Banishing Headaches and Migraines

A multi-modality approach was one of the best ways I found to help Headaches & Migraines

Many years ago I used to suffer lot of debilitating migraines and headaches. Actually if I did get a headache, I was thankful because that was never as bad as a migraine, that could make you bed ridden with a head feeling like ten hangovers accompanied with the vomiting and light sensitivity. Even when the migraine had subsided I still felt washed out and like a train had run over me. Thankfully I haven’t had a migraine for many years and all thanks to a combination of chiropractic, acupuncture and diet and lifestyle changes.

Like many migraine and headache sufferers, mine were most likely caused by a neck injury, or whip lash, along with blocked sinuses. Current research shows that most headaches and migraines have a neck injury or neck complaint as a predisposing factor. Some neck injuries could go back to childhood or even a traumatic birth and you might not even know about it.

While neck related issues seem to be a major cause, there are many other contributing factors such as poor diet and lifestyle habits. Too many high GI carbohydrate foods and highly refined foods that interfere with blood sugars, can also cause headaches and migraine. Certain chemicals and additives in foods can also exacerbate headaches and migraines too. Let’s not forget how alcohol can be a big factor in headaches and migraines too.

Lack of fluids and inadequate hydration can also be a big cause of headaches and migraines too. While water is important to hydrate us, water alone is not enough. We need to make sure we get electrolytes into us as well. These need to be proper electrolytes, not lolly water such as sports drinks such as gatorade and powerade.

An imbalance of hormones, or hormonal surges, can also cause headaches and migraines and can be a big problem for women around the time of their menstrual cycle.

One other area that is overlooked is that the sinuses are inflamed or blocked and the associated inflammation and blockage is causing pressure and pain and causing headaches and migraines. This is a big one for many people and sadly, all too often, it is overlooked. A simple CT scan of the paranasal sinuses can see if the sinus cavity is blocked. If the sinus cavity is blocked by polypoid disease, or obstruction, it may require surgical intervention.

Lastly the biggest headache producer of all….STRESS!

Stress will tighten up those shoulder and neck muscles and then constrict all the blood flow to the head and the next thing you know it is headache and migraine city.

Whichever way you look at it, headaches are caused from an imbalance in the body and need to be rectified. Unfortunately too many people use the band aid treatment of painkillers to try and deal with the mighty headache or migraine. Nobody can argue with the painkilling properties of a dose of panadeine forte or a pethidine injection. I’d had many a trip to the doctor to get a shot in the behind. It was either that, or my head felt like it was about to explode. Worse still the pain often gets that bad that dying would be a relief. Well, that’s how it seemed anyway. I’m sure anyone who has suffered a really bad migraine wouldn’t have minded ending it all to get out of pain.

The only problem with painkillers, is they really don’t look at fixing the cause of the problem. Not only that, all painkillers have long term side effects that can be very bad for your health and some medication can be very addictive.

Like any health problem you have to look at treating the cause and not just the symptoms. A headache or migraine is actually the symptom of a much bigger cause. The problem for most people is that they only treat this problem symptomatically or seek help when they get a migraine or headache. It is the good old band aid approach to health care.

So how do you treat headaches and migraines and try and prevent them from coming back?

The answer as I’ve said is using a multimodality approach use the ancient wonders of Acupuncture, the more modern practices of Chiropractic and addressing dietary and lifestyle changes. Of course any other medically related issues need to be ruled out too. Like any health related condition, the management of headaches and migraines require a series of treatments to fix this problem, not a one off when you are experiencing a headache or migraine. Unfortunately I used to be one of those people who only do something about my headaches and migraines when I was suffering one. This was until I learnt that if I had regular treatments while I didn’t have a headache, then the practitioners could get to the bottom of the cause of my problems and prevent a migraine from happening. I wish I’d learnt that lesson sooner.

You will also need to address any dietary, hormonal and lifestyle issues that may be also exacerbating, or causing your headaches and migraines too. You also need to rule out any medically related issues as well and this can be done alongside other treatment modalities at the same time.  This is how I now treat people and why I use a multimodality approach to assist people and give them the best results.

