As we travel through the turbulence of change, again, that is Autumn, here are our Top 3 Healing Herbs to Boost Your Immunity.
First let’s start with our immune system, what is it?
Our immune system is a vital part of our body, it keeps us safe from disease. Everything from a simple cold or flu, to more severe illnesses such as cancer.
It’s what defends our bodies from diseases and is also often the reason we feel unwell when those same diseases are trying to take hold.
Please be aware, even healthy bodies can feel unwell whilst fighting infections. A strong immune system, is not necessarily one that doesn’t ever feel unwell. It’s one that goes through the disease process more rapidly and recovers more quickly.
So what can we do, to boost it and get through the disease process faster?
Great question, here are 3 herbal suggestions that may help you.
Throughout history echinacea has been used to treat scarlet fever, syphilis, malaria, blood poisoning, and diphtheria. Today, people commonly use it to reduce the duration and intensity of symptoms of common colds and flu, as well as for respiratory tract infections, ear infections, sinusitis, tonsillitis, sore throats, coughs, and fevers.
Traditional health practitioners have used Echinacea for its suggested antiviral, anti-microbial and antioxidant properties. It can enhance the activity of our immune system and reduce inflammation. Primarily echinacea defends us against disease by strengthening our body’s immune system. It does this by stimulating the cells involved in tissue repair, “fibroblasts”, as well as activating the process of “phagocytosis”, where special white blood cells scavenge bacteria, very much like “Pacmen”. No wonder Echinacea has become a herb of choice for immune support.
So what can Echinacea really do for me? In a review of over a dozen studies, Scientists from the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy, found that echinacea reduced the chances of developing a cold by 58% and the duration of a cold by 1 – 4 days. (The Lancet Infections Diseases (July 2007 edition) http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/252684.php).
There are three different species of echinacea are commonly used for medicinal purposes: Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea pallida, and Echinacea purpurea. And different chemical compounds that play a role in its therapeutic effects: polysaccharides, glycoproteins, alkamides, volatile oils, and flavonoids. These are found in different parts of the plant. The roots tend to have high concentrations of the volatile oils, while the above-ground parts of the plant tend to contain more polysaccharides; the substances that trigger the activity of the immune system. Echinacea can be bought as tinctures, capsules, tablets and ointments. These preparations can contain one, two, or even all three species and one or multiple parts of the plant. Like with any other herb or supplement, it’s best taken under the supervision of a knowledgeable health care practitioner.
It is a powerful natural antibiotic and also has anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. Garlic is a great source of vitamin B6 which is needed for a healthy immune system and the efficient growth of new cells. This vitamin B6 can also assist with mood swings and help maintain your positive attitude, through the challenges of this ever changing season of transition!
The most potent known part of Garlic, is a compound it contains, called allicin. Allicin is a fragile compound that only survives for a few hours, once the garlic clove is opened. So the most effective way to consume it, is to eat it – grilled or roasted, crushed or sliced. At the first sign of your next cold, why not try the old folk remedy of eating a clove of garlic that has been dipped in honey, and see if it works for you?
By having more antioxidant-rich fruits such as: oranges, lemons and limes, as well as blue berries and kiwi fruit, and vegetables like leafy greens, broccoli, tomatoes and capsicums, we can boost our immune system (http://www.pcrm.org – Physicians commit for responsible medicine).
Blueberries look small, but just a handful, pack a powerful punch of antioxidants including vitamin C, making them a great stress-busting and immune system boosting snack. Try some with a handful of nuts on your next break.
Hints for choosing supplements:
Fresh, from whole foods is always the best way to go. But if you’re looking for a convenient, cost effective and consistent way to optimise your intake on a daily basis, even on the days you don’t quite eat the way you know you should. Or if you’re wanting to kick start your healing process or have specific deficiency or weakness you want to manage… Here are some things to look for, in choosing them.
Make sure that they are plant based, organic and are not genetically modified (GMO). Choose ones that use the whole plant. That is the best way for our bodies to recognise it as a food and so digest it as such. This also enables our body to use it effectively, rather than a chemical version that it doesn’t recognise, and therefore can’t use properly.
