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Pain relief

Art & Acupuncture: 2 ways to get chronic pain relief

Art & Acupressure: 2 ways to break chronic pain patterns

Art for pain relief
Chronic Lyme symptoms are such a drag. We can stand only so much stress, I think. Not only does chronic pain just plain hurt, it also exhausts the body and mind to the brink of insanity. Sleep is restorative, but the war between the Lyme bacteria and our immune systems often destroys a good night of sleep. Honestly, when I was super sick, I recall thinking it would not be so terrible if I could just get out of my own body for awhile. Take breaks from the pain. Even prisoners get time off for good behavior. Then quite by accident, I learned that it was entirely possible to engineer those pain breaks. Art became my healing ally.

That is when a chiropractor friend told me about pain fountains, a name she gave the patterns and exquisite neuronal pathways that our bodies and minds can create in response to serious illness. The pain is trauma, both physical and emotional, because our minds get involved and have an opinion about our pain. That body-mind involvement can work for us, or against us. It works against us most powerfully when we aren't aware that we're caught in a loop. Patterns lay down a groove. If nothing disrupts that groove, the pain continues to spill throughout the body's systems like a fountain.

But even our awareness cannot simply make the pain vanish. I wish it were that easy (and perhaps for some, it is). In my case, making the pain go away took the total concentration that I was able to give to a painting project. It was as if I had to use guerilla tactics, sneak up obliquely onto the pain fountain, and re-route its direction. Stop its flow. Redirect the energy into my project and into my breath. What was weird was that I wouldn't even become fully aware that the pain had subsided until I quit painting. And then I knew it had been gone, because it would come flooding back. Like an elevator stopping at a different floor, I would stop, and return to experiencing the pain.

Acupressure for pain relief
For centuries, Asian cultures have recognized that the human body has meridians or pathways of energy, and have applied acupuncture and acupressure to points along those pathways to promote healthy ki (the Japanese term), or chi (the Chinese term). Healthy ki is moving, not stuck. As Lyme is an anti-inflammatory illness, acupressure can help by restoring conditions for the body to reduce inflammation.

Since the Lyme disease bacterial complex attacks the body's vital systems, it makes sense to counter with therapies that support those systems and gives them a fighting chance at balance. These are the lymph, digestive, eliminatory, respiratory, nervous, reproductive, and endocrine systems.

Western medical science has affirmed that these pathways and points in the body really do exist. A professional acupuncturist can teach you where to locate the points on your own body, but it is easy enough to find a good chart or video to help you find them yourself.

Art and acupressure can both be practiced for free. You don't need professional tools or expensive equipment, or a professional artist or acupuncturist to tell you what to do. Find the points that feel good and work on them. Find some paper and paint, or colored pencils, or whatever appeals to you, and take 30 minutes to lose yourself in art. You might also succeed in losing the pain – at least temporarily. Take a pain break. You deserve it. We can all promote our own healing at whatever stage of Lyme we find ourselves.



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Paying it forward = Stress relief

I was stuck. Attempting to turn left into a traffic jam, confronted with cars backed up as far as I could see. Several vehicles had fresh-cut Christmas trees roped to the roof like hostages. The setting sun was blinding all the westbound drivers. I started to settle in for what looked like a long wait for a break.

Suddenly, a driver stopped to wave me in. Hallelujah! I couldn’t believe it. I watched as everybody in the long line of cars behind her was forced to stop and wait while I made my turn. With a wave and a smile and a tap on the brakes, she had flooded my heart with hope and love for my fellow humans. If she hadn’t voluntarily stopped like that, I might still be sitting there.

An hour later, stuck in a checkout line held up by a woman buying 4,000 rolls of ribbon, I overheard the couple behind me. They were griping quietly at each other. I encouraged them to go ahead of me, and they suddenly smiled and said thanks, both wishing me a Merry Christmas. It felt so nice to pay back the generosity that had been extended to me that I actually wished there were more shoppers standing in line to wave ahead.

In times of stress, whether from traffic, sickness, or other events, it seems we have a choice. We can’t control the events themselves, but we can choose how we react. The glee and gratitude I felt for that driver infected my mood instantaneously. In every crowded lane and line for hours afterward, I enjoyed interacting with clerks and shoppers and felt genuinely uplifted with every sincere smile and upbeat thank you. It got me thinking about generosity and vulnerability.