Just like many people have a misconception about getting Acupuncture, because they have a fear of needles or it may hurt, many people have misconception of Chiropractic. For one, just like acupuncture, it doesn’t hurt. and two, it isn’t about cracking bones. No bones are cracked, only gently realigned by expertly trained doctors whom have spent 5 years at university to do so. Before your first treatment, a good practitioner will usually take a series of x-rays to evaluate what needs to be done before ever adjusting the body. This way the practitioner can accurately and precisely pin point the exact cause of your particular problem. Just like with any healthcare professional, a series of questions is asked to get precise evaluation of the overall cause of your particular issue and then only after a treatment plan formulated, is the patient actually treated. Just like Chinese medicine, chiropractic looks at he cause of the problem to treat the symptoms. This is why they go so well together.

When I finally did get my headaches and migraines sorted, I found that it was a combination of acupuncture, chiropractic, diet and lifestyle changes that gave me the best results. This is why to this day that I firmly believe that with any health condition, headaches and migraines included, that a multimodality treatment approach is the only way to go. All of this can be done alongside medical treatment options as well. Of course the cause of migraines and headaches are different for each individual and this is why individual assessment and management protocols are needed for each person. This is why people need to see an appropriate healthcare professional and not try to manage headaches and migraines on their own.

If you need help with Headaches and Migraines, give our clinic a call and let’s assist you with getting the help that you so desperately need.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

(Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Specialist)

-Women’s & Men’s Health Advocate

-No Stone Left Unturned

 

Red wine protects your teeth and gums and helps your gut health as well

Researchers have now identified yet another reason why you should keep enjoying a glass of red wine. While Red wine stains the teeth, a new study says that it might protect your oral health at the same time. The findings were published in the journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry

The research was led by M. Victoria Moreno-Arribas and colleagues from Instituto de Investigación en Ciencias de la Alimentación in Madrid, and the Department of Health and Genomics at the Center for Advanced Research in Public Health in Valencia.

Polyphenols to the rescue

We already know plenty of reasons to have a nice glass or red and how good it can be for our health. A recent study said that it could help to keep the brain young, and previous research has tied it to hormonal health as well as heart disease prevention. Studies have also shown that drinking a glass of vino each day may help us to live longer as well. But as we always say, alcohol is good for us in moderation, not in excess and should be consumed with food and not on an empty stomach.

While know that red wine has many health benefits, new research from Instituto de Investigación en Ciencias de la Alimentación in Madrid, and the Department of Health and Genomics at the Center for Advanced Research in Public Health in Valencia have revealed red wine may protect against the formation of cavities and against gum disease.

Many of the health benefits of red wine come from its content of polyphenols, which are a series of micronutrients with antioxidant properties. We know that some of these antioxidants, such as resveratrol, can protect against action of free radicals, which play a key role in the cellular aging process.

But polyphenols are also super nutrients which help our microbiome and help with our good gut bacteria. Some polyphenols can be absorbed into the small intestine and there they interact with the gut microbiota and fend off bad gut bacteria that might threaten our health. The research team found that polyphenols found in red wine and grapes could have a similar, protective effect in the mouth, fending off harmful oral bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease.

What the researchers found was that the two red wine polyphenols caffeic acid and p-coumaric acid were most effective at repelling the harmful oral bacteria and preventing them from attaching to healthy tissue. They also found that phenolic metabolites, which are substances formed as the polyphenols start transforming in the mouth, suggested that these small products may in fact be the “active ingredient” associated with the polyphenols’ protective effect.

This is great news for those that like to have a nice glass of red and this research also adds to more health benefits of drinking red wine. But as said before, red wine is an alcoholic beverage and as such it is important not to overdo it either. What is your friend, in moderation, can also be your enemy in excess. The good thing is now you can enjoy a nice glass of red in moderation and know you are getting many health benefits from it, and also know that your teeth and gut health (microbiome), are being looked after as well.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

-No Stone Left Unturned

Alternative Ways to Assist Pain and Help with Pain Management

After my recent posts of the management of pain, pain medications and how pain affects so many people lives daily, it is pretty clear that there are lots of people out there in pain. Worst still it highlights what I have known for many years, is that many people who are in pain, or have inflammatory pain conditions, are not being managed really well. Unfortunately many are also trying to manage their own pain conditions and may even be dependent on pain medications. Some of these medications taken long term may in fact be exacerbating their current symptoms, or actually making their pain and inflammation worse. Some of the medications may in fact by shutting off the body’s ability to know that it isn’t actually in pain anymore, but the body actually thinks it is. It is such vicious never ending cycle for many people and there seems to be no long-term, or short term, solutions for many who have to endure the physical and emotional consequences of all these things combined.