Organically grown, means that we’re not putting toxins like pesticides, in our body, when we’re focusing on enhancing our health. And if the company takes the extra step of monitoring the vitamin & mineral levels of the soil to ensure that they are in there, then you know you’re actually getting the vitamins and minerals that you’re looking for. Quite simply, if the vitamins & minerals are not in soil, they can’t be in plant.
How do they process the supplement? This will affect the freshness and potency of the ingredients in the supplement. Look at the way they process it, how long it takes, and what do they use to form the tablet or capsule. All of these will affect which nutrients get into the product in the first place and if they are still in the product at the point you take it. For example, as we mentioned earlier, the Allicin in garlic, only lasts for a few hours. The processes used to create garlic tablets can destroy it. If you decide to take garlic in tablet form, it’s best to use one that is created within only a couple of hours.
Finally, what kinds of plants are being utilised in the supplement? Are they using a variety of plants, including specific and less accessible ones? For instance, fruits such as guava, acerola cherries & pomegranates, are very high in particular vitamins and minerals. Acerola cherries, for example, have 65 times more Vitamin C than oranges and are not commonly found local green grocer.
So, increase your garlic and Vitamin C levels with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, this Autumn. You may like to have some echinacea tablets on hand, as well, to boost your immune system and get through the disease process, to have you back on your feet faster!
We do best when we allow ourselves to follow the natural rhythms and seasonal changes through Autumn. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine philosophy, when we are in flow with these natural patterns we can more clearly see our own worth and the value we bring to the world we live in, whether we spend our time in board room discussions or refilling sippy cups.
Autumn is a time of harvest. Reaping the fruits of our labours, enjoying them and storing them in preparation for winter. Autumn is also a season of transitions. From the searing heat and the long days of summer, towards the shorter, cooler days of winter. The leaves of many trees in our local Sydney landscape, change colour; turning stunning reds, yellows and browns. Finally, in their pursuit to conserve energy, as the sunshine fades and the temperature cools, they lose their leaves altogether. Creating not only fabulous piles to jump, roll around and crunch in, but also their own compost, to enrich the soil and ensure the next generation has the nutrients they need to grow.
Traditional Chinese Medicine explains that we each have 12 meridians, or energy channels that run through our bodies. Each season, one pair reaches their energy peak, giving rise to a particular set of mental, emotional and physical attributes expressing themselves most strongly and actively during that period. In autumn, the two strongest meridian energies, are the Lung and Large Intestine meridians. Both these meridian energies are about the cycle of life, about releasing and renewing. Just like the leaves of the trees mentioned earlier, these energies help us to release the old and unnecessary, and bring in the new.
Our lungs, which take in the air we breathe and then begin the distribution process, sending the oxygen from the air, all around our body. Similarly, the theme of lung energy is expansion, new thinking and the nurturing of these new ideas, through learning and experience. As well as the spreading of these learnings, knowledge and insights, through communication and personal expression. Strong Lung energy, helps us be most effective in performing our chosen tasks & maintaining our purpose.
One of the best ways to strengthen the lungs is simply breathing deeply. This nurtures and nourishes our immune system, supports our energy, and even promotes better sleep. When we breathe deeply and with intention, we flush our cells with the fresh, clean oxygen needed for all our body processes. One of the best things we can do to enhance our lung health, is walk outdoors, in the brisk autumn air, and take some long, slow breaths.
Our lungs are also seen as the receiver of pure Chi (energy). Through which, our spirit and sense of purpose is strengthened, and our connection to our personal perception of God. Whether we name it God, Christ, Buddha, universal energy, or simply our future or higher self. It is through this connectedness that we see and appreciate qualities in ourselves, raising our sense of worth, both of ourselves and others, fostering our humility and tolerance and buffering our strengthened boundaries.
Large Intestine is the partner energy to lung, and together they balance the body. The energy of Large Intestine Meridian is about our ability to let go of what is not needed, from our body, mind, spirit and emotions. Helping us to stay clean and clear, and not get bogged down with old habits, ideas, physical or psychological clutter, that no longer serve us. Making autumn a good time to reflect on what we may be holding onto and work these ideas through fully, to release them completely.
