Archive for "Alternative Treatments"

How Compassion Focused Therapy Helps To Ease Pain

Alternative Treatments Apr 15, 2020 No Comments

Due to the complexity of this disease, it’s essential to note the importance of compassion focused therapy and other alternative therapies to ease chronic pain.

It is not possible to adequately frame chronic pain as a health condition within the context of biology. There is more to chronic pain than the misfiring of nerves, genetics, or inflammation. Chronic pain is affected by and directly affects your thoughts and feelings, and your standing in society. There are several forces shifting due to one condition – and several causes contributing to that condition.

By inspecting and treating chronic pain as a condition that affects a person physically, mentally, and socially, medical professionals can provide a more comprehensive and effective form of care, producing better and more long-lasting results than medication, or treatments that purely explore the physical aspect of pain.

Compassion focused therapy is one of these treatments, exploring how something as simple and yet integral as compassion can provide real quantitative and substantial value to patients struggling with chronic pain.


Compassion from a Medical Perspective

You can describe compassion as being understanding in the face of suffering, both towards yourself and others. It means being caring. And within the context of the doctor-patient relationship, the concept of compassion has always been integral to maintaining a sense of trust and safety.

But compassion can also be a tool towards achieving better results in medicine. From a scientific standpoint, compassion is a concept innate to humans, and perhaps other mammals as well.

It stems from an evolutionary purpose of caring for others and oneself. Dr. Paul Gilbert, founder of compassion focused therapy, posits that compassion itself originates from the concepts of bonding and prosocial behavior, behavior we are naturally drawn to as part of our survival instinct.

Nurturing and caring behavior from one person to another triggers the release of oxytocin in the brain. Oxytocin, also known as the neurotransmitter of love, relaxes and soothes the mind. This begins at an early age, from the moment a mother and child first make contact.

Fostering and repeating these moments of compassion builds a series of connections to the concept and virtue of compassion – to be compassionate, someone must receive compassion, and thoroughly understand what it means to be caring towards oneself before they can truly care for others.



Compassion and Pain

With time, properly nurtured individuals can soothe themselves through hardships and stressful experiences, developing positive coping mechanisms that allow them to adapt to difficult situations and maintain a positive outlook without feelings of anxiety and shame.

Interpreted in the context of chronic pain, promoting compassion both from the point of view of the caregiver and the patient can prevent negative emotions such as shame, while promoting a constructive path forward.

As an example: someone with severe anxiety or self-doubt can benefit from a compassion focused therapy by exercising self-compassion through mindfulness, meditation and internal method-acting. They can imagine a voice outside of their own soothing them and providing compassionate words, at first perhaps from workbook, and later on from their own mind.

Concentrating on being compassionate towards themselves from outside their own perspective can give a patient a healthier, positive viewpoint. They can use breathing exercises and mindfulness to catch themselves in moments of anxiety, and step into the persona of their compassionate self to calm themselves down and reassess their situation from a more objective and logical point of view.


The Biopsychosocial Model

Compassion focused therapy is one of many examples of treatments that focus on conditions like chronic pain and approach them from a biopsychosocial viewpoint – considering the condition’s biological, psychological, and social factors.

Take fibromyalgia for example. While this is a physical condition, its main symptom is widespread pain. Research has shown that stress and pain – psychological issues – widely contribute to the possibility of struggling with fibromyalgia. A childhood filled with abuse can increase a person’s risk of fibromyalgia because of how the brain learns to handle stress and physical pain.

Aside from causing pain, fibromyalgia can be disabling. It can limit a person’s quality of life, especially early on, and common coexisting disorders include major depression.

The feeling of being a burden or incompetent due to the disease further increases the risk of developing psychological issues as a consequence of social factors. Compassion focused therapy can greatly reduce the debilitating effect of fibromyalgia, by addressing its core symptoms and providing solutions.

Not only does compassion have an effect on how pain is perceived, but a more positive outlook can reduce feelings of shame and depression and give patients the motivation to be productive in other ways.

Despite physical limitations, a combination of different treatments can effectively combat the pain and the fatigue and give a patient several hours a day to dedicate to useful hobbies, in the service of their own interests and to contribute to the household or the community.


The Medical Validity of Feelings

Emotion inhibits the reduction of pain. Depressive thoughts and sadness can negatively affect a person’s perception of pain, making it grow stronger. Something as simple as a positive frame of mind, on the other hand, can have a tangible effect on the perception of pain.