The one thing for sure, is that pain often isn’t managed well and there need to be more done to help those in pain. But, it also requires those in pain to seek proper help too. Again it is a bit of complex issue and many in pain often get dismissed initially as well, or are looked at as people who are dependent on pain medications just seeking more pain meds.

Pain does need proper management and if pain is not managed properly, it can do more damage than the medications health professionals, and the person in pain, are worrying about. But sometimes the blanket pain medication treatments don’t work, or they just aren’t enough, and this is why when it comes to pain, it need to be managed with a multi-modality approach. It really cannot just be all about taking medication, or telling people to just go and learn to live with their pain and all will be OK. It won’t be OK and we need to start to educate all concerned that there other options that may assist the current medical treatments and management strategies.

Let’s look at some of the alternatives to pain medications and how these things can help assist those in pain and can be used alongside medications to give better control of pain and also help in reducing dependency of pain medications.

1.Watch your diet

Eating the right foods may provide some protection from the symptoms of pain and the disease state that you may have. The role of diet in inflammatory conditions has been investigated in recent years due to the influence of diet on some of the processes linked to certain disease states that are causing pain and inflammation on a daily basis. Many of the so called anti-inflammatory diets out there are now outdated and have outdated nutritional and dietary advice that don’t really help much at all.

People in pain need to adopt an anti-inflammatory (grain free, primal, ketogenic style diet) to assist with settling any inflammation in the body and also helping the immune system.  This also needs to include prebiotic and probiotic bacteria to help with digestive function, immunity and gut health.  Regulation and restoration of gut function and the microbiome is so important and assisting with pain and inflammatory conditions.

Excess bad carbohydrates increase insulin response and this then causes the body to store fats and stops the burning of fat. This also leads to inflammatory conditions and more inflammation in the body. Excess body fat, now known as obestrogens (because it is estrogenic) needs to be controlled and managed through diet and exercise too. Excess fat and excess weight all lead to inflammation and stress on the body and this can also exacerbate pain and pain pathway.

Certain environmental estrogens, known as endocrine disruptors,  such as preservatives, plastics, pesticides and insecticides that can be ingested through certain nutrients have been suggested as risk factors for exacerbating pain and creating inflammation in the body too

2.Try complementary medicine and complementary therapies

Many people with pain and inflammatory disease states find symptom relief from using a range of different complementary and alternative medicines. There is some good solid research to show that certain natural medicines may help with the management of pain and inflammatory disease states and the associated symptoms. There is now some good research to support many natural medicines treatments such as Acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, vitamins, omega 3 oils, probiotics, chiropractic/osteopathy, Yoga, Pilates and more.

Out of all the natural medicine therapies, Acupuncture and Chinese medicines has been one of the most researched and have shown to be the most beneficial and to assist those suffering pain and chronic inflammatory disease and their associated symptoms. Acupuncture has been widely researched to assist with many pain conditions and is now even used in some emergency departments around the world, for acute and chronic pain. Chinese herbal medicines have been used for centuries for pain and inflammatory disease and modern research has shown that certain Chinese herbs and herbal medicine formulas may assist with pain and painful conditions.

Certain strains of prebiotics and probiotics have also been shown to help with the immune system, microbiome, bowel, and digestive associated symptoms of some pain conditions. Probiotics have also been shown to not only help with digestive and immune function, but also with the psychological function as well. It does need to be specific strains of probiotics though. Correction of the microbiome, but using pre and probiotics may assist in reduction of inflammation in the body and thus assist with pain and painful disease states.

There are also western herbal medicines and naturopathic herbal formulations that can assist with pain and assist with pain management. There are also certain amino acids and nutritional medicine supplements that have been shown to assist with managing pain and inflammatory conditions. Like any conditions, management need to be done on an individualised approach and what works for one person, may not work for another.