Of course letting go of negative thoughts and emotions is a good idea at any time of the year. But it’s particularly good in autumn, when our Lung and Large Intestine energies are at their peak. Sometimes, just awareness can create huge changes in how we see things, sometimes we need the help of a trusted professional practitioner, to help us clear the issues that are bogging us down or holding us back. Such as an osteopath, acupuncturist, or TEME practitioner (see website).
We usually, think of doing a major clean and declutter of our homes as a Spring Clean, but actually doing it in autumn can make our re-organising easier and support us emotionally, in the process of letting go of the old and making room for the new. Our lungs and large intestine both unconsciously remove the old and no longer useful components of the air we breathe and food we consume. We can use this added strength of lung and large intestine energy, while they’re at their prime. Our personal boundaries are bolstered, and we are enabled to more easily release the used, spent and unnecessary, and accept life for what it is, so we can truly get the most out of it.
Personally I have found that physical decluttering can help my emotional and psychological state. I may not know how to shift this stuck feeling I’m experiencing, but sorting and clearing physically, can help me shift my head space and move forward.
Try going through your wardrobe and putting together a collection of all the clothes you don’t wear anymore. Go through your computer and delete files you don’t need anymore. Sort and organise your desk, kitchen cupboards and general clutter. Take a trip to your local donation depot, give your old, disused items new life and make a donation you can feel great about!
These are just a couple of simple things you can do, to promote your health through the season of change, autumn.
Which things work for you? Let us know, in the comments below.
I don’t know who I am anymore… is this the way it is now?
Perimenopause, Menopause and Post-menopause
10 tips to a comfortable menopause journey
So, we know that menopause is a process that happens to all women at some
point. Many of us assume that the common symptoms of perimenopause
including hot flushes, irritability and discomfort are a “normal” and
inescapable part of the process. You may be surprised to know that this is not
the case! As with puberty, while our bodies change, it is not a life sentence.
It can just be a transition. It is true that many women suffer horribly. It is
also true, that with a diet and lifestyle that supports our hormones to balance,
including cortisol and DHEA as well as the more widely known oestrogen and
progesterone, we can transition through this period of life, comfortably! Life
after menopause can be lively, exciting and something to look forward to. A
stage of life blessed with increased wisdom and being comfortable in your own
skin. Travelling through your Golden years with ease and grace.
These tend to vary
from person to person and some women hardly notice any. An incomplete list
Lower Sex drive
Headaches and migraines
Discomfort during sex (due to dryness)
Urine leakage when coughing or sneezing
Mood swings and irritability
Arm yourself with knowledge and find answers to how you can heal yourself naturally – access free gifts with free Registration to the Menopause Summit – get the Expert Advice
Perimenopause is the transitional stage between regular monthly periods and reaching menopause (defined as the point in time when a woman has had 12 months since her last period). The stage after this is classified as post-menopause.
Pre-menopause is the stage of life between puberty and menopause. A stage where hormones tend not to fluctuate much, a woman tends not to suffer any symptoms associated with menopause and she is in her reproductive years.
Perimenopause begins when the oestrogen produced in the ovaries starts to
reduce. Often resulting in several years of irregular periods due to the more
sporadic release of oestrogen and progesterone (as well as cortisol and DHEA).
Sometimes the hormonal fluctuations as so large or out of balance that we may
experience symptoms such as depression, moodiness and irritability, weight
gain, discomfort, reduced memory and concentration, muscle aches, as sense of
being uncomfortable in our own skin, hot flushes, hair loss, breast tenderness,
reduced libido and sexual pleasure and vaginal dryness, to name a few. This
stage may begin sometime between the ages of 35 and 50 years and can last from
as little as a few months, to as long as 15 years with the average, being
around 4 years. In the final stage, oestrogen levels may decline sharply. Symptoms
may be most pronounced at this time, expanding to include things like urinary urgency
and frequency or even incontinence; depression and anxiety as well as night
sweats, fatigue and skin dryness.
Menopause occurs when there is no longer enough oestrogen produced by the ovaries to trigger the uterine lining to build, the release of an egg or the shedding of the uterine lining. This is the point where fertility ceases. Contrary to what some of us thought, during the perimenopausal stage, conception is still possible.
