The 4 H’s That Can Help Lower Pain Levels

By Barby Ingle, Columnist

One of my goals in this continuing series on alternative pain care is to help people find an effective treatment that they hadn’t considered before. Even we help just one person, it makes it all worthwhile.

I understand that not all treatment options work for everyone. I am also very aware that some patients would rather only do what is “traditional” for their chronic condition. But what if you could get even more relief by adding another therapy or combining multiple treatment options? I believe a treatment I received took me from a wheelchair to walking, but I know that I would have done even better by adding a multi-modal approach to my pain care.

This segment of my series will cover the 4 H’s: hypnotherapy, hyperbaric therapy, holistic living and herbal therapy.

Hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy is used in chronic pain treatment to create a subconscious change in patients. It will not “cure” a patient of their pain or physical challenges, but it can help form new responses, thoughts, attitudes, and behavior patterns to help cope with constant pain.

Hypnotherapy is a complementary therapy that utilizes suggestive techniques that patients can use to alter their state of consciousness. Using skilled relaxation techniques, the hypnotherapist makes appropriate suggestions to relax our conscious thoughts in order to focus on the subconscious ones.

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There are multiple approaches to hypnotherapy, so learning about the different types may be helpful. A few of them include cognitive behavioral therapy, Ericksonian therapy, neuro-linguistic programming, cortical integrative therapy, and past life regression.

There is wide endorsement for hypnotherapies that can be used in habit breaking, stress-related challenges, and treating long-term conditions. We have a hypnotherapist on the iPain board of directors and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has also endorsed hypnotherapy for multiple uses.

But there is still a need for more testing and research to provide more concrete evidence that hypnotherapy can help and be used in tandem with traditional treatments.

Not everyone responds to hypnotherapy, as our susceptibility and commitment to the process varies from patient to patient, as do the treatments. It could be a single hypnosis session for issues like smoking cessation or it could be weekly visits for chronic pain.

Costs can vary between $50-150 per session. Some insurance companies will cover hypnotherapy, so it’s a good to check with them before making an appointment. If you want to feel more comfortable about hypnosis before trying it, I suggest that you talk to the therapist first and do some research online. If you need help finding a hypnotherapist in your area, you can start by clicking here.

Hyperbaric Therapy

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is painless to participate in. It was originally created for deep-sea divers to help them overcome decompression sickness, but has also been used for decades to treat infections, severe burns and carbon monoxide poisoning. More recently it has been found to help people with fibromyalgia and other chronic illnesses.

Many chronic pain patients have trouble with vascular constriction and getting proper oxygen throughout the body, especially to areas that most affected by pain.

Hyperbaric therapy helps improve oxygen levels, which reduces nerve pain, fights infections, and promotes cell growth and wound healing.

Patients undergoing hyperbaric oxygen therapy sit in a pressurized room or tube. The higher air pressure allows lungs to gather more oxygen than they would normally, resulting in 10 to 15 times the normal amount of oxygen being brought to each cell.

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This stimulates cell healing and provides vital nutrients to cells that are not functioning correctly. When our cells are not getting the proper amount of oxygen and nutrients, we lose energy, tissue becomes malnourished, and it delays or prevents healing.

Most patients using hyperbaric therapy will require a few rounds of treatment over several weeks to get results. The cost can be quite high, but if you can get your provider to test your vascular constriction with a Doppler Study or another measuring device, your insurance may pay for this treatment.

Holistic Living

Holistic living is more of a lifestyle approach than a treatment, because it is aimed at improving the mind, body and spirit. Once we bring harmony into our lives physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally, we create a balance that can make the tough times of living with chronic pain more bearable.

The good news is you can start consciously living in a holistic manner at any time. Taking one step at a time is the way to get on the path of self-improvement. Living holistic is about being conscious of all aspects of who you are and the choices you make.  

Holistic living also makes use of massage, acupuncture, acupressure, herbal medicine and other healing options. These are typically out of pocket expenses, so access to them can be limited. But with YouTube, Zubia and other online platforms, it’s easy to find videos – like the one below --to help learn how to live holistically on your own.

Herbal Therapy

Herbal therapy was first introduced to me back in college when I had a cheerleading injury and a friend took me to Chinatown to see a doctor who had been treating her.

I thought it was such a strange experience. He looked at my eyes, my fingers and my tongue. What could he see? What was he looking for? I could hardly understand him, but when he was done, we headed into a room with all kinds of herbs and plants stored in bins.

He walked around the room, chose some items for me, and wrote out on a piece of paper what to do. I took the stuff back to my dorm room and made it into a tea that I drank a little of each day. It was to help with inflammation from my injury.

Some people, including my friend, just ate the herbs and plants. But I didn’t like the taste, so making the tea was easier for me to get it down.

Just because an herb or plant is in its natural state doesn’t make it right for all of us. You should check with an herbalist who has some training in this area. Herbs can interact with some over-the-counter and prescription medications. And be sure to tell your healthcare providers about any herbal medications you are taking.

This month’s spotlight on H’s that can help with pain care are meant to be idea starters. As always, I look forward to hearing from those of you who have tired any of these modalities and whether it improved your general health and to chronic pain specifically.

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Barby Ingle lives with reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), migralepsy and endometriosis. Barby is a chronic pain educator, patient advocate, and president of the International Pain FoundationShe is also a motivational speaker and best-selling author on pain topics.

More information about Barby can be found at her website. 

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.