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When natural therapy isn’t enough

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Woman with severe headache

I usually don’t get too personal about my own health conditions. Although I am a practitioner of traditional and so-called alternative medicine and health practices, I also believe in right use of modern scientific medicines and procedures. By “right use,” I mean when the big guns are used in the right situation and at the right time.

For acute issues that arise from virus, some infections, bruises, strains, inflammation, pain and the like, I advocate for taking a natural route that is easy on the body and gentle in action and that allows natural therapies time to work before escalating to chemical drugs and invasive procedures.

On the other hand, if you are in a car accident, have a headache that lasts a week and won’t go away, can’t stop convulsing or have other such serious medical issues, it is well-advised to seek a more scientific medical approach. There is nothing wrong with getting X-rays, MRI and ultrasounds in addition to taking some form of anti-inflammatory or steroidal when the issue requires it.

The everyday aches

Often, natural methods can handle the day-to-day aches, pains, allergies and issues that modern scientific medicine cannot. If you have chronic low back pain, medical experts agree that they are unable to eradicate it in most patients. Acupuncture, however, was ranked by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the most successful therapy for low back pain. (It was second only to placebo. While acupuncture is more powerful than Class 2 painkillers for relieving low back pain, the power of the mind is more powerful than acupuncture. Believe it.)

SCFE graphicI have been suffering chronic migraine headaches and musculoskeletal pain nearly my entire life. And when it comes to low back pain, hip pain and groin pain, I am the king of pain. At about the age of 10, the ball joint of my hip joint slipped moderately off its growth plate. The technical term is slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE; pronounced skiffy).

The hip joint is known as a ball and socket, where the ball (or femoral head, round top of the thigh bone) fits nicely into the socket (cupped shape in hip opening) and motion is smooth. The growth plate is the part of the tissue that is still growing in children; and when the femoral head slips off the growth plate, the thigh bone develops into an abnormal shape. My own joint today looks more like a letter C than the proper lollipop shape.

It is not uncommon for youngsters to experience this problem. When a child or teen complains of chronic hip tightness or hip pain, has difficulty walking, one foot points inward or outward, limps and so on, he should be taken in for an X-ray. This can show the SCFE right away and two pins can be set surgically so that the issue is fixed as best it can be.

Prolonged problems

While I experienced all the symptoms, I never had an X-ray. I guess I spent so much time seeing specialists for my chronic migraines and shoulder and arm pain, that the hip seemed less severe. Plus, I could always explain away the symptoms as being something else.

It wasn’t until I was 43 that I it seems like suddenly, overnight, my hip pain went from chronic to acute and jumped on a pain scale from a 4 to a 9.5.

I tried additional physical therapy, and it failed me — too much pain, more after therapy than before.

Acupuncture no longer worked. Topical pain relieving gels and creams had only nominal results anymore. It was time for the big guns: X-ray and MRI. The results showed that I now had bone-on-bone osteoarthritis as a result of slipped capitol femoral epiphysis that happened when I was about 10 years old. My orthopedists were amazed that I was able to live this long without the need for steroidal injections, strong anti-inflammatory and analgesic medications.

A time and a place

As I mentioned, there is a time and a place for natural and holistic medicine and a time for modern scientific medicine and invasive intervention. For me, I was able to successfully live with arthritis induced by SCFE for 3.5 decades by implementing natural pain-relief methods. I actually wrote a book about them, Arthritis Reversed, that you can find on Amazon. It tells my story in detail and all of the natural methods I used for staving off surgery and toxic medications for decades.

I implemented a regime of topical pain-relieving creams and gels from modern American companies and traditional Chinese medicine. I tried a wide range of therapies, including Sombra, dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), and Po Sum On and Wong Luk oils. They worked great at improving blood flow, increasing range of motion, reducing stiffness and keeping me active.

For inflammation, I relied on turmeric in my diet, as well as other thermogenic spices like garlic, cloves, ginger and onion. I took capsules of butcher’s broom, zyphlamend and white willow bark daily. I reduced my intake of packaged and prepared foods, along with cutting back on sugar and alcohol. All of those promote inflammation and, thus, pain.

I also set for myself a firm sleep/wake cycle so my body could rest and repair. I engaged in mind/body practices like yoga, qigong and meditation to relax my nervous system and thereby induce the so-called relaxation response, which is just amazing at reducing pain.

When I needed outside help for the worst of times, I went to massage therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture and other such practitioners to give me a boost. These helped me relieve enough pain that I could continue with my routine.

Now at the age of 45, I find that I have moved from the natural to the scientific realm in relation to my condition. I have osteoarthritis, but not the kind that can be reversed without surgery because the root cause of it is not daily activities or age, but the SCFE. So I am at a place where for 35 years I could use natural remedies and practices to reduce inflammation and pain and enjoy my life, and now I need the “big guns.”

So I am heading into total hip replacement surgery. By the time this story runs, I will have been out of surgery and on the road to recovery for four days. In a month or so, I will write another article on what methods I used post-operation to help heal the wounds and recover my range of motion and active lifestyle.

I don’t like drugs or surgery, but I am sure glad a surgery exists that can restore my hip joint to a place it has not been since I was a child. Without it, I fear I could not again enjoy life.

Wellness is a continuum that starts at prevention, proceeds to natural remedies then to chemical help and finally to surgery. There is a time and a place for them all. Again, I advocate implementing the natural at the early stages and the allopathic modern medical approaches at more serious times. Problems arise when people think acupuncture can cure cancer or surgery is needed to fix low back pain. Everything in its time and place is the best policy.

Even with growth defects, you can be sure that the natural approaches can be most effective. They have been for me, in my life of recurring pain. But when the time comes that they are no longer as effective, it is time to accept stronger, more invasive or chemically toxic therapies. I’ll see you on the other side and let you know how it went and what I will do to restore myself again, with traditional and natural medicines and methods.

Dr. Mark Wiley

is an internationally renowned mind-body health practitioner, author, motivational speaker and teacher. He holds doctorates in both Oriental and alternative medicine, has done research in eight countries and has developed a model of health and wellness grounded in a self-directed, self-cure approach.

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