Using Hydrotherapy for Pain Relief

Hydrotherapy is the use of water for healing the body. Specifically, alternating hot and cold water therapy is hugely beneficial for pain relief and it’s free! 

Using hot and cold can help manage pain.  For acute pain (eg. sprained ankle in the first 48 hours), cold is always used, to keep swelling down.  But chronic pain doesn’t have the same kind of swelling as a very recent injury. Often, the issue is actually that the area is not getting enough circulation.

Circulation is necessary for healing chronic injury and damage because it brings fresh, healing blood with growth factors and platelets, and takes away cellular waste products and toxins. Injuries in tendons and other areas with poor circulation often heal poorly for the lack of fresh blood.

For this reason, many injuries and areas of damage benefit greatly from hydrotherapy.  Alternating exposure to cold and hot water is an excellent way to stimulate circulation and waste removal from an inflamed or injured area of the body and reduce pain.

How does it work?

Cold water makes the superficial blood vessels constrict, sending the blood into deeper tissue. Following that with hot water dilates the superficial vessels and draws it out again. Alternating hot and cold in buckets of water or in hot/cold showers is essentially acting like a pump in your muscles, moving the blood around and helping flush out areas that don’t get quite as much circulation. This is also an excellent technique for someone with cold hands and feet in the winter- alternating hot and cold showers can save you from the painful cold in the fingertips and toes.

When using alternating hot and cold hydrotherapy, it is important that you always start with hot and finish with cold. A basic hydrotherapy protocol looks like this:

  • Start hot (not scaling) for 3 minutes
  • Alternate between hot and cold every 3 minutes, going as cold as you can go without pain and as hot as you can go without scalding yourself.
  • Repeat for 8 cycles (4x each temp) and finish cold.

You can use buckets of water if it’s for ankles or feet, visit a spa or spring with hot and cool baths, or you can simply turn your shower to hot and cold.

What does it help treat?

  • Strains and sprains of the foot, ankle, elbow, knee, wrist, neck, or shoulder
  • Swelling (once the acute stage has passed)
  • Muscle spasms
  • Joint aches
  • Repetitive-strain injuries, such as tendonitis or tennis elbow
  • Sports injuries
  • Flare-ups of chronic conditions, such as arthritis or fibromyalgia
  • Some pains associated with cancer
  • Any other injury that causes swelling or aching

When to use contrast hydrotherapy

Use when an injury is a semi-chronic or chronic condition. This means when it’s been more than 72 hours after an injury and your body is not in acute inflammation. It’s particularly helpful for recurrent or very long-term “achey” pain, even pain that’s been there for months or years.

When not to use contrast hydrotherapy

Don’t use when there is any open skin wounds or risk of infection. Be cautious if there is decreased sensation or neuropathy (as in a diabetic foot, for example), because it may be harder to tell if the water is scalding or freezing the skin. Likewise be cautious if there are any heart or systemic conditions that react to varying temperatures, like cold urticaria (hives).

Learn more about pain management by booking a consult with Dr. Mason-Wood, ND and discuss your treatment options today.

Don’t Wait to Get Your Frozen Shoulder Treated

“Will I ever be able to reach that shelf in the kitchen?”

When you have a frozen shoulder, even simple everyday tasks like putting away your groceries are daunting, painful, or simply impossible.

Frozen shoulder can be extremely painful in its early stage; it becomes even more debilitating when the lack of range of motion sets in later on. Recovery from this condition can take months – sometimes years – for full recovery.

Although frozen shoulder is a very common condition, there are some things that are mysterious about it. Typically frozen shoulder tends to affect one side, usually the non-dominant side, but some develop the condition in both shoulders. In rare cases, patients develop frozen shoulder on the other side within five years.

It’s important to seek treatment early for frozen shoulder to avoid permanent damage to the joint. During the many months of decreased shoulder mobility the rotator cuff muscles weaken and the joint capsule tissue surrounding these muscles stiffens. This can place the shoulder at significant risk for cuff tears, arthritis, and possible osteopenia or thinning of the bones.

Without treatment, the shoulder joint can actually deteriorate to a point where full recovery becomes very difficult – if not impossible.