We’re more vulnerable when we’re ill and suffering.
Pain breaks down the normal barriers that healthy people take for granted, the psychic boundaries we put up in a grocery store or a crowded elevator. When we’re spending most of our energy trying to feel normal or attempting to breathe through the pain in our muscles, our skin, or the fog in our mind, I think we’re more naturally vulnerable and open to other people’s moods and actions.

This open attitude of heart or viewpoint can make us feel weak. After all, it is only the strong ego that can construct barriers and know exactly who it is and what it wants. But these days, having returned from the trip to the underworld of Lyme disease, I feel, at times, much less attached to the picture of who-I-think-I-am. I feel more porous, less fixed. That fluidity has its own sort of strength.

I wish I could thank that anonymous driver for her small gesture of kindness, which felt to me like a light of consciousness in a murky sea. It could have worked the other way. We’ve all been the recipient of an angry gesture by an impatient driver (or we ourselves have been that angry driver), and we know how that affects us and others too. But as the recipient of her generous action, I went on my merry way with an attitude of gratitude. Like a fairy godmother, she’d waved her wand and changed the landscape from black-and-white to technicolor. In the crowded store, I passed her kindness along like an unexpected gift, and I bet it’s still working its way around town.

Serious illness not only brings suffering, it has another side which is filled with gifts if we are open to receiving them. When I take a genuine, hard inner look, I know I have Lyme to thank for the tremendous blessings in my life now. Riches beyond measure. Among them, more patience, resilience and humility, and an extraordinary awakening of consciousness which is largely unexpected but certainly profound.

Here’s to the spirit of gratitude and vulnerability. What are you grateful for?


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What's wrong with conventional medicine (and what to do about it)

An insightful article on the Doctor-Patient Relationship written by Dr Lissa Rankin points out some of the specific problems created and intensified by our orthodox medical system. Rankin is searching for a more vital and meaningful way to relate to her profession, her patients and her role. In her post, she perceptively describes an enormous & paradoxical problem with what she calls Old Medicine. Lyme disease patients get to be unwilling experts in Old Medicine. Picture the doctor with his/her hand on the doorknob, nodding in your direction as you wait in your underwear on a cold table under florescent lights that are driving you mad.

From the patients’ perspective, you can boil it down to this: You want to be treated like a whole person, not a slab of meat.

From the doctors’ perspective, you want to practice medicine without losing your own health and/or being forced to put your soul on hold.

Dr Rankin shows how the rules of Old Medicine are intolerable, imposing unsustainable stresses on doctors and patients alike.  She accurately describes the ways in which ways doctors get shafted in this system. Then she turns the tables, articulating how our current cold-as-a-spectrum ‘managed care’ feels from the patients’ perspective.

What’s wrong with conventional medicine and what can be done about it

Our medical system is flawed. The question is not how bad is it, or how thoroughly can we condemn it. The question is, can it be fixed, and if so, how?

Most people are aware that there are 2 types of medicine:
1. Conventional, which treats the illness.
2. Alternative, complementary, holistic, or integrative, which treats the whole patient.

However, there is also an emerging 3rd category: Integral, which includes the first two types and treats the physician as well. I’m old enough to remember when ‘health food’ stores were totally square. Now, Whole Foods, just one example, is a billion dollar business. Our collective consciousness around health issues is constantly expanding, although not as quickly as some of us would like. There is evidence that Integral medicine is being quickly adopted by health-care practitioners around the world.

Here’s why:

Using an
Integral framework is like putting on a new pair of specs. It gives us a good look at the big picture without excluding the details. The Integral model recognizes that every event has at least four dimensions. They represent the perspectives: I, we, it and its. How does this apply in analyzing our medical system? Here’s how: Factors in all four dimensions affect both the cause and the cure of an illness. The all-too-often murky process of diagnosing and treating Lyme disease provides a classic example of why an integral medicine is necessary.

