7 Drug Free Treatments – Pain and Anxiety

There are a variety of drug free, holistic treatments for pain and anxiety today that can compliment medical or therapeutic practices and help reduce both physical pain and emotional distress. In this article, 7 Holistic Treatments – Pain and Anxiety, we will be taking a brief look at a few of these drug-free methods and the benefits each of them offers for managing pain and anxiety.

1. Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a practice that has its roots in Eastern tradition. It is the practice of conscious awareness of the person’s inner states, feelings, behaviors, thoughts, and even external events. Mindfulness involves observing one’s experience without necessarily trying to change it or labeling it as good or bad. It can be applied in an effort to be more present and engaged with what’s going on around you or with what is happening within you. It means being present in the present. When practicing mindfulness, we pay attention to a single thing at a time and observe it with focused intention and without judgment.

When applying mindfulness for pain, we pay attention to that pain, which might seem paradoxical. However, when we pay attention to the pain, we reduce the stream of negative thoughts that can increase the experience of pain and e can reduce both the pain and the emotional effects it has. Mindfulness can reduce pain dramatically, with better effects the longer it is practiced. It can reduce the experience of pain too, helping us reduce the unpleasantness of it significantly.

Mindfulness can also help improve the quality of life for people who experience chronic pain and also boost mood which can also have a positive effect on pain levels. Remember the old saying “misery loves company”? – well, if your mood is negative, anxious or depressed that actually increases your sensitivity to things you find discomforting. Essentially, you are primed to find more discomfort.

As for anxiety, mindfulness also involves paying attention to the anxiety and observing it without judgment. You actually focus on the feelings and symptoms of anxiety rather than attempt to suppress them or change them. This allows you to calm down and become more aware that the anxiety is a response of their body. The practice of mindfulness can significantly reduce symptoms of anxiety and is useful for anxiety disorders also.

2. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a treatment with a long history, being practiced in China for many hundreds of years. It remains a somewhat controversial treatment today, but there has been growing scientific evidence in recent years to support its effectiveness for a variety of conditions. (*some insurance companies now cover accupuncture for cardiac patients) Acupuncture involves inserting tiny needles into specific points of a person’s body at varying depths. It has been suggested that acupuncture stimulates certain nerves in the body.

Acupuncture can be used to help with pain, especially for migraines and back pain. People with chronic pain can benefit significantly from it as a drug free option to increase quality of life. Reportedly, it can relieve pain significantly in about 50% of the cases. It’s worth mentioning that with a good acupuncturist the procedure is not painful and can be almost painless or fully painless, so there is no significant pain associated with the needles. The practice also has much fewer side effects than medication.

Acupuncture has also been found to be useful for anxiety. It can help reduce anxiety in general and also to improve symptoms of certain anxiety disorders. The results usually begin to appear after a single treatment and become more significant after continued sessions.

Acupuncture is a focused treatment, addressing a specific problem through the application of needles to certain points (also called meridians) on the body. Usually, the acupuncture is directed at resolving a specific issue. However, if acupuncture is effective for the individual’s pain or anxiety, it might be useful to return to it for other difficulties that can be appropriatly treated through acupuncture.

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3. Medical Hypnosis

Medical hypnosis is an advanced form of hypnotherapy used in medical settings to help people manage pain, anxiety, increase their ability to relax, or better approach their treatments. While hypnosis is a controversial treatment that often is incorrectly associated with performance or stage magic, the legitimate use of it by a clinician with advanced training can be highly effective. Hypnosis can help reduce pain or even nausea, being used, for example, with cancer patients who are struggling with some of the negative side effects of radiation and chemotherapy treatments

Hypnosis involves an altered state of consciousness, as happens with meditation, but the person who is being hypnotized does not lose awareness or memories. They can not be manipulated into doing something specific (nobody can make you cluck like a chicken), rather, they enter a state in which they are more relaxed and more open to positive suggestions. The person’s focus is directed at a single thing, so their distress becomes less and their pain and anxiety is reduced.

Hypnosis can have pain relieving effects, ranging from moderate to strong. Hypnosis can be useful for a multitude of conditions associated with pain. Some people might respond better to hypnosis than others, but approaching it with an open mind can help make it more effective from the start.

Anxiety also can improve through the use of hypnotherapy. It can be helpful, as it is easier for the person to be more open and relax physically in the moment. Some results of hypnotherapy for pain and anxiety might be seen after the first session, however, there is usually a treatment plan for several sessions that occur progressively further and further apart. It’s important to seek this type of service only from a licensed therapist with advanced training in medical hypnosis.

