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Natural Alternatives to Pain Relief

Everyone experiences pain differently. This can make it difficult to objectively describe and define,

diagnose and measure. Two people with the same pain condition may have distinctly different

experiences of living with the pain. So there’s no “one-size-fits-all” model. Period pain, Endometriosis, Adenomyosis, stomach pain and migraines are all common examples of how pain affects people differently.

However, the widely accepted definition of pain from the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), describes it as an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage. As the prevalence of pain and inflammation in society increases, pain relief has become synonymous with popping a pill. The harmful consequences of overusing and misusing pain medications have reached critical levels. Natural therapies, when appropriately implemented, can provide alternatives to, or complement pharmaceutical treatments. Taking a multidisciplinary approach to pain treatment and building a pain management team of healthcare professionals can help to provide optimal support for your symptoms.

There are two main categories of pain:

Acute Pain

  • Lasts for a short time

  • Occurs following an injury, surgery, trauma or as a symptom of an illness

  • Can be caused by structural, tissue or nerve damage

  • Acts as the body’s alarm system, designed to compel you to move away from

  • danger, protect yourself from further harm and seek help

  • Usually becomes less severe as the injury or condition heals

  • Can transition into chronic pain if left untreated or poorly treated

Chronic Pain

  • Usually lasts longer than 12 weeks

  • Persists beyond the expected healing time of an injury, surgery, trauma or

  • symptom of a disease

  • Can also be a stand-alone condition and exist without a clear reason

  • Characterised by changes to the central nervous system

Where there’s chronic pain, it’s commonly accompanied by these companions.

Insomnia and Fatigue

Sleep is a driving factor that directly affects pain. When you have little or poor

sleep, you can be more sensitive to pain. A painful condition also makes it harder

to have a good night’s sleep, and ultimately feeds the cycle. Sleep deprivation

can lead to fatigue which permeates daily life and can make your situation even

more difficult.

Substance Misuse

Substance misuse is reported in people with chronic pain, including the overuse

or misuse of alcohol or prescription opioids. Women with endometriosis had higher probabilities of prolonged use of opioids and concomitant use with benzodiazepines in comparison with a matched cohort of women without endometriosis.

Depression and Anxiety

Chronic pain can also place a strain on many aspects of daily life and may result in

an inability to work. This can consequently influence finances and relationships

which may take a toll on emotional health. It’s reported that 45% of patients

living with chronic pain also experience a reduction in mental well-being.

Healthy Habits to help manage pain

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet ( a naturopath can help with this)

  • Move your body, yoga, tai chi, swimming, walking, biking,

  • Prioritise sleep, meditation can help,

  • Avoid alcohol

  • Quit smoking

  • Set goals and pace yourself

  • Focus on a healthy distraction

  • Be social and participate in life, nature walks, talk therapy

  • Schedule down time

  • Get all the rest you need

  • Keep a pain journal and document your pain score every day

  • Practice relaxation, use mindfulness and meditation tools to manage stress and pain

  • Massage and Acupuncture can help reduce pain

  • Cold and heat application

  • Music

  • Work with your pain management team to understand any medications (including their

  • side effects) and complementary therapies you may be taking

  • Ask for help

What is a Pain Management Team?

There are specific services in each state can help you access a pain management team. You can also choose your own health professionals and control your own pain management program. Health care professionals such as GP's, Naturopaths, Medical herbalists, consultants, Physiotherapists, Occupational therapists, Acupuncturists, Psychologists and Pharmacists can all work together to provide you with a comprehensive program to help reduce and/or manage your pain.

Supplement PEA for Pain Relief

Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) is a natural fatty acid that has analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects. There is a growing body of evidence from clinical trials supporting the use of PEA as a treatment for chronic and neuropathic pain. A number of studies have shown that PEA supplements can help to reduce pain and improve the quality of life in people with chronic pain.

Endometriosis and PEA

A 2013 study published in the journal Clinical Trial examined the effectiveness of micronized PEA for chronic pelvic pain in women affected by endometriosis. A total of 24 patients experiencing severe pelvic pain received two tablets a day of PEA 400 mg and 40 mg polydatin for 90 days. Researchers found statistically significant results in relation to pelvic pain, dysmenorrhea and dyspareunia compared with the start of the study. However, changes in dysuria and dyschezia were not statistically significant.

A 2016 rodent model published in Frontiers in Pharmacology explored how a PEA and polydatin (PLD) treatment could impact surgically-induced endometriotic lesions. After four weeks, the treated group showed promising results: smaller cysts, improved fibrosis scores and a decrease in mast cells. Results suggest that PEA may be of use to inhibit development of endometriotic lesions in rats.

And in 2019, an open-label pilot study published in the International Journal of Women’s Health evaluated the impact of ultra-micronized PEA and co-micronized PEA and PLD on pelvic pain in patients who wanted to become pregnant. Thirty patients received the ultra-micronized PEA for 10 days, then the PEA/PLD combination two times a day for another 80 days. After the three-month treatment, all participants showed significant improvements in chronic pelvic pain, deep dyspareunia, dysmenorrhea and dyschezia. They also reported better quality of life and psychological well-being.

Migraines and Severe Headaches and PEA

The use of palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) has been shown to relieve severe headache faster than the pharmaceutical drug ibuprofen, according to a RCT conducted in Australia. However, when it came to mild and moderate headaches, ibuprofen was a better option. This is good news for migraine sufferers, especially those of us with hormonal migranes and endometriosis.

Individual patients can take up to 4 – 6 weeks to experience benefits from PEA supplementation. It is well tolerated and has no known side effects which makes PEA an option for patients who have multiple medication sensitivities or allergies.

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Lamvu G, Soliman AM, Manthena SR, Gordon K, Knight J, Taylor HS. Patterns of Prescription Opioid Use in Women With Endometriosis: Evaluating Prolonged Use, Daily Dose, and Concomitant Use With Benzodiazepines. Obstet Gynecol. 2019 Jun;133(6):1120-1130. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000003267. PMID: 31135725; PMCID: PMC6553518.

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