The risk of permanent damage however can be reduced with early physical therapy, with a focus on shoulder mobility under the guidance of a skilled health care professional. The therapist might recommend strengthening the rotator cuff muscles. A strong rotator cuff can help support your shoulder and allow it to move more freely. They might also give you exercises to work on your scapula. (One way to diagnose frozen shoulder is by observing if the scapula or shoulder blade moves excessively when you reach to the side or above you head.)

It’s important to keep mobilizing your shoulder – but don’t overdo it by making up strenuous exercises at the gym.

A Naturopathic Doctor might suggest prolotherapy – both non-surgical injection treatments that can greatly reduce pain and speed the healing process. In a prolotherapy treatment, dextrose is injected into the affected area to bring immune factors to the area and effectively stimulate the body’s own healing capacities.

Take it slow. Remember that your frozen shoulder didn’t develop overnight – it will take some time and patience to repair it with a little help from a skilled health care professional. Dr. Michael Mason-Wood, ND and the team at Natural Terrain Naturopathic Clinic are trained in alleviating joint pain. Click here to find out more about prolotherapy. 

How do you know if you have a frozen shoulder?

“The pain in my shoulder seemed to come out of nowhere – and it’s gradually been getting worse.”

“I can’t seem to lift my right arm enough to blow-dry my hair!”

“I have a dull ache in my left shoulder and down my upper arm.”

If any of these statements sound familiar, you might have a musculoskeletal condition known as frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis.

The tissue surrounding your shoulder joint that holds everything together is called the shoulder capsule. With a frozen shoulder, the capsule becomes inflamed, thickens and tightens so that the shoulder bones aren’t able to move freely in the joint.  

Frozen shoulder is a bit of a mystery in that the causes are uncertain, but certain risk factors – age, gender, recovery from stroke or surgery, diabetes, shoulder trauma, Parkinson’s disease, cardiac disease, hyperthyroidism and smoking – increase the chances of developing the condition.

Although it’s best to consult a health-care professional to confirm a diagnosis, here are the three stages of frozen shoulder:

Freezing Stage

This is the first sign of trouble, characterized by pain in the shoulder or the upper arm. Pain generally worsens, causing a gradual loss of range of motion or “freezing” of the shoulder. This stage typically lasts six weeks to nine months.

Frozen Stage

This is a 4-6 month stage where stiffness increases and arm movements are severely restricted. Rotation of the shoulder joint is particularly difficult, making daily activities such as washing hair, getting dressed or reaching for a seat belt, difficult. Pain gradually decreases in this stage.

Thawing Stage

This stage is the longest, as the thawing process can take up to two years. In this phase, the capsule of the shoulder joint is thick and tight, but over time it gradually loosens. You can start to see a gradual increase in mobility and a decrease in pain symptoms.

Whatever stage your frozen shoulder is in, Naturopathic Doctors can help. Dr. Michael Mason-Wood, ND and the team at Natural Terrain Naturopathic Clinic focus on effectively alleviating joint pain through purely natural means.

 

Solutions for Chronic Pain: Part 2, Prolotherapy and Biopuncture

Pain is an alarm signal that there is something wrong going on in our bodies. When there is chronic pain, the alarm signal continues to go off for months or even years. If you are dealing with chronic pain, relief can feel hopeless, but there are a number of strategies that can be used in the treatment of chronic pain. Biopuncture and prolotherapy stimulate the body’s natural healing response at the site of pain. These injection techniques can be very helpful in the treatment of chronic pain.

Prolotherapy

Prolotherapy incorporates the use of a specifically formulated dextrose (sugar) solution injected into a ligament or tendon where it attaches to the bone. When this solution is injected, growth factors are recruited to the area. Growth factors stimulate tissue growth and the deposition of collagen, which is important in healing damaged muscle, tendons and ligaments. Prolotherapy is helpful in a variety of conditions such as torn ligaments or tendons, osteoarthritis, back pain, fibromyalgia, frozen shoulders, whiplash injuries, herniated and degenerative discs and a number of other conditions.