Four dimensions of medicine and why all four are important

1. Conventional medicine tends to strictly abide in only one of those four dimensions. It deals almost entirely with the physical organism using physical interventions: surgery, drugs, medication, and behavioral modification. Orthodox medicine believes essentially in the physical causes of physical illness, and therefore prescribes mostly physical interventions. Lyme disease, if caught early enough, can be greatly cured and controlled with antibiotics. The integral model doesn’t claim that this objective dimension is unimportant, only that it is just telling one-fourth of the story. (The Integral Vision, by Ken Wilber. p 92) Which leads us to the next quadrant:

2. Unprecedented interest in Alternative care makes it clear that many people (doctors included) recognize that our interior states, i.e. our emotions, psychological attitudes, imagery, and intentions, play a crucial role in both the cause and the cure of even physical illness. Conscious use of imagery, visualization, and affirmation have been scientifically proven to affect the management of most illnesses, and including these practices is increasingly more accepted in comprehensive medical care. (p. 92) Affirmations were extremely important to me while Lyme was in an acute stage. Repeating bits of positive phrases helped me focus my Lyme-addled brain and gave me a reason to believe I was eventually going to be alright, even though more than one doctor had advised me to go on disability, climb into a wheelchair and settle in for life. For me that wouldn’t have been life, but death.

3. However, this subjective dimension is still only one-fourth of the whole picture. Nothing exists in a vacuum, least of all human consciousness. We are embedded in shared cultural values and intersubjective factors that affect our state of health and our journey through illness. Cultural views and judgements affect us. In my interviews with Lyme patients over the years, I’ve noticed a significantly common thread, which is that we’ve all been told, at one time or another, that “it’s all in your head.” We may not give much credence to the dimension of cultural views, and yet our spouses’, friends’ and doctors’ subjective opinions about our health affects us (sometimes dramatically) whether we like it or not.

4. The material and economic dimension, causative factors in both disease and cure are rarely acknowledged. Yet, these factors are central to the issue, not besides-the-point. This is the Social system that delivers your medicine, sets the limits on your managed care, and accepts or declines your access to insurance. Are you wealthy? You may be fortunate enough to afford concierge medical care. Or are you in the economic class that is relegated to using the ER when things get bad enough? The Social system dimension or quadrant also includes your access to clinics and nurses and their availability in your region. In other words, if you can’t reach the clinic you need because you are too sick to drive or it is too far away, it cannot help you.

Integral medicine includes all four of the above dimensions. I’m inspired by doctors like Lissa Rankin, who intuit that Old Medicine only tells one-quarter of the story, and that in order to improve we must acknowledge the other 3 quadrants or dimensions. In the
100 perspectives we categorize our interviews, articles, and other info into all four quadrants. Integral medicine is gaining popularity around the globe, and Lyme literate doctors, because they have to deal with us Lymies on so many different dimensions of health, may be on the leading edge.
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Dr. Peter Muran, Lyme Disease Management

I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Peter Muran this week about his approach to Lyme disease management, which he refers to as functional medicine. Dr. Muran practices Holistic Integrative Medicine in San Luis Obispo, CA, and specializes in diagnosing and treating immune system disorders and diseases such as Lyme. Functional medicine is about treating the whole person, body, mind, and spirit. To those of us who are aware of the role we must play in our own healing, this might seem like a no-brainer, but in Western medicine it is still quite revolutionary and new.

There’s a profound sense of relief that resonates deep inside when a trained and experienced medical doctor tells you, “there’s nothing stronger than what goes on in your own body.” It felt like music to my ears to hear this. Yes, we need medicine -- sometimes very powerful medicine indeed -- but our own miraculous bodies are often resilient and strong and capable of healing themselves, if only we let them.

The main point I came away with after our talk was that immune disorders can be managed if we take a whole person, whole life, approach. Healing from Lyme is literally a life-changing experience. I’ve said in the past that I’d almost rather have something easily diagnosable, such as cancer, instead of this mysterious condition that is so difficult to treat. Dr. Muran set me straight. Cancer is much harder to get over, he told me, more devastating overall to health. Lyme is treatable. We just might not want to make the effort to change in the radical ways it seems to insist on, but if we do, we can get better.

