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The Physio who GAVE UP on DRUGS

The Physio who GAVE UP on DRUGS

by Mrs Marion D McRae 04/10/2019

The doco "The Doctor who gave up on Drugs" has re-assured me that more and more patients are seeking alternative ideas for reducing pain without medication. So, let’s dive right in!

Just some ideas from my physio friend, Doug Cary, AAP Education. When considering what medications to use, individuals need to make informed decisions, balancing the research, the pros and the cons (often a long list of side effects), and examining alternative, evidence-based options. Here are some alternative measures that can be used to modify pain.

Analgesic Alternatives

Now, I must admit that a lot of people just want to pop a pill. Part of our responsibility is to explain the obvious; having a longer term plan (with more than one strategy) for a longer term problem is essential. Research has shown that as the load (physical or emotional) increases, so do the symptoms. As a clinician, helping clients better manage their pain, teaching pacing and appropriate goal setting, is critical.

Appropriate Exercise

Tied in with pacing, exercise is known to create so many positives, such as a sense of accomplishment through planning and achievement; enhancing mental wellbeing; a circuit breaker on worry and rumination; counter production of stress hormones; a positive effect on muscles, bones and joints; creating a degree of physical fatigue, assisting with sleeping; helping maintain a healthy body weight and lower BP; and keeping the GI tract functioning, preventing constipation.

The key is finding a baseline for our clients, agreeing on appropriate forms of exercise, and developing realistic expectations and a time frame on progression. We have so many options at Movement Solutions. Feldenkrais for those with a lot of pain, and pilates, yoga and aerial yoga for those with mild levels, who wish to strengthen and improve balance.

Mindfulness, Awareness and Relaxation

Living in the moment seems obvious, but honestly, we can find ourselves focusing on the future (what-ifs) or dwelling on the past - neither of which we can change. Mindfulness improves our quality of life and pain management through the process of breathing techniques and active relaxation. We all breathe, yet in times of pain, anxiety and stress, it is often the first thing we change, going from relaxed deep breathing to shallow, apical breathing or even hyperventilation.

Practicing intentional slow breathing is beneficial in several ways. It activates the vagus nerve, the primary cranial nerve, which is associated with a recuperative state. It increases waves in the brain, calming mid-range waves that foster a relaxed, yet alert state of mind. Slow breathing tends to increase the heart rate variability.

I teach techniques like box breathing and diaphragmatic breathing to assist in pain management. Swimming is another form of intentional breathing, where you inhale rapidly and slowly exhale.

Anti-Inflammatory Alternatives

External lotions and potions, electrotherapy, Micro Currents (MC), and Trans Cutaneous Electrical Stimulators (TENS). Not for everyone, but certainly worth a trial in regards to managing pain alternatively, or to compliment medication. We stock PainMaster (MC) and NeuroTrac (TENS), and provide advice on fitting and settings.

Supportive Aids

There is plenty of research that confirms what we see in the clinic; if you offload a painful structure, day-to-day activities become more enjoyable and comfortable. We use an extensive range of tape, braces and orthotics to help modify loading.


Long used in Ayurveda medicine, the active ingredient is curcumin; a molecule that is difficult to be absorbed by the gut, but better when combined with a lipase - bioavailable curcumin. Research would indicate beneficial properties.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate

The jury is still mixed research-wise, but the supplement is safe to take and seems beneficial for those with moderate osteoarthritis.

Fish Oil

When sourced with caution (heavy metal toxicity), research indicates it to be beneficial.

A new class of supplements, which combined provide demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects and effectiveness in clinical studies of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

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