Compassion focused therapy, when combined with other treatments, can give a patient the frame of mind they need to live a good life in spite of chronic pain. With chronic pain, quality of life is a vital consideration.

However, perception has a lot to do with how good that quality of life is. By being too harsh on themselves due to the limitations they are experiencing as a result of their disease, patients can actually make their symptoms worse, and thereby worsen their ability to do anything at all.

Self-compassion, on the other hand, can unlock a person’s ability to perform and feel motivated even in the face of pain.


The Importance of Training for Compassion Focused Therapy

The doctor of the future does not only succeed by his or her skill with the scalpel or their knowledge of medicine, but by their ability to provide a compassionate and caring experience. Modern medicine will see an influx on possibilities through engineering and information technology – but the human aspect cannot adequately be replaced through technological innovation.

Compassion as a way to provide pain relief and combat negative emotion is important. Future medical professionals will have to specialize in not just an understanding of a patient’s biology, but of their psychology and the importance of a state of mind in treating a physical problem with dire mental consequences.


10 Lower Back Exercises for Pain to Do at Home

Alternative Treatments Dec 14, 2017 No Comments

Lower back pain is a major struggle, regardless of when in life you’re saddled with it. But chronic pain is even worse, and can be extremely difficult to deal with. The most important thing, regardless of how you approach your condition, is to approach it with a sense of optimism. It’s appreciably hard to do so while in pain, but the greatest cure for pain is joy – and you can’t be happy if the pain keeps you angry. One way to do this is by utilizing at-home lower back exercises for pain relief.

That’s why exercise helps to tolerate such pain. When mood and company aren’t enough to keep your mind off the pain, a more proactive, physical approach can make a difference – within reason. The difficulty in prescribing lower back exercises for pain relief to patients with chronic pain is that their condition will often shape their program. This may limit them from doing certain movements, while creating the opportunity for others to be more effective. Before doing any lower back exercises for pain, be sure to consult your doctor or physical therapist, and ask for a personalized list of what to do and not to do at home.

Going to a gym or a rehab center is always great – but not in everybody’s budget, whether time-wise or otherwise. That’s why home exercises are most effective – they take away the barrier of time and money spent going to and from the gym, while still giving you a good workout, and relieving your pain. These lower back exercises for pain are meant to prioritize relief, and give a secondary effect of improving your fitness – which can leave a long-term lasting effect on your chronic pain, hopefully reducing it.


Light Cardio

Cardiovascular exercise is incredibly important, regardless of your age or condition. But light cardio can work wonders for people struggling with chronic pain, as they give a relatively easy and steady source of endorphins.

Prolonged light cardio can reduce pain, keep your joints healthy, and put a smile on your face. However, it’s important to pick the right lower back exercises for pain, and this includes cardio. Proper equipment is a big plus: walking or light jogging on a treadmill if permittable, or spending a few minutes on a stationary bike.

Lower Back Exercises for Pain | Comprehensive Pain Management Center


Hip Raises/Bridges

While these exercises are meant to reduce pain in the back and lower back, it’s important to understand the body as a machine, capable of performing certain movements, recruiting entire systems of musculature to perform said movements. Thus, an effective way to help the lower back is by strengthening the surrounding areas.

The hips are a frequent problem area, especially with advanced age or prolonged periods of staying sedentary. Sitting for extended periods of time can shorten the hip flexor, and generally weaken the glutes and hamstrings. This can lead to muscular imbalances, and produce long-term pain. It’s important that these lower back exercises for pain relief include the surrounding muscles as well.  Hip bridges are a good way to strengthen these lacking regions, increase hip flexibility, and improve overall back health.


Lower Back Extensions

A great and simple way to strengthen the lower back directly is through lower back extensions. Simply lie prone on your stomach, with your hands on your head or out in front of you, and concentrate on raising your shoulders and chest off the floor.

This exercise can either be done in repetitions, or for time. An easy variation to increase difficulty and further isolate the back is by lifting both the hands and feet off the ground simultaneously. To increase focus on the lumbar region rather than the thoracic, focus on raising your chest, and keep your hips on the ground.


Reverse Hip Raises/Extensions

Since these lower back exercises for pain relief should work all areas of the back, another great exercises are reverse hip raises. Reverse hip extensions also work the entire posterior chain, which can greatly strengthen the glutes and relieve pain worsened with long periods of inactivity.

