4 Strategies for Relieving Pain Without Medication

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4 Strategies for Relieving Pain without Medication

The most common types of pain are from arthritis, lower back, bone/joint pain, muscle pain and Fibromyalgia. Pain can also take on many forms, changing locations and intensity daily or even hourly in the same person.

There are, however, many pain relief options out there, some that you may not yet be aware of. Because pain is often such a complex issue to treat, and the methods that work highly varied depending on your individual situation, adding one, two or several of the following strategies to your arsenal may give you the much-needed relief you need.

Best of all, the following options are completely safe and natural, which means they can be used successfully by just about everybody.
What you’ll notice is that many of these strategies use the power of your mind to heal physical pain. When you focus your mind on healing, relief follows.

Meditation

Meditation keeps your mind focused on the present, which makes the experience of pain less intense. Originating in Eastern spiritual traditions, meditation is now a common form of mind-body medicine practiced by people of all cultural and religious backgrounds. (1)
In a study by researchers from the University of Manchester in England it was found that people who regularly meditated found decreased pain possibly because they spent less time anticipating it, which blunted its emotional impact. (2)
If you’re new to meditation, you can still benefit. A separate study found that after just a single hour of mindfulness meditation training over a three-day period, participants felt less pain while meditating and also experienced less pain sensitivity when they were not meditating. (3)

Many cities now offer local classes to learn the basics of meditation, but you can get started by finding a quiet location, sitting in a comfortable posture, then focusing your attention on your breath, an object or a mantra (a meaningful word or phrase). If you find your mind wandering, simply bring it back to your focal point without judgment. Prayer, tai chi, qi gong, yoga and journaling can also offer meditative benefits, so choose the form that feels best for you.

Laughter

When you laugh, your body releases endorphins, which are natural painkillers that also contribute to a sense of well-being. This may help to reduce your pain directly, while also distracting you from the pain, similar to meditation, and providing a wonderful form of stress relief.
Indirectly, laughter therapy, which is, as it sounds, using humor therapeutically to get you to laugh more often, can help to relieve pain by:

Relaxing your muscles
Easing digestion and soothing stomach aches
Promoting relaxation and better sleep
Enhancing oxygen intake
Boosting your immune system and circulatory system

Massage Therapy

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Massage therapists use a variety of techniques, including kneading, tapping, pressure and deep circular movements, to relieve a variety of conditions, including pain. According to a survey by the American Hospital Association, nearly 91 percent of respondents agreed that massage was effective in reducing pain.
Further, according to the American Massage Therapy Association, massage stimulates your brain to produce endorphins (natural pain-relieving chemicals) and studies have shown that massage therapy:

•Promotes relaxation and alleviates the perception of pain and anxiety in cancer patients
•Reduces post-traumatic headaches better than cold-packs
•Reduces pain and muscles spasms in patients who have had heart bypass surgery

A separate study also found that massage therapy provided some immediate pain relief for patients with advanced cancer.
For best results, look for a reputable and qualified massage therapist who is experienced in helping with pain relief.

I have used massage therapy for a few years now. I find that a therapist that takes into consideration the areas in which you experience the most pain or sensitivity and is knowledgeable about Fibromyalgia is your best choice. As I tend to suffer from inflammation in my abdomen after my treatment, my massage therapist massages me while I lay on my side which makes the experience more pleasant for me. She also uses a heating pad under my body before my massage that allows my back and legs to relax more before the massage gets underway.

Music

Music can be extremely soothing not only for your mind but also for your body. By way of distraction and relaxation, music is a form of pain relief that’s as simple and enjoyable as it is effective.

In one small study, patients with back, neck or joint pain experienced a 20 percent decrease in pain after listening to music for one hour a day for seven days, compared to a 2 percent increase in pain in the control group. (4)

Music has also been found to help reduce post-surgical pain, (5)
chronic and cancer pain, along with reducing patients’ need for pain-relieving medications. (6).

So whenever the mood strikes, put on your favorite musical artist and let the sounds help soothe you.

Photos : http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

References:

1. 12. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2008;149(6):369–379.
2. LiveScience.com June 6, 2010
3. The Journal of Pain 2010 Mar; 11(3):199-209. Epub 2009 Oct 22
4. Journal of Advanced Nursing Volume 54 Issue 5, Pages 553 – 562
5. Journal of Advanced Nursing Volume 33 Issue 2, Pages 208 – 21518.
6. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006, Issue 2.

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Singing Your Way to A Longer & Healthier Life

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44This past weekend my sister and I were at a local bar for their Saturday night karaoke get together.  Later that morning, when we arrived home I began researching the effects of singing and it’s relation to wellness.

This past week was Sing For Your Heart from December 8 th to the 15th in the UK.  Singing does not merely benefit our hearts but so much more as you will see in this piece.

While researching this topic I was able to locate some research studies that confirmed a few of my ideas on singing and improved health.  As a singer, I have noticed a sense of well being while I am singing and certainly stronger abdominal and back muscles but what I found out was even greater than I imagined.  I have used music to assist me in studying for exams on numerous occasions by creating lyrics with my course materials.  There is something to be said for using the part of the brain that remembers twenty year- old song lyrics.

You don’t have to be a great singer or even a rockstar to achieve the results that are contained in this blog.  What makes singing so appealing is that we can all do it and we can all benefit from doing so.

Clive Ballard, director of research at the Alzheimer’s Society and Professor of Age Related Diseases at King’s College, London,  said singing as an activity did seem to help people with dementia.

