I've not posted a rant here for a while. Maybe I should...Sarah Arrow asked for a link to a rant. Right. Here we go. I just posted a bit of his E-Newsletter in which my Congressman discussed a measure that he and one of my U.S. Senators are backing, to try to prevent some of the more horrible effects of heroin-type "pain medication" by prescribing yet another drug with yet another list of secondary effects.
This bothers me. Not because I anticipate its having any effect on my life. Not because I doubt that Morgan Griffith and Tim Kaine are kind, decent men who sincerely care about the ever-increasing incidence of addiction to "pain medication," even in corners of Virginia where people are staunchly opposed to other kinds of drugs. But because the mere mention of heroin, or related addictive drugs with hideous withdrawal effects, shows me that my neighbors are not getting the benefit of what we know about pain control.
Most of these people are not dying of cancer; it's not that they need maximum-strength "pain medication." Too many of them are using "medication" for things like injuries incurred on the job. We have in southwest Virginia a whole class of good, hardworking laborers who just aren't learning what everybody and his cat seems to know in Washington, D.C.: that straining muscles or dislocating bones hurts, and if you continue to work through the pain it hurts like blue blazes, and if you take drugs to numb the pain, then when the effect of those drugs wears off it hurts beyond imagining...and for many of those people, much of the time, none of that pain is even necessary.
Maybe some of those people are going to read this post and think, "Oh, right, this is some yuppie writer talking about the pain and strain of typing on a computer. Has this woman ever even had a baby? What does she know about pain?" Right. Granted: given the choice I did find it more productive to take care of my health, study massage therapy, and help other people control pain, than to spend a great deal of time working in a factory. But I have worked in some of our local factories, where they require women to be able to lift 50 pounds and then expect us to lift 100 pounds, repeatedly, at speed. I did that for the experience, in my twenties, and incurred enough strains and sprains and bruises and dislocations to know what they feel like. Then I tested Bonnie Prudden's "Myotherapy" as a way to treat and cure the pain I was feeling. It works. Then I studied the modern form of Myotherapy, Neuro-Muscular Therapy, and practiced that for many years and helped a lot of other people with a lot of kinds of pain. Then I ran short of money to make ever-increasing payments into a bloated bureaucratic system, and so lost that certification...but not because NMT doesn't work, and not because anyone ever had a complaint about my practice of it.
Drug-free pain relief was the topic proposed for the last George Peters FacTape on which we were working before George Peters died. I read a lot. I shared what I read with a lot of active, intelligent retired people who could test this information on themselves and their friends. (The writer known as Ozarque was one of them.) I tested it on those impacted and damaged wisdom teeth (I still have one wisdom tooth, and sometimes it's still a bore), and on the strained ankle and sprained hip that drove me into online writing as a job in 2008, and on the pain of continuous food-poisoning-by-GMOs with which I spent a good half of the year 2014.
I was not simply "born tougher than other people." There are actual measurable differences in the way people develop nerve endings that allow us to feel more different sensations; some people are Highly Sensory-Perceptive. I'm one of them. But I've learned to use my inherited ability to feel "more" pain than the average person in order to suffer "less." If you are one of those people who just can't bear pain, this information is for you.
So what is this information? Short version: Your body can manufacture its own painkillers. Your body's own natural painkillers won't knock you out as fast as morphine or send you as "high" as heroin apparently do, but also they won't subject you to the horrific backlash morphine and heroin apparently cause. Most people can control their own pain without any drugs.
How is this done? We don't fully understand how it's done, and even a doctor who knows exactly what-all are contributing to your pain may not be able to offer a one-two-three formula that will work as fast, for you, as a chemical painkiller would work. What we have, at this point, are clues rather than a scientific system for controlling pain. But these clues have been enough for a lot of people who've been willing to work through very painful conditions without drugs.