While they’re traditionally done on a reverse hip raise machine, these can be done on a stability ball instead. An alternative is to get down on your hands and knees in a table top position, and then fully extend one leg back at a time, squeezing with each repetition.


Hip Circles

One source of chronic pain is nerve inflammation, due to injury or overuse. Hip circles are a good way to both prevent and help remedy conditions like pain from sciatica. While in a table top position, slowly move your knee close to your chest, then draw a circle with it outside of your body, back behind you, and back up to your chest.

Exercises for Back Pain: Planks | Comprehensive Pain Management Center



Planks are simple abdominal exercises that greatly strengthen the entire core – when done right. These lower back exercises for pain help to strengthen your core, which in turns strengthens the back as well. The key is to keep your core engaged, rather than letting your stomach or hips sag down. While this makes the exercise more difficult, it makes it much safer – and makes progression more effective. Strengthening the core can drastically improve spinal health, and improve your overall quality of life.


Mild Yoga

Yoga is a great source of exercises and stretches, most of which act as amazing rehabilitation tools and recovery tools after strenuous exercise, or challenging exercises in and of themselves. Like most fitness options, yoga has something for everybody – but unlike most, it’s a great tool for safe healing.

The key lies in knowing what you should and shouldn’t do. Most beginner movements are ideal, including the cat-and-cow, child’s pose, threading-the-needle (a variation on the knee-to-chest stretch), and variations of the cobra pose. As always, consult a doctor.


Wall Sits

Wall sits are an effective way to strengthen the legs, without putting too much pressure on the knees or back, as with a loaded squat or lunge. Simply stand with your back pressed against a wall, and slide down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep your arms away from the wall, either on your thighs or your stomach. Like the plank, this is an exercise for time. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and count.

Partial Crunches for Pain Relief | Comprehensive Pain Management Center


Partial Crunches

While the planks help build strength throughout the core, these lower back exercises for pain can better work the abdominal muscles. This provides a much safer alternative to sit-ups, which can overwork the hip flexors without really providing the abs with a challenge.

However, excessively crunching your core could pose a problem for your lower back, instead of helping it. Flex your core by lying on your back, while slowly raising just your head and shoulders off the floor. Keep your arms tucked under your neck, crossed, rather than behind your head.


Moderate Weight Lifting

While it may sound counterintuitive, lifting weights can benefit you greatly, even with a condition like fibromyalgia. The key is to do what you can, rather than overdo it. Consult your doctor to find out what movements you specifically shouldn’t engage in, and what movements are a good idea for you to work on improving your strength.


Lower Back Exercises for Pain That You Should Avoid

There are many lower back exercises for pain that you should do. However, there are also many exercises that you probably shouldn’t do. Depending on your strength, it’s a bad idea to load your spine excessively. This may rule out most heavy barbell exercises, such as barbell rows, deadlifts and squats. Toe touches can also inappropriately load the spine, while overstretching the hamstrings. You can opt for a more spine-friendly version: the child’s pose.

If you make progress with your weight lifting and your pain goes away, you may go on to using heavier weight to continue to train your body. Consult your doctor before you move on to barbell movements, to ensure that you don’t unnecessarily increase risk of injury.

These at-home lower back exercises for pain can help to reduce your chronic pain, improve mood, and improve your overall quality of life. Consult your pain doctor as well, for they may have exercise programs set up for you as well. Your doctor will also assist you in creating a personalized pain management plan to help to reduce pain.

Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy for Chronic Pain

Alternative Treatments Aug 21, 2017 No Comments

Humans and animals have shared a bond of companionship for thousands of years. We have bred animals like cats and dogs to be fellow hunters, friends, and guardians. And research shows that our bond is strong with some animals. This bond is so strong that animals – mostly dogs – have evolved to partially understand and react to human emotion and speech from birth (albeit tonality, not words themselves). Because of this, animal assisted therapy is becoming a popular alternative treatment for those suffering from chronic pain.

For patients with fibromyalgia, animal assisted therapy produced significant improvements in measures of pain, distress and mood. Those without therapy dog visits, did not experience the same improvements. No medicine or physical therapy was involved. Just dogs.