Have you ever had a doctor tell you that “diet has nothing to do with it”? I’m pretty sure I’m not the only Lyme patient who has ever heard that from a conventional doctor. I’m no expert, but I know a line of bull when I hear it.  As it turns out, diet does have something to do with it. When I asked him to say a few words about our eating habits, and about the role of sugar, Dr. Muran offered some basic widsom:
don’t live to eat, eat to live. Diet should always be nutritional. Become aware of how the foods you eat affect you. In other words, instead of ignoring that bloated sensation, recognize that your body is giving you feedback. When beginning to work with a new patient, Dr. Muran conducts food allergy tests to help distinguish food sensitivities from a reaction to bacterial infection.

During our hour-long conversation, he touched on subjects that are close to our hearts, including of course the astounding immune system and GI tract, diet and nutrition, exercise, the function and role of the body’s secondary responders: the hormones, cortisol, insulin, and adrenal. He doesn’t go into detail, but intriguingly also mentions the importance of the role of meditation.

We also talked about his approach to handling herxes. The Herxheimer reaction is a double-edged sword for Lyme patients, because we know it is generally a sign that the Lyme bacteria are dying -- good. But with that die-off, more symptoms or more severe symptoms may also emerge -- not good. Instead of pushing the patient and risking more stress to their system, his recommendation is to back off the newly introduced antibiotic or treatment causing the herx. Reduce it to a point where the patient can stabilize and continue to heal without additional stress.

On a personal note, I was surprised and gratified to discover during our talk that Dr. Muran actually played a central role in my own healing although I never knew his name. I lived in San Luis Obispo at the time I discovered I had Lyme, and the naturopathic doctor who treated me was new to the field at the time. I was aware that he was given guidance every step of the way by a group of Lyme experts in California. That group included Dr. Muran and Dr. Steve Harris, who incidentally are both featured in Connie Strasheim’s excellent book:
Insights into Lyme Disease Treatment. Also included in the book are Dr. Lee Cowden and master herbalist Stephen Buhner, both of whom are featured guests in our own interview with experts’ series.


Listen to my conversation with Dr. Muran on managing Lyme disease.


For further information about Dr. Muran’s approach, please visit his website page on Lyme disease:
http://www.alternativemedicinehealthcare.com/immune-health/lyme-disease.www.longevityhealthcare.com
Tel: (888) 315-4777



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Debbie's success story in dealing with lyme.

Debbie Bassett reminds me of a friend I had in college, also named Debbie, who faced life’s twists and turns with a resiliency and sense of humor that welled up from some eternal energy source.
“At one point, all I could eat was baby food,” laughs Debbie. “I lost 25 pounds.” Neither of these statements are the least bit funny, but somehow throughout our entire conversation I found myself laughing right along with her. Gallows humor: a big relief when you’re dealing with something as serious as Lyme disease.

But it wasn’t this 40-something, mother of two’s ability to find the humor in the situation, so much as her strong intuition and intense need to know, that guided her to ultimately find the Holtorf Medical Center, in Torrance, CA, where she began treatment for Lyme.

The basic trajectory of her story line is familiar to many Lyme patients. Sickness, misdiagnosis, searching, then finding a doctor or medical professional who finally leads to a correct diagnosis and treatment. But treatment is often less of an ending point, and more of a start. I know it’s a terrible thing to say, but sometimes I have envied that people can get a clear diagnosis of cancer, and begin treatment for it, while Lyme patients may suffer for months and years without any definitive diagnosis. On the contrary, Lyme patients are often told they have to get a handle on their stress, take a chill pill, or seek a psychologist’s help for mental trouble.

In Debbie’s case, after landing in the ER twice due to headaches, being told by neurologists that nothing wrong could be found, she was handed subscriptions for Prozac. But she knew something was wrong. She told the doctors she suspected she had an underlying virus that they weren’t locating. It seemed unbelievable to her that “nobody’s taking the time to analyze the situation.”

Frustrated, sick, Debbie wound up in Scripps Hospital in San Diego, where she spent 3 days as doctors examined her, determining what they thought was the problem. They scheduled her for gall bladder surgery. It was then that she experienced an interesting turning point. I won’t tell you the whole story -- listen to her tell it.