Biopuncture

Biopuncture is an injection of glucose-based substance with dilute botanical and homeopathic substances into areas of pain. The combination of ingredients is individualized and tailored to the patient to allow for the best outcome. The injection is made at the site of pain to help stabilize the inflammation in the musculoskeletal system. Inflammation is an important process of healing. Inflammation is the accumulation of immune cells that work to repair the damage. Biopuncture works by supporting inflammation to speed up the healing process. It treats the underlying cause instead of covering up the symptoms. Biopuncture treats a variety of musculoskeletal and chronic inflammatory conditions. 

For more treatment options, see last week’s article. Don’t live in pain any longer. Book an appointment with Dr. Mason-Wood, ND to see if these treatments are right for your chronic pain.

Solutions for Chronic Pain: Part 1

For those suffering with chronic pain, finding relief can sometimes feel hopeless. Luckily, there are several different treatment options in Naturopathic Medicine that can be explored.  Diet, counselling, botanicals, neural therapyozone therapybiopuncture, acupuncture, prolotherapy and prolozone therapy can all be helpful in pain treatment. Today we will review three treatment options: Neural Therapy, Ozone therapy and Prolozone.

Neural Therapy 

One possible source of chronic pain is caused by a disruption in the nervous system.  An interruption in the autonomic nervous system, by injury, infection, toxicity, scars or emotional distress prevents the body from running smoothly.  This can compromise almost any body system and can cause pain. Neural Therapy targets the autonomic nervous system and balances it out. Neural therapy is an injection of local anesthetic (procaine or lidocaine), vitamins, chelating agents and various homeopathics (that are specific to the tissue being healed). This mixture is administered into scar tissue, acupuncture points, muscle trigger points, nerve points, glands or an autonomic ganglion. This therapy helps treat pain, especially if the pain is caused by a disruption of nerves.

Ozone Therapy

Ozone therapy works by donating an oxygen molecule to the free radicals in the body. Free radicals are formed when the body is under oxidative stress, which can be caused by infection, illness or injury. Free radicals can lead to inflammation and pain. There are two main types of ozone therapy that we use at the clinic: Auto-hemotherapy and hydrogen peroxide therapy. Hydrogen peroxide therapy works by regulating certain enzymatic reactions in the body to further increase the oxygen content in the bloodstream which leads to many therapeutic benefits. Hydrogen peroxide therapy can be administered topically, orally or injected intravenously. Ozone therapy is most effective when treating vascular and degenerative diseases but also helps a long list of conditions.

Prolozone

Prolozone therapy uses some of the same principles as ozone therapy; it donates an oxygen molecule where there is oxidative damage. However, with prolozone therapy, the substances that the body needs to rebuild and heal an area is also administered. Prolozone therapy is an injection into the joints and areas of reduced oxygen uptake. This therapy is useful in treating neck pain, back pain, arthritic hips and knees, shoulder and elbow pain, degenerated disks, rotator cuff injuries and many more musculoskeletal problems. According to the official prolozone website, prolozone has a 75% success rate at completely relieving pain!

To find out more about treatment options and which one is best for you, book an appointment with Dr. Mason-Wood.

A Naturopathic Approach to Pain

Chronic pain can be a debilitating condition. Last week we discussed some of the science behind pain, this week we will look into the naturopathic approach to pain.
 
There are lots of different reasons why a person may be experiencing pain. It is important to take the time to identify the root cause so that it can be targeted in the treatment.  For some people chronic pain is a musculoskeletal problem, for others, it’s a problem within the nervous system, immune system, digestive system, circulatory system, respiratory system or multiple of these. In an appointment for pain, you can expect a full workup with detailed questioning, a review of systems and physical exams.
 
It is also important to remember that pain affects everyone’s life differently.  Just like taking Tylenol won’t work for everyone’s pain, neither will prescribing the same treatments. Looking at a comprehensive overview of a person’s medical history and their lifestyle helps naturopathic doctors to create individualized treatment plans.
 
Dr. Mason-Wood, ND uses these principles of finding the root cause and individuality to guide the management of chronic pain. On top of graduating as a Naturopathic Doctor, he has taken multiple additional courses to further his learning and is able to provide some of the best pain treatments. Based on his evaluation of the patient, different modalities may be utilized, such as diet, counselling, botanicals, neural therapyozone therapybiopuncture, acupuncture, prolotherapy or prolozone therapy. To get a personalized pain management treatment, book your appointment with Dr. Mason-Wood, ND today!