Doctors can prescribe
Oestrogen creams for vaginal dryness, pain and discomfort
Progesterone creams for breast tenderness
The pill or other hormone replacement therapies to try to minimise symptoms
Creams or tablets to reduce bladder irritability
Look into the options and side effects for yourself before you decide
10 Natural Tips for a Comfortable Menopause Journey
Get more rest/sleep
Reduce alcohol intake
Be in a healthy weight range
Ensure you don’t have a vitamin or mineral deficiency (magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin C, omega 3, evening primrose oil [internal or topical])
Reduce foods that have the potential to alter hormone balance in the body => Processed, hydrogenated and trans-fats; Highly refined carbohydrates (especially sugars); Caffeine; Alcohol
Pelvic floor exercises to support the pelvic area and the bladder (as incontinence is a symptom of hormonal imbalance associated with perimenopause)
Using natural oils (jojoba, coconut, olive) as lubricants down there as a lubricant during sex, or during the day to allow more comfort
Add an anti-inflammatory, alkalising, plant rich diet
Always consult your doctor if you have strong pain, very heavy bleeding or bleeding for more than 7 days longer than your usual period
Are you ready to improve your health and vitality and reclaim your body and life? Dr Anna Cabeca has a new book with one approach to help you do just that.
Instagram will have us believe that the path to an excellent life involves green smoothies and yoga poses on the beach. While that may work for some, for most people, building a strong and healthy body and mind involves a much greater investment of time and energy.
Although this sounds daunting, don’t be put off, because the rewards are huge.
According to Gallup research, people who invest time into building a healthy mind and body are kinder, happier and more forgiving.
They have more energy, find it easier to maintain a positive attitude, learn new and more difficult things, can concentrate longer and are generally better problem solvers.
And importantly, they deal better with stress, trauma and depression.
In this three-part series, we give you some easy, practical tips on how to feel more refreshed and energised so you can focus on creating your excellent life.
Part 1: Notice
By doing things that we excel in on a regular basis, we can maximise our sense of achievement, satisfaction, confidence and contribution. This can make us feel like contributing even more, further enhancing our productivity.
How to tackle those annoying tasks
We all have those tasks that we need to complete, but don’t particularly enjoy doing. Household chores, work emails, exercise… I could go on!
A practical tip to help you tackle those unavoidable tasks is to notice what time of day you feel most awake, strong and capable.
If you feel best first thing in the morning, great! Get those less inspiring tasks done and out of the way early so that you can enjoy the rest of the day. If it’s later in the day, make sure you set aside time then to get those items ticked off the list.
The next thing to take note of are your priorities. This will help you focus on the important items rather than what’s urgent. This can help you work smarter rather than harder and feel more in control. We can’t manage time, but we can manage our priorities.
You may have seen the idea of prioritising important tasks illustrated with a container being filled with large rocks then topped up with smaller rocks, then pebbles, then sand is added to fill in the tiniest gaps. And just when you thought nothing else could fit, a cup full of water is tipped in, to trickle into all the crevices. The point being, if you begin with the Big Rocks, your highest priorities, you can fit everything else in. But if you start with the pebbles and the sand, you’ll never get to the Big Rocks.
To illustrate this, here is a personal story about my husband and I, and our garden. Our garden had been neglected for a few months and was a complete mess. Feeling overwhelmed, my husband was stressed out and paralysed as he couldn’t see where to start.
To help remedy the situation, we created a list of all the things he could see that needed attending to. To our amazement, once it was all down on paper, he got his head back. His sense of overwhelm started to clear and he could make sense of what he wanted to achieve. We prioritised the list, by looking for just a couple of things that would make the biggest difference and that was enough to get us started. He was also able to delegate jobs to me and clearly communicate what he wanted done in a way that I could understand.
Another way to trick ourselves into success is to create 20 minute sessions. This allows us to work through larger projects that might look daunting. Once we’ve reached the end of the 20 minutes, we can choose to do another session, but we don’t get stuck there.
Breaking tasks up can be invaluable. Each component of the job, in its smallest possible piece forms a list. Completing these smaller tasks seems doable, almost a no brainer. They can often fit into these 20 minute bites and ticking them off can get addictive.
These 20 minute sessions can be interspersed with breaks to clear your head and re-energise. A few ways you can utilise these spaces include:
Meditation or visualisation. You can do this on the train or bus, a walking mediation while you’re walking through the park or by the water. Or just by sitting quietly and focusing on a positive, uplifting statement.