“People seem to enjoy doing something jointly with other people and there is a lot of evidence that being socially engaged is good for people with dementia.”

He said the part of the brain that worked with speech was different to the part that processed music, allowing those who had lost their speech to still enjoy their music. 

 

  

Sound therapist Jovita Wallace says “Sound vibrations massage your aura, going straight to what’s out of balance and fixing it.”
Singing the short-a sound, as in ahh, for 2-3 minutes will help banish the blues. It forces oxygen into the blood, which signals the brain to release mood-lifting endorphins.
To boost alertness, make the long-e sound, as in emit. It stimulates the pineal gland, which controls the body’s biological clock.
Singing the short-e sound, as in echo stimulates the thyroid gland, which secretes hormones that control the speed which digestion and other bodily processes occur.
Making the long-o sound as in ocean stimulates the pancreas, which regulates blood sugar.
To strengthen immunity, sing the double-o sound, as in tool. This activates the spleen, which regulates the production of infection fighting white blood cells. (1)

Scientists say singing boosts immune system.
– Singing strengthens the immune system, according to research by scientists at the University of Frankfurt in Germany, published in the latest edition of the US Journal of Behavioral Medicine. The scientists tested the blood of people who sang in a professional choir in the city, before and after a 60 minute rehearsal of Mozart’s Requiem.They found that concentrations of immunoglobin A – proteins in the immune system which function as antibodies – and hydrocortisone, an anti-stress hormone, increased significantly during the rehearsal. A week later, when they asked members of the choir to listen to a recording of the Requiem without singing, they found the composition of their blood did not change significantly. The researchers, who included Hans Guenther Bastian from the Institute of Musical Education at Frankfurt University, concluded singing not only strengthened the immune system but also notably improved the performer’s mood. (1)

  • Singing releases endorphins into your system and makes you feel energized and uplifted. People who sing are healthier than people who don’t.
  • Singing gives the lungs a workout,
  • Singing tones abdominal and intercostal muscles and the diaphragm, and stimulates circulation.
  • Singing makes us breathe more deeply than many forms of strenuous exercise, so we take in more oxygen, improve aerobic capacity and experience a release of muscle tension as well.” — Professor Graham Welch, Director of Educational Research, University of Surrey, Roehampton, UK

 

5 Reasons Singing Is Good for Your Health

April 17, 2011 12:00 AM  by Mehmet C. Oz, MD, and Michael F. Roizen, MD

The YOU Docs love good music (one of us, Mehmet, cranks up Springsteen in the operating room; the other, Mike, is a huge fan of both classical piano and Frankie Valli). But when it comes to singing, we don’t care whether you’re first soprano in the church choir or you just belt out off-key oldies in the shower with the door locked. Bursting into song lifts your health in ways that surprise even us (and might make the cast of Glee America’s healthiest people). The benefits should get you singing out even if you can’t carry a tune in a bucket.

1. Lowers your blood pressure. You may have heard the heartwarming news story about a woman in Boston whose blood pressure shot up just before knee-replacement surgery. When drugs alone weren’t enough, she began singing her favorite hymns, softly at first, then with more passion. Her blood pressure dropped enough for the procedure, which went off without a hitch. Now, we’re not suggesting you trade blood pressure treatments for a few verses of “Amazing Grace.” But try adding singing to your routine. It releases pent-up emotions, boosts relaxation, and reminds you of happy times, all of which help when stress and blood pressure spike.

2. Boosts your “cuddle” hormone. Yep, oxytocin, the same hormone that bonds moms and new babies and that makes you and your partner feel extra close after a romp in the hay, also surges after you croon a tune with your peeps

3. Allows you to breathe easier. If you or someone you know is coping with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), singing just twice a week could make breathing feel easier and life feel better. In fact, in England there are “singing for breathing” workshops. The benefits, said one person with the lung disease, “It makes me feel on top of the world . . . and it makes COPD a lot easier to live with.” Why wait for a workshop? Try crooning a tune or two on your own.

4. Helps you find serenity after cancer. Surviving cancer is a major milestone, but afterward, you still have to cope with the memories (tests, diagnosis, treatments) and quiet will-it-come-back worries. Vocalizing can help you blow off steam and stress. Turns out that singing actually calms the sympathetic nervous system (which tenses up when you do) and boosts activity in the parasympathetic nervous system (which makes you relax).

5. Rewires the brain after a stroke. Plenty of people who’ve survived a stroke but lost the ability to speak learn to communicate again by singing their thoughts. Singing activates areas on the right side of the brain, helping stroke survivors  to take over the job of speaking when areas on the left side no longer function. Called melodic intonation therapy (MIT), it’s used in some stroke rehab programs, and insurance may cover it. Ask about it if someone you love has speech difficulties from a stroke.

That’s not all singing can do. It also helps everyday health, increasing immunity, reducing stress for new moms, quieting snoring, easing anxiety in ways that may also ease irritable bowel syndrome, and simply making you feel happier. That’s a great return on something you can do in a choir, in your car, with your kids, in the shower, or even (you knew we were heading here) in a glee club. Here’s how to put the “glee factor” to work for you.  (2)

 

  Helen Astrid leading vocal coach and singer, confirms that regular exercising of the vocal cords can even prolong life, according to research done by The Helen Astrid Singing Academy in London. “It’s a great way to  keep in shape because you are exercising your lungs and heart. Not only  that, your body produces ‘feel good’ hormones called endorphins, which  rush around your body when you sing. It’s exactly the same when you eat a  bar of chocolate. The good news with singing is that you don’t gain any  calories! Not only can it increase lung capacity, it improves posture,  clears respiratory tubes and sinuses, and can increase mental alertness  through greater oxygenation. It even tones the muscles of your stomach  and back, that is if you’re singing correctly.”