Because patients tend to demand that doctors prescribe a pill or at least a procedure that will work right now, a lot of what we do know has come from writers who've survived painful conditions. What I read on those preliminary tapes that were going into the FacTape came primarily from patients' testimony: Ellen White's and Charlotte Selver's tuberculosis. Norman Cousins' arthritis. Ozarque's and George Peters' polio. Marjorie Karmel's (and many many other women's) drug-free childbirths. President John Kennedy's, Senator Robert Dole's, and Pete Egoscue's war wounds. Evel Knievel's 400-plus broken bones.
There is no way a Top Ten List on a blog post can substitute for medical care...but there are ways people can persevere in using this Top Ten List of what these and other survivors have taught me about using your own natural painkillers so that, even if a doctor actually hands you codeine or morphine or some such nasty thing, you can throw that poison away and manage your own pain all by yourself.
You will still feel some pain--but then, as long as people who medicate pain with drugs are conscious, they feel some pain; and if you've ever been around people who were completely unconscious during childbirth or treatment for bone cancer, you know some of them sound as if they were feeling more pain than you probably are.
You will be literally feeling your way toward relief of your pain. No two situations are exactly alike. If you opt to rely on your endorphin system, a word that literally means "self-produced morphine," rather than on chemicals for pain relief, you will have to retain enough awareness of your pain to be able to locate and treat the condition that's causing the pain. But it will be bearable pain. You'll know when you are and aren't ready to put weight on the injured leg, or whatever. You'll know you're not feeling your best while your body expels something harmful or while you're waiting to get a tooth filling replaced. You will want a local anesthetic for dental or other surgery. If you've had pain medication and are going through withdrawal, or have experimented with street drugs and are going through withdrawal, you will spend a few hours suffering torture. You will not collapse, lose your mind, or be unable to do a job, even (if need be) during the surgery. You will not have to pay for compromise medical treatments, e.g. "pain medication," that don't even try to cure the cause of your pain.
So, here's that Top Ten List of wonderful facts about the human body that people can use to treat their own pain without medication:
1. Antibiotics are wonderful things, but we're not built to rely on them to deal with all the viruses and bacteria that invade our bodies. Our immune systems were meant to take care of most infections all by themselves. There is no cure for the common cold because those cold-and-flu-type symptoms are the cure for infections. Taking care of your overall health can make your immune system more efficient and reduce the extent to which you suffer from cold-and-flu-type infections. Part of this improvement includes more efficient use of endorphin.
2. You're tired of hearing about diet and exercise, especially because everybody seems to be singing the praises of a different system. Yes, we all have different bodies that respond best to slightly different ways of eating and exercising. Cow's milk is "the perfect food" for a calf, an excellent food for some human children, and indigestible for most human adults. Wheat is "the staff of life" for a majority of humans and a deadly poison for a minority of humans. In order to get the benefit of your immune system and endorphins, you have to pay attention to what works for you.
3. Cardiovascular disease, including diabetes, is a major source of pain as well as a cause of premature death. For a majority of people under age 70 or 80, diseases in this category are preventable, reversible if they've not been prevented, and unnecessary. Mike Huckabee is currently marketing a system for reversing diabetes that adds just a little spin and hype to what John McDougall has been demonstrating, and what several patients had testified before Dr. McDougall's time...the "snake oil" at that huckabeediabetes site is that people are paying for a few new frills added to well-documented facts about diet and exercise. (And why has the medical establishment not been telling diabetics how to reverse diabetes without pills or injections? Actually, many doctors have been sharing that information, and finding that many diabetics aren't willing to use it. If there are diabetics who have enough faith in Mike Huckabee that contributing to his presidential campaign funds motivates them to work their anti-diabetic program, then their sending him money is a good thing...but you don't have to send anybody any money.)