Chiropractic and Osteopathy have been used for centuries to assist with pain and pain conditions. By correction of the sublaxations and correction of posture, this can assist in better nerve functioning, better blood flow to muscles and also help with pain reduction and reducing inflammation.

Just like with medical treatments, when it comes to complementary medicines, it is important to find someone who is a qualified practitioner and who specialises in pain management. Just like in the medical model, this can also be hard to find. Please find someone who is a registered healthcare practitioner, or part of an association for qualified healthcare practitioners.

3.Boost intake of omega-3 fatty acids

The is lots of research on the health benefits of taking Omega 3 fatty acids and a diet high in these healthy fats. Omega 3 fatty acids may assist many inflammatory conditions such as depression, cardiovascular disease, arthritic conditions and many conditions where inflammatory processes are then leading to pain.

Researchers have also found that the type of fat included in your diet makes a difference in your risk factors for inflammation and pain conditions. Studies have shown that people whose diets were heavily laden with trans fats increased their risk of the expression of inflammatory disease by 48 % when compared with individuals who ate the least of these. By comparison, women whose diets were rich in omega-3 oils lowered their risk of inflammatory conditions by 22 % compared with those who consumed the least amount.

Eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, flaxseeds, almonds, and walnuts, may be helpful for pain and inflammatory conditions. Another way to get Omega 3 fatty acids is through supplementation, but please make sure you are using a practitioner only grade omega 3 supplement to ensure higher potency and better quality control.  Just remember, it is all about reducing inflammation.

4.Exercise

Often, people who experience pain fear exercising, in case it causes more problems for them. But over time, regular physical activity may decrease the pain and discomfort that you feel. High-intensity exercise and resistance training may assist in helping to reduce the reducing the symptoms of pain and reducing inflammation in the body.

While resistance training and high intensity interval training may assist in pain management and reducing inflammation in the body, some of the more gentle forms of exercise, such as Yoga and Pilates, may also assist in reducing pain and inflammatory response in the body too. Yoga and Pilates can stretch and strengthen your muscles, help with core strength, help with circulation, which all may be beneficial for pelvic pain management and stress reduction.There has been lots of research into the benefits of Yoga and Pilates and how it can assist pain and inflammation.

No matter what exercise, you choose, exercise may help those with pain and inflammation in many ways, including:

  • encouraging the circulation of blood to your organs
  • maintaining nutrients and oxygen flow to all your body systems
  • assist with decreasing pain and inflammatory response
  • assist with reducing stress
  • releasing endorphins in the brain, which are pain-relieving, “feel good” chemicals

Research has shown that those who engage in some sort of regular exercise have fewer symptoms of pain and less inflammation that those people who do not participate in regular exercise.

5.Managing Stress Levels

Stress and emotional factors are probably one of the most under rated causes of pain and inflammatory response. Stress and emotional factors are big factors in any disease and can make any disease worse. Not only can stress and emotional disorders be exacerbated by pain and inflammation, but so can pain and inflammatory symptoms be exacerbated by stress and emotional disorders, in a never-ending cycle. Pain and inflammation could contribute to making your stress levels, or emotion issues worse, due to the impact that the associated symptoms have on all aspects of your life, including family and personal relationships and work.

Stress management, Counselling, Mindfulness and Relaxation techniques may all assist in reducing stress and emotional disturbances that exacerbates inflammation and pain pathways and painful conditions.

People with pain and chronic pain and inflammation need to manage stress by using mindfulness and relaxation techniques. These can help you to increase your awareness of your body, refocus on something calming, and reduce the activity of stress hormones and inflammation in the body. It is all about learning coping mechanisms and what works best for you, not what works best for others.

6.TENS and Neuromodulators

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is an inexpensive nonpharmacological intervention used in the treatment of acute and chronic pain conditions. These small battery-powered devices deliver alternating current via cutaneous electrodes positioned near the painful area. The parameters of pulse frequency, and pulse intensity are adjustable and linked to TENS efficacy. TENS activates a complex neuronal network to result in a reduction in pain

Neuromodulation is the process by which nervous activity is regulated by way of controlling the physiological levels of several classes of neurotransmitters. Many pain management specialist now use a common form of neuromodulation involves using a device to deliver electrical current in therapeutic doses to the spinal cord to disrupt pain signals from the spinal cord to the brain, converting them to a more pleasant tingling sensation. This has been proven a safe and effective therapeutic approach for managing chronic pain of the arms and legs, neck and back often after spine surgery, or for other neuropathic conditions.