After consulting some therapists and my psychology textbooks from university I also was able to confirm the following:

Singing can help boost confidence, cure depression, process negative feelings and improve relationships.  There is something to be said for the feeling one gets when people clap for you after you sing as well, 

When you’re happy, you’re likely healthier. It’s hard to be sad when you’re singing.

 

Sing To Your Heart’s Content

  Singing even helps you live longer according to the findings of a joint Harvard and Yale study which showed that choral singing increased the life expectancy of the population of New Haven, Connecticut. The report concluded that this was because singing promoted both a healthy heart and an enhanced mental state. Another study at the University of California has reported higher levels of immune system proteins in the saliva of choristers after performing a complex Beethoven masterwork. (3)

According to The perceived benefits of singing findings from preliminary surveys of a university college choral society :

Women were significantly more likely to experience benefits for well-being and relaxation, younger people were more likely to report social benefits, and those professing religious beliefs were more likely to experience spiritual benefits.  (4)

 

Researchers from McGill University in Montreal said it was the first time that the chemical – called dopamine – had been tested in response to music.  Dopamine increases in response to other stimuli such as food and money.  It is known to produce a feel-good state in response to certain tangible stimulants – from eating sweets to taking cocaine.  Dopamine is also associated with less tangible stimuli – such as being in love.  (6)

The Arts – Music and Singing – Music as a therapeutic medium has demonstrated to be efficacious for pain management (Trauger-Querry & Haghighi, 1999), in facilitating the resolution of grief (Bright, 1999), as a means of finding a personal identity (Smeijsters & van den Hurk, 1999), to improve the lives of people with communications problems related to cognitive impairment (O’Callaghan, 1999), and to enhance the quality of life for Alzheimers patients (Hanser, 1999). Recent longitudinal analysis of music-therapy related articles in the ‘Etude’ music magazine for the period 1883 to 1957 has also indicated consistent and adamant support for the (physical and psychological) health benefits of singing (Hunter, 1999) (1)

 

 

 

 

References:

1. Barbershop Harmony Society 2012.

2. 5 Reasons Singing Is Good for Your Health  April 17, 2011 12:00 AM  by Mehmet C. Oz, MD, and Michael F. Roizen, MD

3. Heart Research UK, Suite 12D, Joseph’s Well, Leeds LS3 1AB

4. The perceived benefits of singing findings from preliminary surveys of a university college choral society 2012. 

  1. S.M. Clift Centre for Health Education and Research, Canterbury Christ Church University College, Canterbury, Kent CT1 1QU, England
  1. G. Hancox  Department of Music, Canterbury Christ Church University College, Canterbury, Kent CT1 1QU, England

5.  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4448634.stm

How singing unlocks the brain

                        By Jane Elliott                                            BBC News Health reporter
 
6.   January 2011 Last updated at 13:04 ET  Music ‘releases mood-enhancing chemical in the brain’By Sonya McGilchrist Health reporter, BBC News
 
 
 

A Writer’s Journey in Art Therapy

Before I begin this blog I wanted to emphasize that I write real events about the real world and real people, generally myself.   I want to take you on a journey to a place I recently explored.

My hope is that you, the reader, will continue to read my blogs and find inspiration in your own lives and maybe try new things.  Much of what I write is about wellness of body and mind,alon with maintaining balance in our lives.  May you always be blessed with treasures on your life path.

    As a writer recently dealing with losses in my life I wanted to explore something other than the traditional psychotherapy route.  I was reviewing other options when I came across an art therapy class in Edmonton which is near where I live.

To get a brief understanding about what art therapy is about, I researched some sites on-line and these were some of my findings: :

What is Art Therapy?’ brochure from the website of (BAAT– British Association of Art Therapists),

“Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses art media as its primary mode of communication. It is practised by qualified, registered Art Therapists who work with children, young people, adults and the elderly. ( 1)

Clients who can use art therapy may have a wide range of difficulties, disabilities or diagnoses. These include, for example, emotional, behavioral or mental health problems, learning or physical disabilities, life-limiting conditions, brain-injury or neurological conditions and physical illness. Art therapy may be provided for groups, or for individuals, depending on clients’ needs. It is not a recreational activity or an art lesson, although the sessions can be enjoyable. Clients do not need to have any previous experience or expertise in art.”

    People always search for some escape from illness and it has been found that art is one of the more common methods. Art and the creative process can aid many illnesses (cancer, heart disease, influenza, etc.). People can escape the emotional effects of illness through art making and many creative methods. (2)

Art therapy can help improve various mental and physical symptoms including, but  not limited to, reducing pain, anxiety, and tension. It can be beneficial to  those who have mental disorders, severe or light emotional abuse, cancer, post  traumatic stress disorders (PTSD), people who are bipolar, and a variety of  other serious ailments. (3)

  As a Fibromyalgia sufferer I know that stress can make the fatigue and chronic pain unbearable for many and more of us are also being diagnosed with IBS or Endometriosis as well.

