Pain & Inflammation
What is inflammation?
“Our unifying theory or law of pain states: The origin of all pain is inflammation and the inflammatory response.” (1)
Inflammation is the body’s healing response to trauma. It is the first step on the pathway to healing, so having a healthy, appropriate inflammatory response is actually a good thing.
It is when there is chronic, unresolving inflammation that we experience problems with our bodies, such as pain. The question is WHY?
Why am I chronically inflamed?
There are many reasons why you can experience chronic inflammation, but typically it is something you do or are exposed to regularly:
- Inflammatory foods like sugar, dairy, grains, and beans
- Smoking or second-hand smoke
- Toxins like pesticides, heavy metals in your water, pollutants in the air, additives in your food, drinks, or personal hygiene or beauty products
- Being misaligned (aka needing chiropractic care)
- Sedentary lifestyle
The #1 cause of pain that walks into my office is trigger points, also known as “knots.” In my experience, the root cause of trigger points is postural misalignments.
What happens is that by being out of alignment, some muscles have to work harder than they need to keep you upright. These muscles are constantly contracting, and muscular contraction creates lactic acid – the chemical that makes your body sore after working out. But because your muscles are constantly contracting to hold you up, they are squeezing your circulation so tightly that this lactic acid cannot escape – thus creating a pocket of lactic acid, aka, a trigger point. These trigger points can create pain locally or can refer pain elsewhere, like creating a headache from tight muscles in your neck.
That’s why it “hurts so good” to have trigger point work done. Pressing on the trigger points themselves hurts, but afterward you feel better because you have pressed the lactic acid out of the area. (Another reason you need to drink a lot of water after a massage!)
However, if you have to get trigger point work regularly (like massage or working with a PT) and they keep on coming back, we know that there is some reason why you keep creating trigger points in the same areas. And the answer is: posture.
Getting your posture corrected with chiropractic care is the key here. Once your body is realigned properly, the tight muscles do not have to keep overworking and creating trigger points.
Fix your food!
The #2 cause of pain that I encounter in my office is inflammation due to diet. Grains, legumes (aka beans), dairy, sugar, and processed foods are all well-known, well-documented causes of inflammation. (We recommend reading Grain Brain and Wheat Belly to start.)
That is why we talk about diet so much and why so many of our articles and slideshows address how to make positive changes to your eating habits. No adjustment, no acupuncture point, no supplement, no medication, no injection, no surgery, no NOTHING can outweigh chronic inflammation due to inflammatory food choices.
The most effective solution to fixing your food is to follow an elimination diet, such as the Primal Blueprint, Paleo, Keto, or Carnivore. Once you read up on them, you’ll realize they are all basically the same – cut out the crap and only eat real food, aka, animals and plants. Most people notice improvements to their pain and other problems within a week or two, but it can take 6-12 months to truly heal your body from the inside out. (To anyone who thinks that is a long time – how long did it take you to get here? Years!)
If you are already eating a clean elimination diet but are still having challenges, I typically recommend food sensitivity testing. When your body is inflamed, it can begin to create antibodies to foods, even healthy foods like vegetables and animal proteins. I work with US BioTek – they provide food sensitivity antibody testing so that you can figure out exactly what foods you need to avoid to allow your body to heal.
Be wary of pain medication!
OTC pain medication can be a great short-term solution to pain and inflammation; but when taken long-term, it can actually cause more inflammation. (On top of their many known side effects.)
For example, NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (aka Advil). NSAIDs are COX-2 inhibitors. They block a part of the inflammation pathway, which is why they help block pain and reduce fevers. However, regular use of NSAIDs prevents the inflammation-healing pathway from reaching the end, which results in unresolved, chronic inflammation – which in turn leads to chronic pain and problems.
What can I do instead?
The solution to chronic pain is to get to the root of what is causing your chronic inflammation (see above).
In the meantime, taking Hemp Oil Complex is a great alternative.
This hemp oil product is a full spectrum CBD product (most CBD products are just 1 part), so it can positively impact the entire endocannabinoid system to reduce pain naturally. (The endocannabinoid system is still being fully discovered, but it turns out that it effects both inflammation and your immune system.)
Also, the calamari oil contains high quality omega-3 fatty acids, which help your body resolve the pathway to finally STOP being inflamed. Bonus: the broccoli extract is an antioxidant!
More herbal alternatives?
There are so many great ways to help with inflammation and pain naturally. For supplements, we recommend Turmeric Forte and Boswellia Complex.
Turmeric Forte contains a very high-quality turmeric (known for its anti-inflammatory properties) paired with fenugreek, which helps improve its bioavailability, aka, ability to be absorbed. It is almost 25x times more absorbable than unformulated curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric). Turmeric Forte is great to address inflammation from any source.
Boswellia Complex is a combination of herbs that are traditionally used to help with pain from osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is also known as degenerative arthritis; it is the wear and tear on your joints from time and over-use.
Finally, we recommend acupuncture. Researchers still do not know how exactly acupuncture works, but what they do know is that it:
- Reduces inflammation
- Promotes circulation
- Improves nerve flow/healing
With acupuncture, you can focus on target areas, such as TMJ, headaches, knee pain, low back pain, etc. as well as overall inflammation. (Not to mention that it is super relaxing!)