Holistic Health: Eliminating chronic pain

Holistic Health: Eliminating chronic pain

Tracy Zollinger

Is chronic pain plaguing you?

“I thought it would get better.”

“It only hurts a little.”

“I am just getting older.”

“I have learned to live with it.”

These are some of the comments I commonly hear from patients coming to see me for chronic pain. Chronic pain is typically defined as pain for more than 12 weeks, regardless of severity or reason. Whether you suffer from knee or back pain, arthritis, headaches, or any other pain, there are resources to help you.

In the case of an injury, our bodies should go through a healthy healing process that consists of inflammation, to lock the area down and increase blood and lymph to the injury. That blood and lymph works to heal the area and clean up any injured tissues. During this process, the area might be more painful but should quickly turn the corner and start improving each day.

A few things are crucial to keep this process moving along in a healthy way. Our activity, diet and lifestyle significantly impact our ability to heal properly. Reductions in activity, eating inflammatory foods, and having a stressful lifestyle can lead to the body not turning that corner toward improvement. When an injury becomes chronic, the blood and lymph that originally came to heal the injury is now trapped and causing a restriction in healing. Ideally, we would seek help from health professionals prior to this stage.

Patients who come in for treatment within two weeks of an injury rarely become chronic and keep the affected area strong and less likely to be re-injured. That being said, it is never too late to seek treatment. Those with chronic pain can typically see big improvements in mobility, pain levels, and dependence on pain medications and anti-inflammatory medications.

If you do suffer from chronic pain, whether from an injury or not, the first step is to find a health practitioner and start the road to recovery. More and more research is supporting the use of alternative health therapies in the treatment of chronic pain. Here are just a few types of practitioners who have been shown to help:


Acupuncture is a treatment modality under the discipline of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). A licensed acupuncturist, or L.Ac., is trained to look at your chronic pain from a holistic perspective and treat it with acupuncture, dietary changes and lifestyle recommendations, depending on what is needed. According to TCM, acupuncture regulates the flow of Qi, or the functionality of the body, through the meridians. You can think of meridians as similar to blood vessels, an established pathway carrying a substance.

In a 2012 Archives of Internal Medicine study, pain was reduced by 50 percent or more in severity by 50 percent of the research participants. This is compared to only 30 percent of the participants in a conventional treatment group. (1)

Osteopathic Manual Treatment (OMT)

A 2013 study in the Annals of Family Medicine found that 63 percent of patients with chronic low-back pain who underwent six sessions of OMT over eight weeks saw a 30 percent or greater reduction in discomfort, decreasing their need for painkillers. (2)

How does it work? According to Alameda osteopath Celina Trevino, osteopathy works by “normalizing the tissues of the body, including, fascia, muscles, nerves, organs and even the brain itself with the ultimate goal of improving joint movement resulting in increased blood flow, lymphatic drainage and nerve function.”

Physical Therapy

Restoring proper movement to the body is a challenge for people with chronic pain. Our instinct is to avoid a painful motion for fear of hurting the area more. Movement is imperative to maintain proper blood flow and lymphatic drainage. Physical therapists are trained to guide clients in the proper movements to restore mobility while preventing re-injury.

One study found that 79 percent of sciatica patients who did physical therapy in addition to receiving routine treatment and medication from a doctor reported complete recovery or significant improvement after a year. This is compared to 56 percent of patients who did not receive physical therapy.


In 2000, the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that “patients with chronic low-back pain treated by chiropractors showed greater improvement and satisfaction at one month than patients treated by family physicians. Satisfaction scores were higher for chiropractic patients. A higher proportion of chiropractic patients (56 percent vs. 13 percent) reported that their low-back pain was better or much better, whereas nearly one-third of medical patients reported their low-back pain was worse or much worse.” (3)

How does it work? “Injured tissues undergo physical and chemical changes that can cause inflammation, pain, and diminished function for the sufferer. Manipulation, or adjustment of the affected joint and tissues, restores mobility, thereby alleviating pain and muscle tightness, and allowing tissues to heal.” (4)

Tracy Zollinger, is an Alameda mom, licensed acupuncturist and business owner. You can reach Tracy at 299-0057 or www.tracyzollinger.com.

1 Archives of Internal Medicine (2012), 172(19):1444-1453.
2 Annals of Family Medicine March/April 2013 vol. 11 no. 2 122-129
3 Nyiendo et al (2000), Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics
4 http://www.acatoday.org/level2_css.cfm?T1ID=13&T2ID=61