas! xxx
I just wanted to say a quick hello to the 4 new baby girls born last month! And a huge congratulations to the 4 new mums of those baby girls... you know who you are guys!
I'm massively proud and can't wait to meet them!
I hope you're all doing well and eating shed loads of chicken soup! ;)
Last Wednesday I was lucky enough to be invited to a Live Dissection at St. Michael’s Hospital in Bristol. (Thanks to the Osteopathic Council who snuck me in as an honorary Osteopath for the day!) I was worried they might suss me out with my poor anatomy knowledge (it’s been 10 years since I studied that stuff) but i’m pleased to say I did not let the acupuncture community down. Even shouted out a couple of the answers… not because I wanted to show off, just because I got overly excited!
This was a Pro Dissection, which means that the bodies had already been dissected to different stages so we were not let loose with scalpels. But we were encouraged to get stuck in, moving the limbs to see how the tendons interact, feeling the different textures of the tissues and bones and noticing where and how they insert to the rest of the skeleton. For someone who had never been to a dissection or even see a dead body before I was a little nervous at how I’d react. I did have a bit of a moment when we got to the dissected brains where I thought I might faint, but there was a lack of strong looking osteopaths that I thought might be able to catch me, so I managed to pull myself together.
You might wonder why an acupuncturist would be interested in going along to this kind of training and a lot of my acu buddies were asking exactly that! But to me, the human body is so fascinating, so intricate, that to be given the chance to literally see it in the flesh is one I just couldn’t miss out on.
The most interesting part for me was to actually see and handle fascia. Fascia is a band of connective tissues that wrap around organs and muscles to protect them. For acupuncturists, fascia is particularly important as acupuncture channels lie between the skin and the fascia, therefore, acupuncture needles need to penetrate to the level of the fascia. I was able to get an idea of the different depths where the fascia sits depending on which part of the body we were looking at, but the really remarkable part was just how impenetrable fascia would be to a average gauge acupuncture needle. As acupuncturists, we really get a sense of how the fascia feels under our fingertips when the needle gets to the correct depth, but it really showed me how safe the practice of acupuncture is, as fascia is just far too thick and strong for the average needle to get through, meaning that organs and vital tissues are protected. The body really is an amazing thing!
Another good thing to take away from the session is that I managed to flummox a final year med student, when he asked how we might treat plantar fasciitis, I told him I would put needles in the hand. When he pointed out it was a foot problem I was able to politely tell him that I knew that, but I would still put needles in the hand. It might not sound that funny to you but I was smiling! You see, the body has an amazing network system whereby the fascia interconnects with different areas around the body, this is essentially how acupuncture channels interconnect. So by needling an area which is not where the person is experiencing pain, you can directly affect the painful area. It will be instant, because the body carries signals at an incredible pace. And if the acupuncturist has done their job properly it will be cured, because the body has the unique ability to mend itself.
So all in all, a great day out… I came away from the hospital feeling so lucky that my work allows me to do some pretty cool stuff. I also left feeling hungry, because apparently formaldehyde will do that to a person!
Some of my patients will know that I have been trialling a new service which has the ability to map the female sex hormones throughout the cycle, and due to its success I am now recommending hormone testing to all of my fertility couples.
The diagnostic tests use saliva taken at certain points throughout the female cycle to check the varying levels of progesterone, oestradial, DHEA, cortisol, testosterone and melatonin which all have an effect on fertility. Most patients struggling with fertility will have the obligatory blood tests ordered by the GP to check for FSH levels at the beginning of the cycle, and the 21 day blood test to check for post-ovulation hormones. However, blood only contains a small amount of hormone compared to saliva and so is often not an altogether accurate reflection of the level of hormone present in the body. Also there can be difficulties with the 21 day blood test as often patients don’t ovulate at day 14, particularly if struggling with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome making the test invalid. The saliva testing maps your hormone levels throughout the cycle and so we can gain a better understanding of the interaction between all the relevant hormones needed for conception.
Once the saliva is collected, it is sent to labs in the UK and America who are able to produce a comprehensive report available to the practitioner who can then prescribe the relevant supplements and treatment plan to best balance the hormones.
I have been trialling this service for the past 3 months and of the patients that have taken part, 75% have already conceived. It is able to give me a much greater insight into my patients’ state of health and where our focus needs to lie and I’m finding it an invaluable diagnostic tool. For this reason I have been urging all my fertility couples to try saliva testing to give us the best possible chance for a positive outcome.
If you would like to give it a go, please just mention it to me at your next consultation and we can talk through whether this option would be right for you.
Verity Allen - BSc, BA, MBAcC, Lic Ac