4. Medical Meditation

Medical Meditation is another practice that is quickly gaining recognition in the medical community. Medical Meditation has a wide array of benefits and few to none side effects. Medical Meditation involves the practice of focused attention (for example, attention focused on breathing, repeating a mantra, or on something else). Medical Meditation is a well-established practice that helps reduce pain, relax, improve one’s physical and mental health, and obtain a wide variety of benefits, such as a greater control over one’s thoughts and inner states, which is clearly very helpful for anxiety.

Medical Meditation can be used as a form of pain relief, but unless you have a great deal of previous training, you are likley going to need to begin with a professional. A clinical professional with advanced training in this area can help you gain more control over your reaction to experiences and increase your ability to self-drive relaxation; reducing stress and pain too.

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For anxiety, Medical Meditation can improve the control an individual has over their thoughts, helping cut negative ideas that might make the anxiety build up. The person also can learn to relax and breathe when they choose to, helping address the physical symptoms of anxiety as well. The practice of meditation, once learned, can be practiced without the need for any special location or materials. What is also significant is that it has a variety of health benefits which increase the more a person practices meditation.

5. EMDR

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing or EMDR is a treatment approach that is primarily known and used for trauma. Like many holistic methods it is controversial, but is also simple and can be very effective. The basis of EMDR is that certain eye movements help the brain reprocess traumatic or difficult events. When used for traumatic events, the therapist may make specific motions with their fingers, asking the patient to follow them with their eyes while they talk about the traumatic event. Eye movements reduce the emotional charge of memories as they help the brain reprocess it.

However, EMDR is not just for trauma. It has been used effectively one of the more popular treatments for pain, too. For instance, people with chronic pain through the application of an EMDR protocol can also experience a significant reduction in the pain, better mood, and more control over their own pain levels.
EMDR can help with anxiety as well. It seems that it is best applied when it is used with traumatic anxiety, as the person might be asked to recall and talk about situations that have caused them anxiety in the past. There is less research on EMDR for other anxiety disorders, however, it does seem to be effective to address trauma and reduce anxiety. (EMDR is an approach that requires specialized training to be practiced, so it’s important to only seek treatment from trained, clinical professionals.)

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6. Yoga

Yoga refers to a variety of practices that also originate in Eastern spiritual tradition. There are many different variations of yoga that might have different purposes. Yoga involves a series of poses, breathwork and physical exercises that are meant to help a person relax, get more in touch with their body, and as a form of exercise.

There are different types of yoga. Some provide a more intense workout, while others focus on different goals. There are yoga poses and approaches that are directed at providing pain relief. Yoga is especially useful for some forms of back pain. However, it is important to be careful when doing yoga, as some poses might not be good for pain or might aggravate it due to the physical demands they might have. In general, yoga as a form of exercise might be less demanding, especially some forms of it, and provide the benefits of pain relief other forms of exercise have due to the biological effects of exercise. Exercise is a natural painkiller, so practicing yoga can help with pain relief.

Yoga can also help with anxiety. Firstly, yoga is a form of exercise, which means that it has the benefits exercise has in general, associated with pain and distress – like endorphin release. Yoga also promotes a more relaxing way of breathing – bringing your heart rate and breathing into a more relaxed pace. There are also specific poses that address anxiety and help relax. Yoga can help improve a person’s physical condition and help them become more physically active.

7. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)

EFT is a relatively new holistic treatment that is gaining more popularity. Research is limited, but the field is relatively young and the public response has been positive. EFT is based on acupuncture, but rather than using needles, it uses pressure. EFT is a form of physiological acupressure that uses tapping instead of needles. The practitioner taps specific points on a person’s body while the person thinks about a specific problem and voices affirmations. EFT has been used by medical practitioners, although it is still not fully recognized.

EFT can be used for both anxiety and pain. EFT has also been used to teach patient’s with Parkinson’s to self-regulate their anxiety, which can have positive effects on their mobility. And more recently for equestrians with fears following an injury. with It can be adapted to these problems by tapping specific points on the body, voicing specific affirmations, and focusing the patient’s attention on the pain or anxiety. It can help relax and reduce stress, which benefits both pain and anxiety.

Conclusion

Overall, these holistic treatments for pain and anxiety offer similar benefits – they all offer drug free relief from pain and from anxiety although through different methods. Some of them, like mindfulness and meditation, offer a wide variety of benefits in addition to reducing pain or anxiety, while others focus more on the problem at hand. Different people might benefit more from one type of treatment rather than the other, so the choice of treatments for pain might depend a lot on individual differences. Some of these treatments are also more established, meaning that it might be easier to find a licensed practitioner or a course teaching how to practice something, like yoga or mindfulness, in one’s home. Holistic treatments also might not always work as the primary treatment. For instance, for chronic pain it would be important to establish the cause with a doctor before seeking a holistic way to relieve pain. However, these holistic treatments can be very effective when done in addition to primary treatment or on their own in some cases. It’s always wise to talk with your physician before adding a new modality to your treatment plan for pain.

