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A warning light came on, on my car dashboard, last week. I immediately contacted my garage to book my car in for investigations. Unfortunately for me, on the drive to the garage more lights came on and my car suffered a major failure ending with me losing the ability to steer or break! Thank goodness I was doing a few miles an hour and was able to haul it onto the side of the road to await rescue.

I had to pay £102 to get my car picked up to take it the last 500 yards of the journey to the garage – perhaps the most expensive journey for such a short distance that I’ve ever had!

You may be wondering where I am going with this but it is pertinent to the problem of pain. Pain is the equivalent of a warning light in your car and should always be listened to. Would you ever consider ignoring the car warning light and carrying on regardless? That would be a road to catastrophe with your car. The same is true for your body.

The habitual use of painkillers and anti inflammatories is effectively putting a sticking plaster over your warning lights so you can carry on regardless and may well eventually lead to the destruction of joints, damaged soft tissues, serious gut problems and even heart disease.

Before ever considering pain relief you should always ask one simple question: Why have I got this pain? Once you have established the ‘why’ you may then head down a suitable pathway to find an answer to your problem.

At this point you may then begin looking at whether pain relief is required or not. It is also worth noting that pain can also help wounds heal quicker.

Fortunately the natural pain relievers are often gentler acting than modern pharmaceuticals so do not come with the same associated side effects.

For traumas and sports injuries arnica creams are excellent, they can provide natural pain relief but also aid repair. If your sports injury involves a bony injury then use comfrey oil – its folk name is ‘knitbone’ and it has active ingredients in it that help bone fractures heal naturally, it is the only safe, effective way to help a cracked rib.

We also know that Omega 3 EFAs are a really useful anti inflammatory and have other widespread benefits so a good quality fish or flax seed oil should be a staple part of everyone’s diet.

Feverfew is an excellent herb for migraine relief and for congestive headaches one of the simplest things you can do is put your feet in a basin of hot water for a few minutes. I had a patient who would lose his eyesight when his headaches hit but he found the feet in hot water trick would stop the headache in its tracks.

Magnesium

is also excellent for muscle pain and cramps – bathe in it, use an oil on your skin or take one of the many excellent supplements now available.

One of the most potent new supplements now available is CBD oil. This can be taken under the tongue or if you get the newer water based versions this can be added to a drink. To ensure it is the highest quality and not an over priced rip off make sure it is made from a full spectrum plant extract – most on the market are not I’m afraid so you will not get the full potential of the miracle that is the cannabis plant. CBD can work within minutes and has many other useful qualitites too, however, it can take 8-12 weeks to get optimum results so do be patient.

Interestingly, if you are taking an opiate based pain killer from your doctor CBD will allow you to take a smaller dose to get the same effects and will also slow down your build up of tolerance to the drug meaning you will get good effects from your opiates on a lower dose for a lot longer.

Do you suffer from back pain? If your back ever ‘goes’ then rule number one is to carefully go down onto all fours, we are after all merely quadrupeds that decided to stand up, and gently move your hips from side to side for 5-10 minutes to allow the blood flow to keep moving and to remove the strain of gravity bearing down on the injury. This can often rapidly help the problem settle.

However, above all else – never ignore your pain!

I encounter many patients each week with all manner of injuries and problems from an acute strain from overworking in the garden to much deeper, chronic pain and disease.

From all these interesting cases and fascinating people that I meet there is a common theme that many of them use to explain away their problems. The bizarre thing being that it is a common theme people use to explain their problem regardless of their age and it goes something like this:

“It must be my age.”

I’ve been told that phrase or words to that effect from people in their twenties all the way up to their eighties and beyond.

Pulled a muscle? “It must be my age.”

Got lower back pain? “It must be my age.”

Low energy? “It must be my age.”

Pain in your foot? “It must be my age.”

And on goes the list of injuries with the same excuse. The most frustrating part for me is when people say, “Well what can I expect at my age?” with resignation.

Should we expect pain and low energy as we age? The simple answer is no. Of course the ageing process does occur and means we will not be doing a 100 meter sprint at 70 like we did at 20! But ageing does not have to arrive with a host of health problems and a gradual reduction in your ability to function well.