Books, podcasts or music. Reading or listening to something uplifting can be a great way to keep your mind focused and positive. For example, reading about successful people who’ve already crossed those tricky minefields ahead of us can help us gain ideas, perspective and confidence.
Incorporating daily movement. Going for a walk or even doing stretches at your desk are quick and easy techniques that allow our unconscious mind time to process, assimilate and file the previous experience and help us mentally put it away, rather than dwell on it.
Einstein said “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” In other words, no one is good at everything, so it’s important not to judge everyone by the same standards.
Let’s start by taking a moment to notice what we’re good at – our own personal strengths. Think for a brief moment about a time when you felt you were operating at your best.
Are you more likely to be:
Dealing with big picture challenges, or does getting into the small details light you up?
Energised by starting a new project, or by doing and completing an existing one?
Focusing mainly on tasks, or do you come alive when you are dealing with people?
Buzzed by doing the researching, analysing or refining of concepts or when you are sharing, presenting or selling these concepts?
Now that you are aware of some of your strengths, notice where and how you already use them, whether you’re at home, at work, in your local community or engrossed in a hobby?
How might you be able to utilise them even more?
When do you notice that you’re operating at your best? Let us know in the comments below.
Pelvic pain and dysfunction part 3: 7 tips to nip that pain in the butt
In part 1 and part 2, we discussed the symptoms and causes of chronic pain and the basics of an effective treatment and management plan. Let’s discuss what you can do NOW to help improve your situation.
While effective treatment and management requires a multi-faceted approach, there are a number of lifestyle modifications that can be easily implemented to start reducing triggers, allowing the nerves more mobility and reducing the nervous system tension in order to directly impact the negative cycle and start increasing comfort now.
Tip # 1:
Minimise activities that
tend to trigger and aggravate pudendal and perineal nerve irritation such as:
riding a bicycle (especially for long periods)
jumping (for example, on a trampoline)
lifting weights (anything over 5 kg is too much)
anything that causes intense pain (if 0 is no
pain and 10 is the worst pain imaginable, do not go over a pain scale of 7/10).
Tip # 2:
For any activity where
you know pain comes on after a certain period of time (for example sitting for
more than 5 minutes):
Ensure that you set an alarm and only sit for 4
minutes at any one time.
When the alarm goes off – get up!
go to the toilet
or get a drink or stretch before continuing to sit
sitting again, ensure the alarm is set for another 4 minutes.
Tip # 3:
Ensure you have good
posture in any activities you perform for a prolonged time (more than a few
minutes). Get ergonomic advice if required.
ensure that your knees sit at the same level or
slightly lower than your hip joints.
allow your pelvis to rotate forward slightly, keeping
a slight extension in your lower back – this happens naturally when your knees
are lower than your hips, helping to keep the natural spinal curves.
ensures your back is “straight” with your head sitting directly over your
also helps your shoulders to sit in a good position, not rounded forward or
held up high towards your ears.
Make sure that you don’t lean on your elbows or
put too much pressure on your wrists (or you will get elbow or wrist strain injuries)
(it also pushes your shoulders up and tends to make you lean to one side).
ensure that your feet are flat on the floor
(use a floor stool if required for comfort)
ensure the seat is cushioned a little
(especially if you have pudendal nerve pain) – you can use a doughnut ring if
pain is more severe.
Tip # 4:
Lie with your legs up
the wall for 5-10 minutes in the evenings
lie on your back, on the floor with your
shoulders relaxed and rotated backwards
get your bottom as close to the wall as
possible. Adding a cushion underneath your bottom to raise the angle of your pelvis.
place your legs up the wall and relax (you could
use a meditation or relaxation app at the same time)
only stay for 5 minutes initially, but if it
gets painful, stop. Aim to get to 10 minutes per night.
allows pain relief in the pelvic area – for
vaginal issues, haemorrhoids, pudendal nerve pain, period pain and also assists
with reducing pressure associated with incontinence issues
increases blood return to heart, therefore
helps with venous return in general and varicose veins/haemorrhoids etc
allows the spine to relax and lengthen after a
day of compression forces from standing and sitting.