Need help finding the right professional for you? Click here for a free guide.

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7 Holistic Treatments for Pain and Anxiety / Houston / Live Better Live Now

5 Steps to Managing Survivor’s Guilt with First Responders

5 Steps to Managing Survivor’s Guilt with First Responders

The path of a first responder is not for everyone. It takes an incredible dedication and a willingness to respond to a calling that demands and is emersed in personal sacrifice. Firefighters and police officers are professions with a very high committment to duty. They work to protect others which, sadly, also means that these are the professionals who are likely to experience Line of Duty Deaths within their ranks. One of the negative impacts that these tragic situations can have is commonly called Survivor’s Guilt.

Survivor’s Guilt is a reaction that might be experienced by officers or firefighters – especially when there is a death in the line of duty. It is not only those who survive the experience, but all those who are touched by the loss, indirectly and even through relationships with others who feel the loss. It might be expressed in self-directed feelings of guilt and anger if the person feels responsible for the death or feels guilty over being alive and trying to move on. Guilt is common among people who have experienced a loss due to natural causes, but it can be heightened in such situations due to the role a police officer or a firefighter might have as a protector.

If you or your department are facing such a tragic loss it is important to know that this reaction can be a part of a normal grieving process or it can become a significant factor preventing you and others from overcoming it. This is especially so if you don’t acknowledge the guilt or if you truly think that you should have done more or could have prevented it despite the objective circumstances.

So, what can be done about survivor’s guilt?

Here are 5 Steps to Managing Survivor’s Guilt with First Responders, as well as some helpful resources:

1. Acknowledge its presence and normalcy

The first step to working with this guilt is for you to acknowledge that it exists. If we are suffering from this guilt we must work to identify what we are feeling as guilt and acknowledge whether it only appears in certain situations or is a constant feeling. It is important to work with the idea that this guilt is normal, that it is expected, but that it is not necessarily rational or reflects reality.

2. Seek help

If survivor’s guilt is preventing you from moving on, going back into the field, or disrupting your life, counseling or therapy with a seasoned professional who specializes in working with first responders and critical events may be recommended. While some officers or firefighters might feel apprehensive about the idea of goin to therapy, it can be a great asset and help work the guilt and other challenging effects that may arise in a safe and confidential environment. It is useful to encourage other officers to seek counseling or to support it within the system – especially since team cohesion is so important in these fields and not doing so could lead to higher risk to the whole team. Proactive departments will create a way for their team members to be able to easily access counseling anonymously.

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3. Talk about it

It’s best to talk about survivor’s guilt in a safe environment, such as a therapeutic setting. However, if you can’t do this at the moment, talking about it to others can also help. Your department may even want to bring in a Critical Incident Stress Management professional to talk with the team on site. Some people you know might withdraw and avoid the conversations. They may feel stuck in a cycle of thoughts and overwhelmed by this feeling guilt. Talking to others about it can help reduce the feelings of guilt. It is important to find people that the first responder trusts and who will offer support and understanding.

4. Allow the grieving process to flow

Some of us find it especially hard to allow ourselves to feel sadness or experience grief. Others will focus on the guilt as it may offer them more control and be an emotion that is easier to deal with, as it places the emphasis on their own responsibility rather than on the reality of the death. It can be especially difficult when the loss is the result of an accident and without any forseeable malace. The grieving process is unique for every one of us and it is important that we allow it to occur. The grieving process is just that – a process, which takes time. Remember too, that the grief experience is both personal and unique.

5. Honor the people who have died

Your losses can not be undone, but they can be honored. If you or someone you know is struggling with survivor’s guilt you might find it helpful and grounding to try to find new ways to remember and honor those who have lost their lives. You can do this on a personal level by engaging in a honoring service to the community or by making a contribution to the community by creating a memorial fund, for instance. Every one of us can all find a noble way to honor the people who have lost their lives.

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Survivor’s guilt is a natural reaction to an unnatural loss, especially with LODD among police officers and firefighters. This is a situation that you can improve with professional counseling or therapy and conversely become more problematic without help.

RESOURCES

Safe Call Now offers anonymous, peer to peer support for peace officers and firefighters/rescue.

For first responders who are struggling with stress after a traumatic event as well as family/home stressors the one-week Living Centered program at Onsite can be a game changer.

La Hacienda, located in the Texas HillCountry offers addiction and substance dependence help – including a track specifically for first responders.

For more severe conditions, such as PTSD, treatment centers such as Sierra Tucson and The Meadows who are leaders in post-trauma services, may help.

CISM services in Texas and individual counseling services specific to First Responders, LODD, grief and traumatic events can be found at PIR, LLC.

Survivor’s Guilt and First Responders / Houston / Live Better Live Now