What is Pain?

We have all experienced pain sometime in our lives. Pain can be a protective measure that helps us know something is wrong. However, when pain lasts for a long time, it can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. 1 in 5  Canadians live with chronic pain and it is one of the major sources of disability in the country.  In this article, we will break down a bit of the science behind pain.

Nociception

In our skin, tissue and organs,  there are nerve cells that sense harmful substances. These nerve cells, called nociceptors, will send a message to the brain that we perceive as pain.  Nociception causes sudden, short-lasting pain.

Nociception is also responsible for a protective mechanism called the withdrawal reflex. When we come in contact with something harmful, like stepping on a tack or touching a hot pot, our bodies react moving away from the “danger” without even thinking. Shortly after this reflex, the nociceptors send messages to the brain to recognize that experience as a painful experience which helps us learn not to do it again.

Chemical Signaling of Pain 

In addition to the nerve stimulation of pain through nociception, there are also chemical messengers that are released. These chemicals are released around the “problem areas” and can cause inflammation and make the nociceptors more sensitive to pain. These chemicals signal the body’s immune cells to gather at the problem area, provide nutrients and promote healing.

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is pain lasting longer than 3 months. It is a very complex problem and can be debilitating to almost all aspects of a person’s life. There are many different causes and body systems involved. Some of the different reasons why a person may be experiencing chronic pain include…

  • increased sensitivity of the pain nerve fibres
  • the body not being able to block pain signals after there is no longer the threat
  • An underlying issue that causes pain (ex: fibromyalgia, nerve damage and arthritis)

There are many other reasons that may cause chronic pain as well. Chronic pain management requires an in-depth investigation and a multimodal approach. At Natural Terrain, Dr. Mason-Wood treats chronic pain. Book your appointment today!

Is Pain Affecting Your Life? Prolotherapy May be the Answer

Exercising is such an important part of both our physical and mental health. It is one of the best ways to perform “self-care” because it supplies oxygen to our cells and regulates our mood by balancing neurotransmitters. However, if you are injured or in pain, exercising may feel out of reach.

If you are suffering from pain, whether it’s osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, back pain or a sports injury, prolotherapy may be just the thing to get you back to your daily activities.

What is Prolotherapy?

Prolotherapy, also known as “non-surgical ligament reconstruction”, is an effective way to treat the cause of pain. It has been around for over 80 years and has been effective in treating a host of conditions. Prolotherapy works by injecting a solution containing a specialized sugar called dextrose. When dextrose is injected, it stimulates the body’s natural immune response.  Growth factors are brought to the injection site and the body stimulates tissue growth to promote healing of damaged muscles, tendons, ligaments or bones.

What can it treat?

Prolotherapy can treat a number of different conditions including….

      1. Low back pain
      2. Hip & Pelvic Pain
      3. Knee & Leg pain
      4. Neck Pain
      5. Temporal mandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome
      6. Plantar fasciitis
      7. Achilles Tendinosis & ankle pain
      8. Patellar tendinopathy
      9. Shoulder pain
      10. Osgood-Schlatter Disease
      11. Groin pain
      12. Osteoarthritis
      13. Fibromyalgia
      14. Many other conditions…

Why Should You Consider Prolotherapy?

Aside from limiting the ability to exercise, chronic pain has a huge impact on quality of life. It can affect our ability to work, our relationships, our ability to perform daily tasks and it can affect our mental health. One in four Canadians live in chronic pain and it is one of the major causes of lost work hours. Luckily, Dr. Mason-Wood specializes in pain management and wants to get you back to your normal routine.

Don’t suffer from pain any longer, book your appointment with Dr. Mason-Wood today!

Resources
  1. Hauser RA, Lackner JB, Steilen-Matias D, Harris DK. A Systematic Review of Dextrose Prolotherapy for Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain. Clin Med Insights Arthritis Musculoskelet Disord. 2016;9:139-159. doi:10.4137/CMAMD.S39160
  2. Dueñas M, Ojeda B, Salazar A, Mico JA, Failde I. A review of chronic pain impact on patients, their social environment and the health care system. J Pain Res. 2016;9:457-467. doi:10.2147/JPR.S105892