Why Humans Love Animals

Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy for Chronic Pain | Comprehensive Pain Management Center

While being a fan of cats, dogs and other pets is not a universal prerequisite of being human – plenty of people fear or hate dogs and cats – it is common. About two thirds of America lives with pets, and the overwhelming majority of pet owners think having a dog or cat in the household is healthy, and an overall benefit.

Furthermore, there is some credence to the idea that we have greater sympathy for animals than we do for our fellow man. Researchers have shown that there is a correlation between how much sympathy we feel towards someone, and how innocent or helpless they are. At the top of our list tends to be babies – we’re biologically inclined to save an infant. Yet we’re more likely to save puppies/kittens and adult pets than we are an adult human stranger.

This isn’t always true, and it’s truer for women than it is for men – yet there’s a cynicism and suspiciousness towards strangers that we don’t exhibit towards animals, for obvious reasons. Some people see this as misanthropy, others see it as an example of our instinct to protect those who can’t protect themselves.

Yet moral duty isn’t a good explanation for why we share a bond with our pets – no other animal keeps pets, and morality isn’t a good explanation for our love of cats and dogs given our love of meat and milk. Instead, evolution is more likely. Just as we evolved to use tools and invent technology, we also moved on towards domestication in the age of agriculture, and continued to use tamed animals as hunting companions and in war.

Therefore, domestic dogs and humans share a familial bond – one that makes both us and the dog exhibit higher levels of oxytocin when interacting with one another, as dogs have evolved alongside us to be family. It’s a symbiotic relationship, where we care for dogs while they aid us. This chemical link is what makes animal assisted therapy so successful – and why dogs are a potent tool in suppressing chronic pain.

How Oxytocin Suppresses Pain

Woman with Dog | Comprehensive Pain Management Center

Oxytocin, known as the “cuddle hormone”, plays a vital role in sex, love, stress reduction, arousal and emotional bonding alike. Our oxytocin levels typically rise when we’re feeling hot and bothered, loved, or in the mood for romance – yet it also carries the benefit of being an analgesic.

Exactly how it does this isn’t completely understood. The dominant theories are that oxytocin either directly influences the body’s capacity to feel and experience pain, or it indirectly acts as a numbing agent by improving mood and reducing anxiety. Either way, research shows that oxytocin is effective in reducing pain – and it doesn’t have to enter the system through pharmaceutical means.

Animal assisted therapy has other benefits than simply increasing the body’s oxytocin levels, and thus numbing pain. Chronic pain is a debilitating disease that affects the patient through reoccurring episodes of intense discomfort. This also means it hinders a patient from doing many of the things they’d love to do, from work to engaging in hobbies and sports. Chronic pain thus is accompanied by feelings of depression, and isolation.

Long-term treatment can reduce the effects of chronic pain, but the debilitating nature of the disease means it’s often paired with mental dissatisfaction, bordering on or slipping into the territory of depression. And it’s precisely in the reduction of depression that animal assisted therapy excels. Being with animals can increase feelings of happiness and generally calm anxiety.

Exploring the Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy

Woman holding dog for chronic pain | Comprehensive Pain Management Center

The benefits of animal assisted therapy are a reduction in pain, anxiety and depressive thinking. When around animals, most people in chronic pain felt better – happier. Their emotional distress levels dropped, as did their pain and fatigue.

Yet those are results from having a therapy pet pay you a visit in the waiting room at the doctor’s office – while they show how potent animals are in reducing our stress, especially in stressful environments, they don’t highlight the benefits of involving pets and animals in your day-to-day life to deal with chronic pain.

Working dogs for those struggling with chronic pain is an effective way to help deal with challenging every-day tasks, while providing a source of comfort, stress-relief and companionship. Furthermore, caring for a pet not only helps you avoid depression, but it gives you a feeling of purpose when you can be a caregiver, rather than someone who typically receives care. While the physical effects of chronic pain are undeniable, there are mental ones as well – and alleviating them a little bit can greatly improve your overall quality of life, and give you a reason to look forward to every sunrise.

Given how our ancestors and those before them were fond of having animals around, it’s logical to presume that they have some sort of positive effect on us psychologically. And as studies show, they do. If you’re looking for a way to improve your life under chronic pain, while giving a home to a trained animal in need of one, then a working dog may be perfect for you. A pet is more than a dose of medicine or a therapy – a pet can be a trained therapist, and a dear friend. Aside from providing you with a daily dose of natural analgesics, animal assisted therapy can improve your outlook on life with chronic pain and provide you with the pleasure of a human-animal bond.