In Summary

It is important to know that people with pain and disease states that are causing chronic pain, will need a multi-modality, or team approach to deal with this disease. The team you need and modalities that you will need will be dependent on your individual symptoms. This will mean finding practitioners who will listen to you and also be open to trying some of the alternatives to some of the pain medications and opiates alongside pharmaceutical medications. As I said before, these alternatives may assist in treating your pain and managing your pain long term and also help with reducing some of the pain medications you may have been dependent on. Try and find healthcare professionals that can offer you a multi-modality approach for ongoing care and support and who also have a team of other people who specialise in the disease you are suffering from too. Again, the approach that you and your pain management specialist, or healthcare provider, choose to take will vary depending on your signs and symptoms.

Before starting any pain management, or new treatment, it is important to know all of your options and the potential outcomes of all of them and to know that the people that you are seeing are specialists in your condition and know how to manage the disease properly. That can often be the hardest thing to find and why you need to do your homework and see people who are specialists in this area of medicine. Too many people are missed and dismissed purely because they are just seeing the wrong people in the first place.

Lastly, if you are in pain and have a pain condition, please do not try and keep managing it yourself, or try to self-medicate. You need to be managed properly and should be getting the advice of a professional, not your friends, family or social media buddies. Pain needs to be managed and it needs to be managed properly and this also goes for pain medications as well. If you are still in pain and pain symptoms are getting worse, this means that you need to get something done about it because your disease may in fact be getting worse, or your body may not be responding to medication any longer.

Take care

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

-No Stone Left Unturned

 

Lets Talk About Pain, Pain Medication, Dependency, Detox & Withdrawal Symptoms

Recently I did a post on over the counter pain medicines and how that as of February 2018, that some of these codeine based pain medicines, will now no longer be available over the counter in Australia. I know that in other parts of the world, these medications are not available over the counter anyway and in some countries even paracetamol is not available as readily as it is here in Australia.

The post surely did get people talking and it surely highlighted some very important points. It also highlighted how many people are in pain daily and something that I have known for a long time. I actually know that pain and people with pain conditions, aren’t managed very well. It also highlighted that many people are self managing pain conditions and that many do not realise that they in fact dependent on medications, alcohol and other drugs. Many also do not realise that the pain and symptoms they are experiencing daily, may in fact be withdrawal and dependence symptoms from their medications and substances they are using, including alcohol, and may have nothing to do with their condition at all. It is a very complex issue and there needs to be more education around this very sensitive issue.

Now, before we get started and before anyone tries to bring the personal/emotional side of things into this, I need to be very clear on this and set some boundaries up front. I need everyone to listen to this, so it is clear and that what I am about to say is coming from personal experience, clinical experience and someone who cares and is just trying to help with the right advice and right education around this issues.

So before we start I need to get a few things straight

  1. I have lived with a painful condition and have used pain medication and been dependent on pain medications. I have also withdrawn off pain medications
  2. I have loved ones who have pain conditions, who suffer daily and have also used pain medications to get through their day. Also know many of these have learned to manage and overcome their disease and pain too.
  3. People in pain, need help to get out of pain and pain medications are one way of doing this
  4. Many people who are in pain are actually dependent on pain medications and are completely unaware that they are dependent
  5. It is completely OK to take pain medication when someone is in pain. It just needs to be monitored a little better than it has been in the past.
  6. Please take the personal out of this and just sit back and listen
  7. I am not here to judge, or attack anyone
  8. This post is purely from heart, from caring and also about helping people with education so that they can get help if they need to
  9. The first part of any change and getting help is admitting you have an issue, or a problem, in the first place.
  10. The is no guilt, shame, or anything wrong with admitting you have a problem, or a dependency
  11. For the sake of this post I am going to used the word “Dependency”, rather than the words “Abuse” or “Addict”
  12. Perception is reality and sometimes ones perception is not reality, or based on all the facts
  13. Not all pain is from the withdrawal of medications either, but some of it could be.
  14. We are here to support people and care for people, not attack them. Anyone found attacking another on any posts surrounding this subject, will be deleted.
  15. Lastly, to get help, you need to see a qualified healthcare practitioner and you should only ever rely on information from a qualified health expert, not from your friends, your support groups, or anyone without a proper qualification in things to do with medical, medicines, or health conditions.