   Art therapists have conducted studies to understand why some cancer patients turned to art making as a coping mechanism and a tool to creating a positive identity outside of being a cancer patient. Women in the study participated in different art programs ranging from pottery and card making to drawing and painting. The programs helped them regain an identity outside of having cancer, lessened emotional pain of their on-going fight with cancer, and also giving them hope for the future.

Studies have also shown how the emotional distress of cancer patients has been reduced when utilizing the creative process. The women made drawings of themselves throughout the treatment process while also doing yoga and meditating; these actions combined helped to alleviate some symptoms. (2)

  The creative process and artwork are considered in terms of their therapeutic benefit to the client rather than their artistic merit per se. Working in a collaborative manner, the art therapist serves as a guide and facilitator helping the artist-client to express their individual style of creativity and then “translate” their art into meaningful avenues of exploration and personal insight.

My session began with the closing of my eyes and deep breathing exercises that I was instructed to follow and continued to do so until I began to paint.  After an hour and a half I felt I painted what I needed to and stopped. 

  My therapist asked me what the significance parts of my painting meant to me and we explored several areas in my life.  The release of emotions and some old and new hurts materialized yet I was almost cleansed in a way.  Many areas of my artwork indicated a strong sense of self, confidence and a free spirit.  I was advised to look at it in the privacy of my own home for a few days and see if I saw something new to review.  My use of vibrant colour indicated a high level of happiness in my life. I was surprised at many of the things I painted and with a variety of brushes and techniques.  I was present but I was in the “zone’ that writers, musicians and other creative types enter where time did not exist.

  Art therapy has been recognized for its contributions in clinical environments such as mental health facilities and hospitals, the practice of art therapy extends well beyond the boundaries of health services to include work in corporate, educational, social, cross-cultural and community settings. 

References:

1.  http://baat.org/What_is_Art_Therapy.pdf, p.1

2. Stuckley, Heather L, and Jeremy Nobel. “The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature.” American Journal of Public Health (Feb2010): 254-263. Web. 9 Nov 2010.

3. http://www.arttherapyblog.com/art-therapy-benefits/#ixzz2AZst86JV

The Power of HealingTouch

After a stressful week, all I could think about was my upcoming massage appointment which was this past Monday.  Now, for me massage is one of the things I use for pain management often brought on by stress.  Stress takes it’s toll on many of us, leaving some of us with sore backs, & tense shoulders, the list continues.  My lower back had been in knots for several days and that tension was also wreaking havoc with my IBS and knee pain.

Upon my arrival at the massage therapy centre I was feeling emotionally worn out, tired, sad, lonely, etc.  Once inside the room where the massage was to take place I told Amy ” I am feeling very emotional today so if I have a cry, don’t be surprised.”  She immediately asked me ‘ if I wanted a hug?”.  I said “Yes,please.”.  We hugged and I know that hug was what I needed more than anything.  I thought to myself Monday night after the massage, why didn’t I ask for a hug?  Well I am going to ask whoever is around when I need a hug but now I know what I need.

What I did not realize is how good it feels to be pampered for 45 minutes under the gentle touch and care of my talented and kind hearted massage therapist Amy.  I have only seen her twice for treatment but she truly listens to where I tell her my body hurts and offers suggestions to me that are extremely helpful..We also discuss things going on in my life that are causing me additional pain and hurt..I laid down on the massage table on top of a warm towel, the room smelled of flowers, the lighting minimal and the music peaceful and serene.

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We undervalue the power of touch.  When we are babies psychologists tell us that we require cuddling and attention from our Mother’s or we may develop abandonment issues later on during the preschool years.  Those hugs and kisses were given freely and with much care behind them but as adults we do not often see the value a hug or a touch can bring to ourselves and the other person.

In life we have burdens that we must carry which Amy and I discussed at great length.  Both of us recall from our university days – she in massage therapy, while I was pursuing a BA degree in psychology that psychological and physical stress combined with heavy responsibilities creates tension ( the burden we bear goes to our backs).   It is also important to note that responsibilities involving our jobs, paying the bills, etc. are just as heavy as the obligations and expectations our loved ones and families have of us and the ones we want for ourselves.

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Healing touch is not just limited to humans, our pets want us to hold them, carry them and hug them too.  They radiate love … Trust me on this one if you are a dog owner don’t tell me rubbing their tummies does not make you feel just as good as they do, while you are doing it.

Many people can be reached with a hug, a stroke of their shoulder or holding their hand.  No words are required when we see people in pain or feeling hurt…  I dare you to stand up and hug someone and soothe a soul without saying a word..

My massage on Monday left me pain free, relaxed and full of energy but this was not a clinical massage.  This was beyond that, it was two virtual strangers being human, I see your pain, I feel your pain, and I am going to lessen that pain with a hug.

If you would like to read more material on the topic of Healing Touch, please follow this link for some research findings at http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/02/massages-mystery-mechanism-unmas.html

Natural Headache Relief

In the past year nearly 80% of men and 95% of women have had at least one headache. While most headache sufferers resort to OTC drugs and pain relievers to treat their symptoms, many are now turning to natural headache remedies to provide a safe but effective solution for their headaches.

There are two general types of headaches: primary and secondary. Primary headaches include tension, migraine, and cluster headaches, which are not caused by any underlying medical condition. Nearly 90% of all headaches that occur are primary. Unlike primary headaches, secondary headaches are caused by medical conditions, such as infection or increased pressure in the skull due to a growing tumor. These account for a very small percentage of all headaches.