One big part of this problem appears to be that we have quite literally been hypnotised by society and a medical system that does not have time or the inclination to encourage good health behaviours to believe we must face a gradual decline so we behave accordingly.

There are a few basic things you can do to maintain good health as you age and remain pain free.

Firstly, eat whole foods. Avoid processed foods and cook from scratch. Do not buy ready meals. Bear in mind that a balanced diet requires each of the three macronutrients with every meal: Protein, carbohydrates and fat.

An example of this is that if you have cereal or toast for breakfast that is basically carbohydrate rich and thus out of balance. I guarantee you will have poor energy and cravings with such a breakfast unless there is fat and protein involved too. So to gain balance here a simple example would be pate on toast – then you get all three macronutrients in your breakfast and will have more energy through the day.

Take a B vitamin supplement – Viridian’s range of range of Vitamin B supplements are excellent. B12 is particularly important for energy levels.

Take a Vitamin D supplement too. Most of us in the north are deficient in this vital vitamin – and you only get Vitamin D from the sun when your shadow is shorter than you are which is only for a few months up here where (apparently) it’s grim! Pharmanord do an excellent range of them and their 5000iu pearls are a really useful way of getting your Vitamin D levels up quickly and safely.

And lastly, never forget, your body is a moving machine and thrives and heals with movement. We are not a car that wears out when used! Our body loves movement and much pain, including that of arthritis eases with gentle movement. As an extra, do make sure you practice balance exercises every day. Even standing on one leg is simple but important every single day. If you cannot do that now, start practising it – and please, I implore you, do put your other leg down if you feel your balance going.

PS If you have a pain – get someone to have a look at it so it can be fixed and be aware pain killers and anti inflammatory drugs do not fix problems but cover them up leading to potential further trouble down the line.

A piece of research came out and was widely publicised in the media in the last month or so. 

The main headlines from it were that probiotic supplements do not work. Lazy journalism and headline grabbing words announced that we may as well throw all these supplements in the bin. 

I delved into the research to see exactly what was being said rather than taking my knowledge from journalists who, it seems more and more these days, are expressing an opinion rather than reporting facts. 

I found that this research was only carried out on 25 people. This is a tiny group to extrapolate anything major. Not only that but they were 25 healthy people. 

The fact they were healthy is the key to a major flaw in the research. Why? Because if you are healthy your body should be working at its optimum. Taking supplements will not make you MORE healthy. You are either healthy or not, therefore, probiotics will simply add bacteria for a while that may be useful but they will not enhance your health when you are in good health. 

Our body does not have an “extra healthy” mode for this would be a waste of important resources. Bear in mind that Health is different from fitness - we can get fitter, stronger, faster but we cannot work up more health. 

Of course if you are ill then you can become healthier and most of the time this can be done with changes in your behaviour rather than getting drugs from the doctor. 

For over a hundred years we Osteopaths have repeatedly observed and understood that our gut is vital for so many illnesses from our mental health to autoimmune problems and much more too. This has been ignored and even mocked by mainstream health professionals for decades but not anymore. Enormous research is coming out showing how vital our digestive system is to all aspects of our health. 

This is why declaring war on bacteria with antibiotics has been, for many people, disastrous with them trapped in a round of chronic infections. I’ve seen countless examples of recurrent cystitis from the immune system damage caused by antibiotics because the cause of such problems is not simply some bacteria going wrong. 

Antibiotics should be last resort medication, not frontline instant use drugs. If you have an infection your body, most of the time, given the right conditions such as rest, wholesome real nutrition (as opposed to take away food and ready meals) and gentle movement where possible, will clear up most infections without any need for drugs. 

I cannot stress the importance of healthy rest when you are feeling unwell - most of us do not moderate our behaviour, soldiering on at work, taking something to mask the problem such as an anti inflammatory or a paracetamol based remedy. These do not cure us but reduce symptoms so we carry on and this can cause further illness. 

Our body has some simple methods to cure us and we seem to want to stop it doing so. The basics are:

Inflammation - which causes pain and immobility but is busy repairing all the damage too. So if you take an anti inflammatory you interfere with repair and end up with recurring problems. And did you know the moment you pop one of these your chance of a heart attack increases from between 30-50% in the month you have taken it? 

