During my clinical training at naturopathic medical school, I quickly realized that chronic pain was a serious issue that affected almost every person at some point in their lives. In the past three months, one-third of all Canadians report having suffered a loss of income, booked off sick days, or even lost their jobs as a result of chronic pain. Therefore, I took the initiative to job-shadow some of the most successful pain management clinics and doctors on the west coast. I also had the opportunity to interview many of the patients who had struggled with chronic pain for years, but have now come out the other side pain free. Most importantly, the results were long-term and enabled the patients to do activities in their lives that they didn’t believe they were going to be able to do ever again.
Even though many of the clinics functioned quite differently, I started to notice a few key concepts that were fundamentally the same between each of these clinics. From these findings, I have developed a pain management program focusing on the following five principles.
1) Determine the root cause and the contributing factors specific to your pain.
With any injury, whether it is a paper-cut or a car accident, the body should have the ability to heal itself. So why are some people still in pain months after the initial injury? What is blocking their body from healing fully? What I have found is that each person who is stuck in chronic pain has a unique combination of factors that are impairing their body’s ability to heal. I like to refer to these as “obstacles to healing.”
The main obstacles include:
The poor’s: poor posture, poor sleep, poor stress management, poor diet, poor nutrient and poor oxygen delivery (see prolozone injections), or poor movement/ergonomics.
The riches: too much exercise or exercising too soon, too much inflammation in their joints, muscles, nerves and throughout their entire body, or too many toxins (see chelation) accumulated in their tissues impairing their body’s regenerative power.
During the first visit (60 min) at the Moncton Naturopathic Medical Clinic we conduct a comprehensive health history and physical exam to piece together your unique health puzzle.
2) Create an individualized treatment plan with a combination of synergistic treatments.
What I learned from the most successful pain clinics was that instead of just using one therapy for a certain amount of sessions, they used a combination of treatments specifically chosen for that patient. Therefore, throughout medical school I made sure to study and learn some of the most beneficial treatments for chronic pain in order to build an effective pain management “toolkit”. There is a saying that goes, “if you only have a hammer, then everything will look like a nail.” However, with multiple tools in my pain management toolkit, I am able to pick the most effective therapies for that person. I am trained and use a blend of acupuncture, neural prolotherapy or perineural injection technique, neural therapy injections, prolotherapy regenerative injections, prolozone regenerative injections, biopuncture, massage, naturopathic spinal adjustments, trigger point and myofascial release techniques, intravenous nutrient therapy, as well as therapeutic stretching and exercise prescriptions.
In April 2013, I travelled to Seattle to learn neural prolotherapy from the leading expert Dr. Jeff Harris and from the inventor Dr. John Lyftogt, MD of New Zealand. This was another great addition to my toolkit as it addresses pain caused by “neurogenic inflammation,” which is inflammation (and subsequent pain) caused by a nerve irritation. For more information about neural prolotherapy please read my Times & Transcript article entitled "Neural Prolotherapy: A progressive approach to pain management." Since then, I have travelled throughout North America to receive training in other injection techniques including prolotherapy and advanced certification in prolozone and neural therapy.
3) Referral network/Complementary medicine.
I have come to realize that in New Brunswick people think that they must choose between natural medicine and conventional medicine. This is not the case in our clinic. We routinely work with medical doctors and co-treat many of the same patients. This allows a complementary approach combining the best of our medicine with the best of their medicine.
We also believe in creating a referral network with other practitioners in the area. Therefore, you may already be seeing a massage therapist, so you would be encouraged to continue to see your massage therapist while adding in additional treatments from our clinic to improve their treatments and accelerate your path to healing.
4) Patient empowerment
Unfortunately, there is no magic pill or miraculous therapy that will take away your pain. What I have found is that the individuals that become pain-free and stay pain-free are the ones that truly understand this concept. The more involved the patient is in their healing process, the more success they have at staying pain free. Therefore, we try to get the patients involved as much as possible with simple take-home suggestions.
5) Maintenance & better than before
Once pain-free, some patients feel like they have achieved their goal and therefore abandon the healthy actions and skip the maintenance “tune-ups”. When this happens, they end up having to come back to the clinic and restart at square one. In the end, it requires so much more work and effort to get out of pain again, than to do a few small tune-ups Therefore, one of the most important factors for remaining pain-free is to value the importance of the regular tune-ups.
Even better lasting results are seen when patients don’t just want to take away the symptom of pain, but want to become healthier than they were when they started treatment. In other words, they are not satisfied with the band-aid approach. At the Moncton Naturopathic Medical Clinic we understand that pain is not fun and can negatively affect so many areas of your life. Therefore, we practice with a dual approach; to make sure we give relief to your symptoms such as pain, but to not forget about addressing the underlying causes of your pain in order to move you towards a life-long solution.
Stay tuned to my next month’s article, which will describe my personal struggles with pain and what strategies I used to manage it effectively (found here: Taking steps to become migraine free).
Published in the Times & Transcript Thursday March 7, 2013. Dr. Nicholas Anhorn, BSc, ND is a medically-trained licensed Naturopathic Doctor in Moncton, New Brunswick. Dr. Anhorn is currently accepting patients at the Moncton Naturopathic Medical Clinic.
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