Tip # 5:
Avoid straining on the
To avoid constipation, it’s important to keep
hydrated, eat healthy fruit and vegetable fibre, exercise regularly and use a natural
laxative if necessary (avoid stimulant laxatives).
Don’t sit for extended periods as this
stretches the ligaments and increases the pressure in the wrong spots
increasing likelihood of pain around the buttock (inferior cluneal nerve) or
haemorrhoids. If it’s not coming, stop and go for a little walk and come back
when you feel more ready.
Aim to sit correctly on the toilet (not squat
over it) as this tends to constrict rather than relax the area, increasing
downward pressure and reducing ease of toileting.
Tip # 6:
Perform a relaxation
and strengthening program for the pelvic floor muscles daily.
massaging the perineum to help relax the pelvic floor muscles, relax the
nervous system and improve circulation in the area
bathroom or a private area, use a small amount of unscented, natural oil
(coconut, olive or jojoba are best)
area right in the middle – between your anus and your vagina in women or base
of the penis in men
fingers with the oil and gently rub that central area in a clockwise motion for
gently rub in a counter clockwise motion for another 20 rotations.
Use a simplified Kegel-reverse
Kegel pelvic floor exercise to help your pelvic floor re-learn to strengthen
its contraction as well as relax when contraction is not needed (many issues
are due to an over-tense pelvic floor).
stand with good posture, feeling your head being pulled up in the centre, your
shoulders relaxed and back a little, your chest “out”, your natural back curves
present and not accentuated and equal pressure either through both sit bones or
through the front and back of both feet.
breathe in, allow your pelvic floor to relax – feeling that centre point
(located in the previous exercise) drop, and breath in for a count of 4-5.
breathe out, allow your pelvic floor to gently contract and pull together –
feeling that centre point gently squeeze together and up towards your pelvic
organs and breathe out holding that squeeze for a count of 6-7.
Tip # 7:
activities. Some people find that sex is painful or that afterwards, symptoms
seem to worsen.
Always use a gentle lubricant (that works for
you – jojoba oil is great)
Using a relaxation technique may be of benefit
Play around with positions to find what is most
comfortable for you.
If you would like to chat about your situation, drop
us an email, call, or book an appointment with Alexis.
In part 1, we shared some of the causes and symptoms of pelvic dysfunction. In part 2, we discuss chronic pain (as compared to an acute condition) and why chronic pain can be so complicated to deal with effectively. It’s important to understand what’s going on in your body first, so that you can work out the steps you need to take in order to help heal yourself. It also helps you feel more confident in your approach and in the fact that improvement CAN happen, as well as give you motivation to keep going (healing has good and bad days and times when it feels like nothing is changing, then suddenly, but only after consistent action, things improve and you suddenly realise, the pain you “always” had is no longer there).
Pelvic dysfunction is a complicated subject, because:
There are so
many variations of pelvic dysfunctions and symptoms.
multiple possible causes and a large number of associated factors and triggers.
taboo subject so most people don’t want to talk about it.
don’t generally ask their GP or health practitioner for help for the above
reason and don’t realise that there is anything that can be done to help.
don’t talk to their physical/manual therapists (such as their Osteopath,
Chiropractor or Physiotherapist) as they don’t expect that lifestyle factors
and muscle imbalances can be an easily treated part of the solution.
Because of these above
issues, it often becomes a chronic pain condition. But what exactly is a chronic
The definition of chronic
pain is any pain that extends beyond the expected healing time for an injury.
Generally, it’s accepted that most tissues have healed by 12 weeks. So, any
pain that has continued for longer than 3 months is chronic pain. Conversely,
acute pain is any pain condition that has resulted from a direct injury and is
still within its expected tissue healing time (thus any pain less than 3 months
The brain is a pain
modulating unit. That means that any pain stimulus, via nerves, alerts the
brain to a potential issue and the brain then uses all the information it can
gather before deciding if there is a problem or a potential problem and how
dangerous it is. The intensity of the pain we feel is based on the brain’s
interpretation of the level of injury or danger at hand. The information the
brain uses to decide is vast and includes things like past experience, imminent
danger in our surroundings (such as a car coming straight for you) and our fear
Because of this, the
brain is able to turn up or down the volume of pain you feel based on its need
to keep you safe. Generally, the more threat there is to further harm, the
louder the pain signals one feels. Yet, because the brain’s job is to keep us
safe, it can turn down the level of pain to allow necessary action, hence the
“apparent paradox” in stories you may have heard when for example a person has
badly broken their leg, yet managed to walk many kilometres to get to help or
run from an explosion etc.