Right, now we have set the boundaries and we are clear, we can move forward and I can start explaining about pain, pain medications, pain pathways and also withdrawal symptoms

Before I start, I need everyone to open, his or her, minds a bit and think of how you feel when you have had some alcohol. Let’s not forget that alcohol is a drug and it can make you feel good initially and then not so good if you have a few glasses, or more. You can also become dependent on it too, and yes, it can be abused.

So, say you have a few glasses of alcohol, how do you feel while you are consuming it and shortly after?

This is for the average person, but most people would feel a little warm and tingling and feel quite good wouldn’t they?

But, even with a few glasses, would you necessarily wake up OK the next morning?

Some people might wake up semi OK, some might feel a little less than OK?

For some, a few are nothing because they are used to having way more. Some of these people may in fact be dependent and actually have an alcohol dependency.

So, say you have more than a few glasses of alcohol, how might you feel the next morning?

More than likely you may feel a little dusty, or for some, you may in fact have what we all know to be a hangover… is that correct?

You might feel really tired, irritable, nauseas, sore, have a headache, or a really bad head that feels like it might explode, and all the senses are just a little on hyper-drive and you would feel a little off??

Now that we are clear that alcohol can give you a hangover and make you a bit sick and that alcohol is in fact a drug, let me ask you this?

If alcohol is a drug and it can give you a hangover, even after one night of taking it, and taking just a few glasses of it, then why would not a medication, that can produce all the initial effects of alcohol, then not cause you a “Hangover Effect” the next day as well????

Just have a think about that for one second and let it really sink in.

Hmmmm, what are you thinking now?

Well, I am sure this is where we get some people going “But, but, but!”

Well there are no “But’s”. This is the hard but honest truth. Any drug, being prescription, over the counter, off the street and illegal, can cause you a withdrawal and hangover effect. Also, the longer you take those drugs, the more you take them etc, the more you need to take and the more dependent you become on them. This doesn’t mean I don’t get why people take these medications. I do get it and I get all the reasons behind it too. This is just to explain everything logically and properly to people so that they also get that they may not be managed properly and that they may also be dependent on medications, which are actually in the long term, making all their symptoms worse, or actually causing the ones they have now.

Just so people don’t forget, please go back to points 1 and point 2 in the ground rules I set before. I have lived with pain and I have loved ones who are in pain and yes, I have taken pain medications and so have my loved ones.

Ok, so we are now all on the same page and are clear here, yes, many of the medications that people are taking daily, or periodically, or once off, or chugging down by the packet load, or are actually causing them rebound symptoms and withdrawal symptoms, when those drugs wear off.

We also need to recognise that some people are only taking medications every so often, when they need them too and this is more for people who are medication daily, or frequently. But even still, people do need to be away of rebound symptoms from taking medications, even periodically.

When we talk about “withdrawal” and “rebound symptoms”, let’s all go back to the alcohol story. We know that the hangover symptoms occur because of a rebound and withdrawal affect from the alcohol messing with the symptom, causing dehydration, causing inflammation and then causing all manner of symptoms from nausea, headaches, tiredness and even muscle and joint pain. The same goes for when you take any pain medications, especially those that are opiates, or contain codeine, or convert to morphine in the body.

Are we all getting this yet??

Right, then lets move on.

Now, the longer you take a medication the more your body gets used to it and the more that you may have to take to get that same therapeutic affect on the body and the pain that you are trying to manage. But, the more you have to take, the more dependent you become on that medication and the more worse you are going to feel when the medication wears off and tries to leave the body. Then it is going to take longer to ween off the medication, when you finally realise that you are dependent and that you need to so something about it. That is if you have that realisation, or finally admit there may be an issue.