Debbie’s warmth, generosity and sweetness is a balm capable of soothing the bruised souls of anybody who has suffered through Lyme. She says it is important to share her story so that other people know they are not alone, and that it is possible to pull through in one piece again, as she is doing. Currently on five different antibiotics, Debbie’s in full throttle on her healing path. Please feel free to contact her, as she wants to give her support to others who are going down the same road, dealing with Lyme. Her email address is:
dbassett@earthlink.net

“It’s not an overnight journey,” she says. But with smart medical attention, patience and a sense of humor, we can heal.

Please join to listen to the interview.


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Jessica Wojenski, teen on a mission to educate people about Lyme

As reported in the Hollis Brookline Journal, teenager Jessica Wojenski, who recently graduated from New Hampshire's Bedford High School, has struggled to recover from Lyme symptoms severe enough to keep her out of school much of her junior and senior years.

“There’s such a lack of awareness out there about this that unless you scare people into realizing, they’re never going to get it, even though I hate doing that,” Jessica told the reporter.

I know just how she feels, and you probably do as well, if you have suffered with debilitating Lyme symptoms. Jessica is dedicated to raising awareness of the complications the disease can cause. Evidently she did not show symptoms in the early stages, which is a problem that many of us deal with -- not even suspecting Lyme disease as a cause of our painful and disorienting symptoms until the disease has progressed beyond the early stages. Kudos to her, and we hope she continues to find support in her New Hampshire community, which is located in the hot zone for ticks and Lyme infections.

When you are first diagnosed, you can easily be overwhelmed by information about what to do. What will work, what won't? Who should you consult and who can you trust as a reliable resource?

I agree with Jessica, there is not enough awareness of the serious nature of Lyme disease out there. Like her, I contracted Lyme about 5 or 6 years ago, and my painful symptoms and treatment quickly made it impossible for me to live my life in a normal way. Since then, my mission has also been to help educate people about this disease through sharing my interviews with Lyme disease experts and people who are living normal, healthy lives again, post-Lyme.

My life is now back to normal, thankfully, and my hope is that yours will soon be too. This is a good place to start educating yourself and clear up any confusion. Our list of "10 things you need to know about Lyme," is available immediately, when you sign up for our free newsletter.



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Give yourself a pain break

Illness doesn't take vacations. You don't get to clock out for long weekends of R & R. There are no breaks, no furloughs, no specific date you can circle on the calendar, flipping the pages and counting the days. Dealing with Lyme is a full time gig, especially when your symptoms are acute or you're in the midst of a flaring herx.

Since nobody at Lyme Headquarters is going to pop their head out the door, shake your hand, and tell you to go home and put your feet up, we need to remind ourselves. Take the opportunity to take a break. The whole world celebrates at this time of the year. Being sick now feels a bit like being the kid at boarding school with no parents coming to pick her up for summer. So even if you feel lousy, you're in pain, you wish you could formulate a complete sentence without forgetting what you were talking about...take time out. I've done it, and you probably have too, so I know it's possible.

When I was in an acute stage, bedridden and miserable, pain-breaks were few and far between. I learned a couple of tricks, a little mental prestidigitation. One was to watch funny movies and laugh. Out loud. Belly laughter is more than physical, it's a state of mind. It takes complete control of your attitude. It's really hard to be miserable and laughing at the same time. And for those few precious moments, I didn't feel the pain. In fact I felt happy, normal, and like everything was going to be alright.

Another trick I discovered, which isn't a trick but really more of a visualization, is to imagine another person, someone you either know or don't know, who is suffering worse than you. Sadly, we don't have to look far. Hold a picture of that person in your mind, take a deep, relaxing breath, and as you breathe out imagine all the pain and sickness draining from them. Whenever I do this, I can vividly imagine that other person smiling and rosy-cheeked, and I instantly (even if only for a moment) feel better too.

A doctor friend of mine tells me these little tricks are very healthy. She says they can even help break the cycles of pain involved in many chronic illnesses, cycles known as the pain cascade.

So take a pain break. Get on the phone to a long-lost friend, or e-mail them if talking is too tiring. Send e-mail notes to all your loved ones wishing them a happy holiday -- e-mail is less expensive and less work. Cut and paste. Watch a comedy on TV or rent a funny movie and let yourself get caught up in the silliness. Find a kid and tell them a knock-knock joke. I bet they'll have one for you, and it just might make you feel better.

We'll be here after your break, to wish you well, as always.

Happy holidays, everybody. Cheerio.
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