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches, like migraines, are extremely painful. They tend to occur in clusters of several intense headaches during a short period of time, after which additional headaches may not be experienced for many weeks. Cluster headaches have been known to last more than one year and less than a few weeks. Cluster headaches that extend over a year are considered chronic and are difficult to treat.

Migraine Headaches

Migraines are severe headaches that many times begin in one area of the head and then spread to other areas. Migraines may become more severe with exposure to light and are usually preceded by symptoms that may include depression, irritability, restlessness, loss of appetite, and visual disturbances such as flashing lights or localized blindness. Migraines many times cause extreme nausea, vomiting, and altered vision.

Tension Headaches

A tension headache is usually experienced as a dull, yet persistent pain in the back of the neck extending to the base of the head. Tension headaches many times are associated with sensitive points in the neck called trigger-points or in the neck muscles themselves. Individuals with a tension headache may also complain of pain, throbbing, and a sensation of tightness in the head. Tension headaches often include irritability, insomnia, and extreme fatigue.

 

The natural options for treatment include, herbal supplements, shaitsu and yoga to name a few.

 

Herbal options:

1. Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) This herb treats  migraine pain by interrupting its main cause: inflammatory reactions in your  head that aggravate nerve endings and cause the blood vessels to expand. When  taken daily, feverfew can prevent migraines, according to Gene Bruno, a  nutritionist in New York City, as well as “reduce their severity, duration, and  frequency.” Be patient: The results can take four to six weeks. But if you stop  taking it, your migraines might return.

Take 500 to 600 mg of standardized feverfew daily to treat migraines. Take two equal portions of feverfew on an empty stomach in the morning and evening.

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Feverfew

Butterbur root According to the journal Neurology, the root extract from this daisy plant is one of the best herbs to prevent  migraines; patients who took butterbur extract saw migraine frequency decrease  by as much as 48 percent.

Take: 100 to 150 mg two to three times per day. Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council, suggests looking for extracts with low levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA), which are  naturally occurring in the butterbur plant and can be toxic to the liver. He recommends the brand Petadolex.

 

 

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Shiatsu and You

Shiatsu is a form of massage which concentrates on  placing pressure on specific acupressure points with the fingers to help  increase the flow of energy and improve circulation in the body. Based on  Japanese healing methods, shiatsu is a great alternative treatment for  migraines, helping to reduce the tension and increase the flow of blood which  triggers your migraines. While full body shiatsu sessions must be performed by  qualified practitioners, you can learn a few basic techniques as self treatment  for migraines.

 Begin With Your Breath

Begin by practicing deep breathing techniques which will  help to calm the mind and body. Breathe in slowly and deeply through the nose  and exhale through the mouth, finding a smooth, relaxing rhythm. Place your  thumbs on either side of your nose, near your eyebrows and apply a gentle  pressure, holding the position for at least 3 full breaths. Move your thumbs up  about 1/2 an inch until your find the ridge above your brows, again, holding the  pressure point. Using your index and middle fingers, continue this technique  along the top of the head, moving 1/2 an inch at a time until you reach the base  of the skull.

 Pressure Relief From the Neck to the Temples

Once you reach the base of the skull, use your index  fingers and thumbs to gently pinch the tissue of your neck. Your index fingers  should be close together at the base of your neck with your thumbs directly on  the outer edge of the muscles which extend up your neck. Hold this position for  at least 3 full breaths. Now, return to your first position, repeating the same  technique, but this time moving horizontally across the brow 1/2 an inch at a  time until you come to your temples. Hold the temple position for at least 5  full breaths.

 Shiatsu Isn’t Just Relief, It’s  Prevention

These shiatsu techniques for migraine relief will help  to reduce your symptoms during a migraine, but you can use them at any time to  help prevent your headaches from coming on. Whenever you begin to feel tension  in the head and neck, use these techniques. Whenever you take notice of the  warning signs of an oncoming migraine, use these techniques. A combination of  deep breathing and pressure point activation will help you get relief and even  prevent a migraine headache.

 

Yoga

Yoga can be a beneficial therapeutic tool for relieving headaches brought on by muscle tension and stress.  The majority of headaches originate from muscle stiffness and imbalances emanating from the neck and upper back.  When headaches set in, using a series of restorative yoga exercises can greatly relieve both the cause and symptoms.  Here are our top yoga poses and exercises that naturally treat headaches.

1) Cat Pose: The flowing motion of breath and spine helps release tension from the neck and upper back while also pouring refreshing energy through the body and mind.

2) Seated Twists like Half Twist: Besides increasing circulation throughout the entire length of the spine, the twisting motion in the upper spine (cervical region) often alleviates tension coming from the scalene muscles of the neck (anterior aspect).

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3) Chest Openers like Yoga Mudra Arms: Much of the tension in the back body is a result of muscle dominance from the front body (called Upper Cross Syndrome).  Expanding the chest and front shoulder muscles helps break down muscular imbalances and frees the tension coming from the neck.

4) Eagle Arms:This simple crossed arm pose can be done in Mountain Pose or any natural seated posture.  This back expander can reach well into the mid and upper back targeting problematic muscles around the shoulder blades and the base of the neck.  Take time in this arm pose to breath slow and full into the upper back and insure that you perform this arm pose on both sides.

5) Simple Neck Stretches: Gently move through the various muscle fiber lines by allowing your head to float down to one shoulder with gravity, down across the chest and into the other side – repeat with a natural, unforced motion.  Avoid letting the head fall back-keep the motion in a half circle from one shoulder to the other.  Pause where you find extra areas of resistance….