4. "Wear and tear" is an obvious cause for some degenerative conditions, including painful ones like osteo-arthritis...but "wear and tear" is not the sole cause. A combination of rest and exercise, stretching, and pressure applied to muscles can perform miracles to reduce the "effects of wear and tear." Therapeutic pressure has been applied to muscles in several ways including electric shocks and injections of saline solution. For some people, a neutral saline injection in the right spot worked better than an injection of Novocain or Cortisone in the wrong spot. This led to the discovery that, if the source of pain is in a muscle, the shock or injection is unnecessary; the therapeutic pressure works just as well if it's applied by the NMT practitioner's hands--or, once you've learned to recognize the sensation of the muscle responding treatment, by your own hands.
5. Vigorous exercise helps us fight pain in several ways: it cues the production of endorphin, it forces the body to rebuild muscles, it keeps bones strong and solid, it boosts liver and immune system activity, and it even discourages other people and animals who might have been considering doing things that would cause us pain.
6. When vigorous exercise of one part of the body is contraindicated (you can't power-walk with a cast on your leg), exercising other muscles can still help prevent and relieve pain. When you're flat on your back in bed, or in traction, the key muscle to exercise is the diaphragm. The most enjoyable way to exercise the diaphragm is of course, as Norman Cousins reported, laughing out loud. If you don't feel like laughing out loud, try chanting or singing. If you're in a hospital where other people are trying to sleep, you may have to fall back on boring but effective diaphragm breathing.
7. People living with painful conditions usually choose one or more "symptom-buster" activities. These may or may not involve vigorous exercise; the symptom-buster I discovered when recovering from painful viral hepatitis, and the one I still use when fighting the flu, is typing. Gardening, carpentry, knitting and other hand crafts, power walking, swimming, and various low-impact games are some of the symptom-busters that serve many people well. What makes an activity a "symptom-buster" is that the person doing it doesn't have to be in peak condition to do it well enough to achieve a "flow state," which provides a healthy natural "high." If doing your "symptom-buster" for an hour doesn't reduce pain to a level you can easily overlook, then it's time to do something about the pain.
8. Stimulant drugs, including large amounts of coffee or even chocolate, and definitely including Ritalin, LSD, amphetamine "diet pills," and serotonin-boosting "antidepressants," actively cause pain from muscle spasms. Usually the pain is not felt as an obvious cramp in one specific muscle, but as stiffness in the muscle producing pain and sometimes bizarre sensations in a nerve. Living with the damage caffeine does may be easier than giving up caffeine. Living with the damage the more intense stimulants do is often painful enough that people feel better, on the whole, after living through the backlash from giving up these drugs--although the backlash tends to include acute depression as well as acute pain.
9. When acute pain is unavoidable, simple distractions, including pain-relieving distractions like breath control exercises, can keep it bearable. The stretching and tearing process of childbirth is an acute pain, yet thousands of women have been able to control their awareness of that pain, and the pain of recovery, by counting different patterns of breaths. Those exercises work for other kinds of acute pain too.
10. The role and benefits of thought control, visualization, meditation, and prayer are less easily confirmed than those of breathing, stretching, and pressure on muscles. If these approaches all by themselves have an effect on a confirmed physical disease or injury, that effect may reasonably be considered a miracle. However, as an adjunct to the more verifiable physical techniques, mental and spiritual approaches to pain control do seem to help. How much they help varies; how they help, nobody really knows.
As an afterthought, I'd add that it's possible to relieve symptoms too effectively for the patient's long-term good. Even our own natural painkillers can mask our awareness of the underlying disease. If symptoms get worse not better over time, it may be advisable to test for something less common, simple, and treatable than the condition you've been managing.
My HSP husband thought he'd been successfully treated for a pre-cancerous prostate condition and was successfully managing mild hypertension and osteoarthritis, right on into the last stages of multiple myeloma. Multiple myeloma is rare; if he'd had a more common and treatable kind of cancer, his annual blood test would probably have revealed it in time for it to be cured. In any case he did have the opportunity to compare the benefits of morphine with the benefits of singing and chanting, and, having practiced singing and chanting with temporary conditions like minor surgeries and a broken knee, he preferred them to morphine.