One of the things that I have mentioned many times before, is that sometimes the body has been in pain that long, that the body doesn’t realise that it isn’t in pain any longer, that you also need to turn that response off, because it has actually become a habit, rather than the body actually still being in pain. The other issue is that the pain medications may in fact now be what are causing the pain, through rebound symptoms and withdrawal.  This one is a bit tricky to explain to people, but in essence what we need to do is actually tell the body it isn’t in pain any longer, so that it switches off that response in the brain. To do that we need to detox an individual and then see what pain really does exist still and then manage those remaining symptoms. I will talk about proper medical detox further in the post.

Now let’s look at how pain medications, opiates and some elicit drugs work

Pain medications, Opiates and other pain relieving drugs, all change the way the brain responds to pain and they can also produce a “high” feeling by disrupting the reward and pleasure centres in the brain. This is why they can make you feel a bit stoned, or a bit light headed and why you should not drive, or operate machinery etc, while you are taking them. They can dehydrate and constipate you too, so this is why you should only take as directed and also make sure you drink enough water, take some electrolytes and take it easy too. Let’s not forget the serious side effects of medications that can put overload on your liver and other vital organs and actually shut them down, if taken for long enough, or in a super high dose.

The central nervous system, which includes the brain, cardiovascular and respiratory systems, has opioid and pain medication receptors that receive opiate drugs and other pain medications, and these drugs bring a variety of physical and emotional effects. Your heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, and body temperature are usually all lowered while pleasant feelings are increased. It can cause the opposite effect too, where some people get hyper-activated responses too.

Repeated use, or abuse, of pain medications, or an opioid drug, can actually change the way an individual’s brain chemistry works and then lead to physical and psychological dependence. The body may not feel “normal” anymore without the drug’s interaction, and withdrawal symptoms may start in between doses or when an individual stops taking the pain medication, or drug they are on.

What Are Pain Medication, Drugs and Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms?

Certain over the counter medications (such as codeine based meds), prescription painkillers, Opiates and heroin, can produce withdrawal symptoms just hours after the last dose, and the symptoms can last for a week or more. Sometimes these symptoms can be minor, but many times they can cause all manner of symptoms, which I will list below in detail. Some symptoms can be major and unassisted withdrawal may, or may not be life-threatening. When someone doesn’t withdraw properly it can also lead to relapse and further dependence on a medication, or drug. Medications and therapy, accessed in medical detox, may make relapse less likely. I’ll talk about why it is necessary to do a proper medical detox first, before seeing practitioners outside the medical detox model.

What Are Pain Medication ad Drug Dependency Symptoms?

Pain medication and drug withdrawal symptoms can last about a week, or even longer for some, and may include:

  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Depression
  • Muscles aches
  • Insomnia
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Anxiety
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Diarrhea
  • Bowel Pain and Rectal Pressure
  • Severe bloating
  • Fluid Retention
  • Sweating
  • Body aches
  • Runny nose
  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Many other symptoms not mentioned here

Detox and Withdrawal Duration

Withdrawal is the collection of side effects that occur when a drug is removed from the brain and body of someone who is dependent on it, while detox is the actual removal of the drug itself.

Withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from a couple of days to up to a week or longer. For most pain medications and prescription opiates, withdrawal symptoms take shape 8-12 hours after the last dose and it peaks in the first 72 hours. The time within the withdrawal period depends on the medication, or drug taken. This is where rebound symptoms can occur.

The first week of withdrawal is typically the worst, but some symptoms may actually last longer. Symptoms typically last up to one month, but can linger for several months. Some effects can be permanent if there is a genuine abuse of a medication. Symptoms that can last longer than one week include tiredness, muscles aches and tiredness, depression, anxiety, and trouble with sleeping.

This diagram shows the withdrawal of these medications and time frames of side effects from withdrawal after the last dose is taken.

Medical Detox

Detox may begin before withdrawal symptoms start and while the drug is still active in the body. This way the drug can be safely removed. During medical detox, individuals are monitored around the clock for 5-7 days, vital signs are continually checked, and medications may be used to control more difficult withdrawal symptoms. If an individual is heavily dependent on pain medications, opiates, or took large amounts of the drug for a long time, or has a family or personal history of addiction, medical detox may last up to 10 days. Medical detox ensures that an individual is stable before moving on with a comprehensive substance dependence treatment and management program.