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All images by www.freedigitalphotos.net

References:

: http://www.livestrong.com/article/6381-need-using-shiatsu-relieve-migraine/#ixzz29N5LXg81

Top Yoga Poses for Headaches By Kreg Weiss, B HKin • June 25th, 2009

The Magic of Aromatherapy Angela H. Penn © September 2012

I would imagine the people that first discovered what we now call aromatherapy had really no idea what they had found.  To them it was like finding a magical remedy to treat whatever ailed them.  We now know that aromatherapy is helpful in calming one’s body and mind and can be instrumental in the treatment of pain management, boosting our immune systems along with a long list of other maladies.  Some people use aromatherapy during prayer or meditation and in rituals such as the Native Indians and other cultures.   I have personally witnessed the use of sage in a healing ceremony as well as enjoyed using lavender oil in my bath water before I retire for the night.  Scents can uplift us, or calm us down.  This article examines the history and the dynamics of aromatherapy; I have included suggestions in the treatment of stress/tension, for aches and pains, for boosting one’s immune system to treating bacterial/ fungal infections.

History of Aromatherapy:

The history of aromatherapy dates back as far as 6000 years, although the term aromatherapy (“aroma” meaning fragrance, and “therapy” meaning treatment) wasn’t used until the 20th Century.

The ancient Chinese, Greeks, Romans and Egyptians all used aromatherapy oils.

The ancient Chinese were using some form of aromatherapy at or around the same time as the Egyptians. They used herbs and burned aromatic woods and incense to show their respect to God. The oldest surviving medical book in China, (dated around 2,700BC and written by Shen Nung, contains cures involving over three hundred different aromatic herbs.

The Greeks continued the use of aromatic oils. They used them in medicines and cosmetics. Aromatherapy came of age when they took medicine into a new light 2000 years ago. The earliest known Greek physician was Asclepius who practiced around 1200 BC combining the use of herbs and surgery with previously unrivalled skill.  His reputation was so great that after his death he was deified as the god of healing in Greek mythology.

Hypocrites (400 BC), who were commonly known as the “Father of Medicine”, were the first to study essential oils’ effects. He believed that a daily aromatic bath and scented massage would promote good health.

Theophrastus, a physician, wrote of the healing properties of “aromatic” plants. For at least 1200 years, a book written by a Greek physician named Pedacius Dioscorides about herbal medicine was the Western world’s standard medical reference.  Many of these remedies are still being used in Aromatherapy today.

The Romans built upon this knowledge and became well known for their scented baths followed and aromatic oil massages.

The ancient Egyptians used plants for religious rituals; it was believed that certain smells could raise higher consciousness or promote a state of tranquility. They used the fragrant oils from plants (essential oils) for embalming.  Oils such as myrrh, frankincense, cinnamon, cedar wood, and juniper berry are all known to have been used in the mummification process to preserve the bodies of their loved ones in preparation for the after-life.  As time went on, the Egyptians continued to refine their use of aromatics in medicine, cosmetics, incense and perfumes.

It was during the 19th century that scientists in Europe began researching the effects of essential oils on bacteria in humans.

Rene Maurice Gattefossé, a French chemist, began research into the healing powers of essential oils in the early 1900’s after he accidentally burned his hand in his laboratory. On reflex, he immersed his burned hand in the closest liquid which happened to be lavender oil.  He was quite impressed by how quickly the burn healed without infection and with no visible scar. Gattefossé is credited with coining the word “aromatherapy”.   In 1937, Gattefossé wrote a book called Aromathérapie: Les Huiles essentielles hormones végétales which was later translated into English and renamed Gattefossé’s Aromatherapy.

There have been numerous studies and books published on aromatherapy and the healing powers of essential oils since the late 1970’s / early 1980’s when aromatherapy became a major part of alternative and holistic healing across the world.

Aromatherapy uses volatile oils (scents) of the plant for external applications (in massage oils, bath water, humidifiers, vaporizers and diffusers, etc.)  These scents have a variety of healing powers which work primarily on the emotions and mental processes and can have strong physical effects.

It should be noted that the major form of communication among mammals is scent.  Most mammals send out and excrete in urine what we refer to as pheromones, which are hormone- like scents.  Humans also communicate via scent at either a subconscious or conscious level.   We attract mates through pheromones and certain scents can bring back pleasant memories.  The smell of apples and cinnamon bring back memories of Mom’s homemade pies to the smell of lilacs or vanilla can take us back in time to when we were children.

The beauty industry utilizes our strong sense of smell to invoke various moods through scents that encourage us to buy their products.  In recent years,( in my travels to the US and locally) I have noticed the use of scents in stores I frequent to create a certain ambience that encourages the shopper to relax and thus stay longer and buy more to fruity scents that make me feel energized.

Aromatherapy has come under scrutiny as a complementary treatment, yet research continues to prove its undeniable value. Topically, many solutions composed of essential oils used in aromatherapy massage are being used today in oncology units, children’s specialty medical centers and for sporting injuries.  Better Health Channel of Canada suggests that with the right aroma therapist, there is significant evidence linking low risk with benefits to improved health conditions and prevention. Aromatherapy is not appropriate for all medical conditions.  Expert advice from a qualified practitioner or licensed health professional such as an herbalist is strongly encouraged.