Natural Back Pain Treatments

Alternative Treatments Sep 02, 2015 No Comments

Natural Back Pain Treatments |

Back pain is common amongst various types of individuals. Whether it is temporary or chronic, people are constantly looking for ways to treat this pain. For those that would prefer to stay away from traditional medications, there are natural back pain treatments available. In fact, you probably were not aware that some of these things help to reduce pain.

Stretching and Core Exercises

Stretching and doing core exercises serve a number of purposes. Stretching helps to limber up muscles that may be tense, which can bring relief. Both stretching and core exercises help to strengthen the muscles and can help to reduce chances of pain to begin with. The key to proper stretching is to make sure that it is light and does not hurt. If you continue when it hurts, you could do more damage than good.


How you sit and stand can also play a part in your back pain. Those who hunch their shoulders can cause a permanent curve in their spine. This can lead to serious medical issues as well as chronic back pain. To avoid this, make conscious efforts to walk and stand up right, keeping your spine properly aligned at all times.


Massage therapy can provide relief for building back pain, especially when performed by a professional. Not only do they know what treatment methods are most beneficial for your particular back pain, they are also familiar with rubs and ointments that you can use to enhance the massage process, as well as continue the results after the treatment.


Endorphins are the body’s own natural pain reliever. Along with pain, it is also effective against anxiety, stress and depression. All of the aforementioned natural remedies help to release endorphins, as well as other calming activities, such as breathing deeply, meditating, laughing, listening to music and being social.

Before you head to the medicine cabinet the next time you experience back pain, consider one or a few of the natural back pain treatments mentioned above. For even more ideas, contact your local pain management center.

By Dr. James  Lin
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How Can I Treat Chronic Pain?

Alternative Treatments, Back Pain Treatments, Pain Management Jun 22, 2015 1 Comment

Chronic Pain |

Minor aches and pains are pretty normal to everyday life. These kinds of pain are most likely caused by something minor and will either go away on their own or be treated using over-the-counter medications. However, some people experience mild to severe pain on a daily basis. This chronic pain needs to be looked at by a medical professional so that you can get treatment that will actually make a difference. Your daily routine should not be a struggle. Seek a doctor’s help when your bodily pain becomes a part of day-to-day life to effective treat chronic pain.

Getting Therapy

There are numerous treatments your doctor might suggest to treat chronic pain. Physical therapy is one option. The pain you are experiencing can be made worse by exercising incorrectly, and getting physical therapy will ensure that you do not overdo your exercise regimen, and you will end up building up a tolerance for the pain. Cognitive behavioral therapy may also be recommended so that you better understand the relationship between your body and mind and how chronic pain affects that relationship. Read more »

Holistic Back Pain Remedies

Alternative Treatments, Back Pain, Back Pain Treatments Mar 26, 2015 No Comments

Holistic Back Pain Remedies | ComprehensivePainManagementCenter.comMany people suffer with back pain on a daily basis. Sadly, several of those people suffer in silence unnecessarily because they do not realize how easily they could gain relief. There are a number of holistic remedies for back pain. Below are the top four holistic back pain remedies one might consider.

Exercise the Core

In an average day most individuals will not utilize their core enough, and those at desk jobs may even damage their backs more with improper posture. With just 20 to 30 minutes of core exercises per day you can help to support your spine by strengthening and maintaining your back muscles. Read more »

How to Rid Yourself From Back Pain Naturally

Alternative Treatments, Back Pain, Back Pain Treatments, Wellness Feb 18, 2015 No Comments

Back Pain | ComprehensivePainManagementCenter.comLiving with back pain can be frustrating and difficult. For many sufferers, it may seem as though nothing provides relief. Turning to prescription drugs may be an option, but before making that choice it may be a good idea to look into natural alternatives to rid yourself from back pain. There are several things that you can try to rid yourself from back pain. These involve movement, stretching, strengthening, nutrition and herbal remedies. Some of these options may seem too simple to work, but it may be worth the time to see if they help before taking a pill.


Many individual’s back pain is a result of a sedentary lifestyle. Implementing any exercise routine is a good way to introduce strength and movement into the lower back. There are a few exercises that are especially good for helping with back pain, including the following:

  • Static planks
  • Squats
  • Ball bridges
  • Leg raises
  • Pelvic tilts Read more »

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