Relapse after a proper detox can increase the risk for a potentially life-threatening overdose since the brain and body may not be used to the same amount of drugs that was used before. Each year around 30,000 people worldwide die each year as the result of a prescription pain reliever overdose. Each year around 500,000 people worldwide seek emergency department treatment for a reaction to the abuse, or dependency of pain medications or drugs to help with pain. By decreasing pain medication side effects and dependency on these medications as drugs, an individual may be less prone to seek out these same pain medications and drugs again after detox. Medical detox can help sustain abstinence and potentially prevent a tragic, relapse-related consequence.

While there are non-medical forms of detox, I wouldn’t recommend someone doing these until a proper medical detox is done. Proper support and around the clock care is needed in the initial stages of a proper detox and this really cannot be provided out in private practice, or by complementary medicine practitioners during this initial stage. I am all for people seeing natural medicine practitioners and using natural medicines but this needs to be done after the initial medical detox. That first phase needs 24-hour care, medicines, psychological care and so many things that would be really hard to find out in a non-medical environment. There are some specialised centres that use a multimodality approach, using medical science and complementary medicines, but these are few and not always cheap to access either.

Sure, after the initial medical side of things, go your hardest and you should be seeking natural alternatives to pain medications and looking and diet and lifestyle choices to help deal with pain. You should also be seeking alternatives to pain medications and seeking therapies that can help manage your pain, such as acupuncture, herbal medicines, pilates, yoga, counselling etc. All these things are important for ongoing care and helping deal with disease states and ongoing pain. But if you have reached the point where you are dependent on a medication, or drug, you are going to need lots of help and you will need help with proper detox first. Please, do not think that those packet over the counter detoxes from a chemist etc, are a proper detox. They are just a herbal laxative that cleans out your bowel. Always speak to a qualified professional to get proper advice about detox and microbiome restore.

Having lived with pain and having actually properly detoxed off meds years ago, it wasn’t until I was off all meds and things managed properly while detoxing, that I realised that some of my daily pain, was actually withdrawal effect of my pain meds. I don’t think many people realise that this happens and all the nausea and migraines and headaches and increased pain, is actually withdrawal. Only once pain is managed well, a proper medical detox done and then a plan put in place, do people realise how much the meds were actually part of their daily struggle and it was all withdrawal. Then you can use proper pain management strategies and alternatives for pain and also preventative strategies too.

I hope this has given you all a better insight into pain, pain medications and withdrawal symptoms and if you aren’t being managed properly for your pain and pain condition, then you need to talk to your healthcare professional about this. Everyone’s pain and pain symptoms are going to be different, even if they have the same disease state, or inflammatory condition. This is why individual treatment plans are much more effective than a treating the masses approach.

I’ll do a separate post of some alternative to pain medications and drugs shortly, as it is whole post in itself. I will be collaborating with integrative medicine practitioner and mindfulness expert Rosa Bunn on this topic. 

In the meantime have a read of my post about me knowing what it is like to live with pain

https://drandreworr.com.au/knowing-all-too-well-what-it-is-like-to-live-with-pain/

I have written quite a few articles on pain and pain management and I urge you all to have a read of them all, so that it gives you some understanding of where I am coming from and also some helpful pain management strategies

  1. https://drandreworr.com.au/getting-a-handle-on-pain-with-proper-pain-management/
  2. https://drandreworr.com.au/stop-telling-women-that-period-pain-is-normal/
  3. https://drandreworr.com.au/early-intervention-early-management-is-vital-for-gynaecological-conditions-menstrual-issues/
  4. https://drandreworr.com.au/period-pain-is-not-normal-and-doctors-in-australia-and-the-rest-of-the-world-need-to-start-listening/
  5. https://drandreworr.com.au/asking-the-right-questions-about-period-pain-gynaecological-issues/
  6. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170618103517.htm
  7. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318532.php

Take care and if you do need help with pain and pain management and getting of pain medications, you can always come and see me and book in a proper consultation and I can help you and point you in the right direction too. Sometimes we all need a little help in the right direction and sometimes the first step is admitting you have a problem in the first place. Oh, yes, I also get that many of you have been missed and dismissed also and this is why you are where you are now.

Telling it how it is and keeping it real. I get it and I understand.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

-No Stone Left Unturned