Essential oils used in aromatherapy not only invigorate the senses, along with reducing stress and anxiety, but they also have antifungal and antimicrobial properties.   These oils are something only nature could inspire. Considered the life-force in every living plant, essential oils contain the soul, or essence, of the plant – the odor, taste and therapeutic properties. Extracted from the root, bark, wood, seed, flower, fruit, and leaf of freshly harvested plants, essential oils contain the plant’s powerful benefits – their uses have been well documented for centuries and throughout the world.  They can work topically and as an inhalant yet stimulate the immune system to attack harmful bacteria, virus and fungi and further promote healing.   According to “Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide” the use of aromatherapy is all natural and therefore lacks the harsh side effects associated with ingested antibiotics.”  One should note that medicinal herbs tend to take longer to work, compared to antibiotics.

Stress and Immunity:

**Be sure to use ONLY natural and pure oils.

You can use aromatherapy oils –

•As inhalers in your room or workplace: Feel the gentle aromas easing away your stress and tensions, making you feel relaxed and filling you with a sense of soothing calmness. You may like to put your favorite oil in aromatherapy diffusers and enjoy the sense of peace and tranquility in your room.

•As bath oils: Mixing natural aromatic oils to warm water provides a very relaxing experience, and is ideal after a hectic life that has left your nerves frayed and tired.

•As massage oils: Massage relaxes muscles and other parts of the body and leaves you calm and restful. Massage is often applied with the help of aromatic oils. These oils enter the blood stream and help in relaxing your body and mind.

One herbalist I know uses the oils on a handkerchief and waves it over her customers to create a relaxed atmosphere during consultations with her clients.

Some useful herbs for the reduction of stress and anxiety are:

Basil: It is useful during periods of stress, insomnia and mild stress. Promotes mental clarity, concentration and increases enthusiasm.  Caution: Basil should not be used during pregnancy.

Cardamom: Useful during mental stress, burnout and state of confusion. Cardamom oil helps in gaining clarity, concentration and enhances sense of motivation.  Some people claim that the scent of the cardamom herb aids in the process of praying or meditating.

Chamomile Roman: When you are beset by stress, anxiety, tension and worries then this is the oil that will bring you feelings of relaxation and stability.

Cinnamon: Useful aromatic oil for relief from stress and tension. It invigorates and helps in promoting a sense of well-being.

Clary sage:  is the most euphoric of the essential oils, and it can produce an almost drug like narcotic “high”.  Combined with its pronounced anti-depressant qualities, this euphoria makes clary sage a powerful aid to easing depression, anxiety and stress.   One must use Clary Sage with caution, only a minor amount is required to create relaxation.

Frankincense: Useful for curing stress, anxiety, confusion and sense of panic. Apart from making you relaxed it fills one with inspiration.

Geranium:  In vapor therapy, or in massage oil, or diluted in bath water, geranium oil can be used to help relieve stress and mild depression…

Ginger: Make use of this aromatic oil for burnout, anxiety and fatigue. It also helps in enhancing the sense of confidence.

Lavender oils: Very popular amongst oils used in aromatherapy for stress relief.  Helps in restoring a sense of balance, feelings of rejuvenation and helps bringing about clarity in thinking.  Lavender also seems to induce sleep in many people.

Rose: Useful in attaining temporary relief from stress, tension and headache.

Sandalwood: It helps in relieving mental tension and anxiety.

Yang Yang: This aromatic oil helps during periods of stress, anxiety and frustration, and helps in restoring feelings of calm and relaxation.

According to Salvatore Battaglia in The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, the relaxing nervines include: Clary Sage, Roman Chamomile, Lavender, Geranium, Sandalwood, and Ylang Ylang. These aromas work by relieving stress and anxiety, whether applied to the skin, inhaled directly, or diffused. Lavender and Ylang Ylang can even reduce blood pressure, thanks to their high percentages of Linalool.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, a cardiovascular surgeon, studied aromatherapy to find alternative methods to expedite recovery time and reduce anxiety in heart patients. Dr. Oz and his collaborator, clinical aroma therapist Jane Buckle, PhD, recommend using 15 drops of an essential oil, such as lavender, chamomile or eucalyptus, diluted with 1 oz. (2 Tbsp.) of a “carrier” or neutral oil, such as almond, avocado or jojoba, dabbed directly on the skin. This means you literally have scented relief on you when you need it, says Dr. Oz.

Essential Oil Blends for Stress

This blend will help you to relax the mind and forget about things for a while   Add the following to 100ml of carrier oil (carrier oil is needed to dilute pure essential oils – you can use vegetable oil such as almond, olive or canola):

•10 drops of bergamot oil (bergamot should not be used if you are going out into the sun, as it can cause photo-sensitivity which produced brown patches on the skin).

•20 drops geranium oil

•10 drops ylang ylang oil

•5 drops frankincense oil

•5 drops cedar wood oil

Alternatively, you can use the following mix in order to relax aches and pains that are caused by stress.

•20 drops lavender oil

•10 drops rosemary oil

•5 drops peppermint oil

•5 drops cypress oil

Again, you need to add the essential oils to 100ml of carrier oil.

It is important to consult a qualified and trained aroma therapist as some essential oils are so concentrated that they have the potential to be harmful, and can burn the skin.  They may also be harmful if swallowed.

Bacteria, Virus and Fungi:

Geranium has been extensively studied for potent antimicrobial properties, and it is the organic Geranium x asperum from Egypt that is most potent for antimicrobial applications (the ‘x asperum’ meaning it’s a particular strain of Pelargonium graviolens). We also now have an incredible Geranium Absolute, with a deep, rich aroma.  This is an exquisite oil to experiment with as a perfume.

