One in five Canadians will experience pain and it is one of the most common reasons people seek health care. Uncontrolled pain compromises our health significantly by affecting our immune system, causing sleep deprivation, decreasing our quality of life and can do much more. US figures have documented economical costs of $560-$630 billion per year. This includes cost of health care due to pain and time to lost productivity.
Pain is defined as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.” The nervous system is what detects and interprets a wide range of thermal and mechanical, environmental and endogenous chemical irritants or stimuli. When these signals become intense, it generates acute pain. In 1960, Ronald Melzack and Patrick Wall defined the Gate Control Theory of Pain. This theory explained that pain signals travel from its original location to the spinal cord. The spinal cord then filters the signal: it contains inhibitory neurons in the dorsal horn (which acts as the gate) that allows or blocks the pain message to the brain.
When persistent stimulus exists (ex. persistent injury), both peripheral and central nervous system components of the pain transmission pathway increase in sensitivity which enhances the pain signal. This heightened sensitivity is put into place to facilitate protective reflexes and can be beneficial, but when consistent signalling occurs, chronic pain results.
In the diagram we see that various pain signals are sent through the dorsal horn of the spinal cord and then transmitted to various parts of the brain. The brain then interprets the location and intensity of the painful stimulus, the emotional experience of pain, and subsequently regulates an output signal from the spinal cord.
Conventional treatment of pain often involves variations of opiods, antidepressants,anti-anxiety, non- steroidal antiinflammatories (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, or muscle relaxants. Sometimes these have an effect and sometimes they do not.
Naturopathically there are alternative pain treatments that can be very effective in addressing pain. At Insight Naturopathic Clinic, Dr. Melissa Lee, ND takes a comprehensive and integrated approach. She will work with you to:
- Control inflammation
- Lengthen and strengthen tight/painful muscles
- Retrain sensory nerves that are misfiring
- Overall relieve pain
In these treatments, Dr. Lee may prescribe botanicals, different supplements, recommend simple nutritional or lifestyle changes, or do acupuncture.
Some pain conditions she treats include but are not limited to:
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Jaw pain (TMJ)
Basbaum, AL., Bautista, DM., Scherrer, G., Julius, D. Cellular and molecular mechanisms of pain. Cell (2009); 139(2); 267-284.
Moulin, D., A.J. Clark, M. Speechly and P. Morley -Forster (2002). Chronic pain in Canada, prevalence, treatment, impact and the role of opioid analgesia. Pain Res Manage 7: 179-184.
Schopflocher, D., R. Jovey and P. Taenzer (2011). The Prevalence of Chronic Pain in Canada. Pain Res Manage 16(6): 445- 450.