Fever - which raises our core temperature to kill off the bacteria or virus that is causing a problem. So if you take paracetamol or calpol you suppress this protection and end up getting more illness down the line. 

Vomiting - which removes something the body doesn’t like. Therefore, taking a drug that stops this means whatever toxic substance was inside you still is! 

Diarrhoea - which is similar to vomiting and protects us but we have got drugs that suppress this, bung us up and leave us vulnerable to more problems. 

Modern medicine has created all these amazing drugs that suppress our body’s clever healing reactions. But when was the last time you heard a health professional explain all of this and suggest your body knows what it is doing and will fix you. 

Doctors used to say their role was to amuse the patient while their body got them better - sadly it now appears that intervening with medication is first line defence rather than, for most of us, what should be a last resort. 

Therefore, ensure your immune system functions well by healthy behaviour and yes, if you’ve had health issues or been on antibiotics or eat processed foods, then probiotics have a vital role to play in helping you and I’m sure many of you will testify how they have helped you - they’ve certainly helped me. 

One of the best to try is Viridian’s Synerbio which is potent and has 8 different kinds of health giving bacteria.

Nature’s Aid also do a well priced acidophilus complex that is an excellent starter product.

Bio Kult and Optima also produce excellent products. 

With all that has gone on in the last year it comes as no surprise to me that one of the commonest enquiries I get is about how to cope with anxiety.

In the Daily Telegraph this Saturday one member of the government Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviour (SPI-B) admitted that, “The way we have used fear is dystopian. The use of fear has definitely been ethically questionable. It’s like a weird experiment. Ultimately it backfired because people became too scared.”

To layer such unethical methods on top of our modern way of living has caused enormous distress and deep fear and anxiety. The problem in the modern world is that we have created a way of living and working that is totally at odds with our basic needs.

We are encouraged to be consumers, forever chasing the next purchase rather than sitting, quietly contemplating life, nature, our family and the simple pleasures of just ‘being’.

In everyday life we face so much stress from work, travelling on packed roads and public transport. Demands from work, an incessant bombardment of information from our phones, pressures from social media. Truly we can feel that we are being dragged along by the currents rather than in control of our own destiny.

Such stress causes hormone changes in our body that contribute to ill health, be that physically or mentally.

There are ways to dissipate this stress and the most important one is physical activity. We are moving machines and our body loves movement and responds to movement with an ability to be healthier. This can be vigorous high intensity work outs or more meditative practices such as yoga and pilates.

Limiting intake of sugar, alcohol and processed foods is very important. Our gut is the seat of all emotions with more emotional neurons in it than in our brain, hence the term ‘gut feeling’.  Throwing unhealthy food into your digestive system is not only a surefire way to poor physical health but will also have a profound effect on your mental wellbeing. Gluten is also another troublemaker for mental health and anxiety. It sits in your gut and acts as an irritant which then irritates your mind. Stay away from it for a good three months to see a difference.

Many people report that CBD products lift their mood and calm them down. The CBD One Signature Blend oils tend to be nicely calming so are a great starting point whilst the water soluble Absorb range are fast acting and gently energising too.

Many people use the Absorb during the day and a few drops of calming oil in the evening.

Taking a probiotic such as Pro-cognitiv by Nature’s Aid or Mind by Bio Kult is also useful as is eating a fermented food like sauer kraut, kimchi or kefir.

Balance for nerves by Higher Nature is also lovely and quick acting as is rhodiola root. Both can be bought in capsule form.

A Vogel do excellent herbal remedies of which their Passiflora complex is really lovely, safe and effective. They also do Hyperiforce which is superb, just be careful if you are taking the contraceptive pill and using this one.

Magnesium can also help with anxiety.There are many to try out, we currently have Magnesium Citrate on the website though we have many more in store.

Regular meditation using apps like Buddhify with quick, easy meditations that over time can help calm you down and create more mental awareness of destructive or negative thought patterns is also a useful tool.

I heartily recommend the book ‘The power of now’ by Eckhart Tolle and please always hold onto the essential hope that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. I wish you all peace and joy.

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