Although, the Tea tree oil has a harsh, medicinal smell, it is one of the most powerful immune system boosters in the world of herbology.   Its antiseptic properties make it perfect for topical applications for cleaning wounds and treating bacterial/ fungal infections.   Tea tree oil can be used for aromatherapy in simmer pots, diffusers, or steam therapy.

In England, hospital staff administered essential oil massage to relieve pain and induce sleep. In fact, “English hospitals also use a variety of essential oils (including lemon, lavender and lemongrass) to help combat the transmission of airborne infectious disease” (Alternative Medicine, The Definitive Guide).

Injury, Inflammation and Pain

As an arthritis or muscular treatment, the topical application of essential oils in aromatherapy can have both anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.  Clove, cinnamon and thyme generally carry anti-inflammatory properties.  The eucalyptus oil has analgesic qualities that may also double as an antiseptic.   In “Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide,” skin conditions benefit from the use of essential oils with anti-inflammatory properties as well, as they help reduce swelling, redness and tenderness.”

“We found that the smell of green apples reduced the severity and duration of migraine headache pain and may have a similar effect on joint pain,” says Dr. Hirsch. “The scent seems to reduce muscle contractions, which are the main cause of pain in migraines.”

Inflammation is a very common cause of pain. It generally involves swelling. To create a relaxing and inflammatory-busting effect, it is important to use more sedative oils than stimulant oils. The following essential oils can be helpful in alleviating painful, inflamed joints:  Chamomile, Rosemary, Marjoram and Turmeric.

Lavender

The key to relieving muscular pain, including back pain, is to use an essential oil that is relaxing to start with.   Lavender and Chamomile are two such herbs, as they are both calming and help to relax the entire body. The following essential oils can be combined with lavender for a more muscle-relaxing effect.  When combining these, ensure that the lavender is always the dominant oil. They include peppermint, eucalyptus and Japanese mint oil, when combined together this preparation smells quite nice.  I have used this in a diffuser and steamer to also treat sinus problems and seasonal allergies.   One can also safely use a few drops of lavender, eucalyptus and Japanese mint oils in your bath water if you prefer rather than applying these herbs topically.

A good balance of these four oils would be six drops of lavender and just one drop of the other three.

It is wise to remember to use what works for you, as we are all individuals with different rates of recovery and we may differ on what scents we like.  If you don’t like one scent, try another.  Most people enjoy the smell of mint and eucalyptus while others may prefer to use lavender alone.   Even my animals relax and are soon to fall asleep after a lavender bath.

Look at aromatherapy as an adventure or experiment.   One will never run out of herbs to use, that is the beauty of using them.

  Angela H. Penn is a herbalist student, published author and freelance writer who lives in Canada.  This is her third article for the Mystik Way magazine @ http://content.yudu.com/Library/A1ybhx/MystikWayMagazine17/resources/index.htm?referrerUrl=http%3A%2F%2Ffree.yudu.com%2Fitem%2Fdetails%2F586032%2FMystik-Way-Magazine-17

You can read her blogs at :   https://littleburstsofinspiration.wordpress.com/ .  You can also find her on Facebook.

References:

Willard, Terry, PhD.  Textbook of Modern Herbology. 2nd Revised edition. © 1998, 1993.

Salvatore Battaglia, The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy.  Perfect Potion; 2nd New edition edition (May 2004).

Aromatherapy for Pain Relief By Mary Margaret Chappell in Arthritis Today.

http://www.naturaltherapypages.com.au/article/Aromatherapy_for_Stress_and_Anxiety.  © February 20th, 2012.

Better Health Channel of Canada: Aromatherapy

“Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide, Second Edition”; L. Trivieri Jr. and J. Anderson (Eds.); 2002

“Advanced Aromatherapy: The Science of Essential Aromatherapy”; K. Schnaubelt; 1995

Some New Approaches to Healing the Mind Body Connection

Life is not perfect and we all have those days that have torn a heart ot two.  Days where some tears are shed and those are a part of life.  The old expression ” you always have your health.”, may not apply to you as well but there are many blessings yet to come.

Chronic pain and fatigue plagues many of the new friends I have met, all of which are dealing with some condition(s) that is/are deemed chronic or degenerative in nature.  There are many options in the treatment of these conditions that do not require the use of medications or painful procedures.

We are living in blessed times, the possibilities are endless but attitude is one area we can change.  With any illness, one’s mental outlook on life must remain positive and upbeat. Reading inspirational books or using a daily reader, such as my soon to be published ” Little Bursts Of Inspiration” for person’s with chronic conditions that include pain and fatigue such as Fibromyalgia, IBS, and person’s dealing with cancer can allow us to view things differently..   Listening to relaxing music.

A wide variety of treatments are available for healing such as: herbal preparations, reiki, reflexology, & psychotherapy to deal with life changes and situational factors many of us now face.

One can never underestimate stress as a factor in exacerbating pain or fatigue.  What the mind thinks can greatly influence one’s level of pain and fatigue.  I recall having a day in which the pain in my knee was brutal and laughing at something my dog Molly did and how that release made the pain subside.  My body had been tense most of the day and I was not aware how tense it was until I laid down to try and sleep.

The following excerpts were taken from “Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann (c) 1927

Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly;

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Be yourself.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy. [1]    — Max Ehrmann, 1927