However, when pain
continues for extended periods, the wiring in the brain for that location
begins to change. Just as a dirt path used over and over again gets deeper, so
does the neural pathway. This means that the brain becomes hyper aware of that
area of the body and is over sensitive to any nerve input that comes from that
location, alerting us to potential injury, via pain, even if there is no risk.
Can you remember a
time when you got a cut on your finger and it became inflamed? That area may
have begun to feel painful even at the slightest touch such as the gentle
swiping of fabric across it? In fact, even the adjacent finger sometimes feels
painful, for no apparent reason. This is an example of sensitisation.
This is further
intensified by our interpretation of the situation, such as how bad the injury
is, our belief that any movement that causes pain is in fact worsening the
injury and slowing or preventing healing, the level to which our injury has
been affecting our daily life and functioning, and our fear that this situation
will never end and might only get worse.
As you can see, the
brain collects information from many places and can be influenced by many
factors including our individual interpretation of what is happening to us.
Thus, we feel increased pain when
our general levels of stress are high
we avoid all activities that hurt (including
ones that help heal) because we believe they are damaging us
we fear having pain in general – because
that there is something wrong and we are making it worse
understand the biology of our situation
that we’ll never improve and we catastrophise the worst about what that might
mean for our future
afraid that there is something seriously wrong with us.
These factors make
treating chronic pain more difficult because in fact the tissues, while they
may not be functioning correctly are not “damaged” anymore, so one cannot just
deal with the “damaged” tissues nor just the musculoskeletal imbalances that
are perpetuating the functional symptoms (such as reduced strength or
management and treatment must therefore deal with as many of the above-mentioned
types of psychological aspects as well as the physical factors. This requires
education (about pain and the specific process happening in one’s own body),
lifestyle modification, minimising triggers, reducing stress, increasing neural
relaxation, education and techniques for learning to deal with always having
pain (in some cases), rehabilitation exercises and more. Further, all of these
components are unique to the individual, so body awareness, support and
guidance, and some trial and error are required to build the correct plan of
action. Given this complicated and individual nature of chronic pain, I hope
the importance of a multi-factorial approach, starting with education and body
awareness, is clear.
Once we understand the
injury we have, the biology of pain and what is happening inside us, and which
activities, if any, to avoid, our fear is reduced. We can also be confident in
a stretching and strengthening program and doing activities that cause pain as
we understand the difference between hurt and harm. This gives us control,
piece of mind and discipline to continue the healing activities required to
balance the tissues in the area and re-wire the brain to reduce its pain alert
system. Further, we can understand the reason behind any lifestyle, habitual
activity and postural modifications as well as stress reduction techniques
required, making compliance easier.
Ok, so it’s
complicated, where do I go for help?
A practitioner who has some specific knowledge
about pelvic pain and dysfunction is important (potentially an Osteopath,
Chiropractor, Physiotherapist or even Acupuncturist – but you need to ask). A
good practitioner can:
help you deal with the musculoskeletal
imbalances and give you exercises
discuss and explain chronic pain with you and
how you can use techniques and exercises to help re-wire your brain
assist with neuro-feedback, to ensure that you
are using your pelvic floor correctly and give you both pelvic floor
strengthening AND relaxation exercises
give advice on correct toileting techniques and
support and training for lifestyle interventions to treat different types of
incontinence issues (urge and stress)
assist with medicated creams, medications and
referral to surgical (laser etc) interventions IF and only if necessary (generally
a GP or gynaecologist – but you need to ask specifically, and I would recommend
seeing a specialist gynaecologist for this type of thing as with a practitioner
at Sydney’s WHRIA clinic who are researchers and leaders in this field and have
minimal invasive and best results-based interventions).
If you would like to chat about your situation, drop
us an email, call, or book an appointment with Alexis.
Stay tuned for part 3
where we share 7 simple tips to improve your situation NOW.