Chronic pain is prevalent and often debilitating. Henri Roca, MD, uses a Functional Medicine approach in a military setting to address chronic pain and alter long-term outcomes for his patients. Hear his approach below.
Our opioid epidemic is increasing yearly.
One of the reasons why that happens is that we tend to think of pain as a ‘thing’, as an entity that we need to treat with medication. Of course, patients want medications. But really, pain is a sensation that’s subject to interpretation.
If we use Functional Medicine, we break down the concept of pain into many of its disparate parts. One thing I commonly ask patients is, “Do you really want to suffer from reversible pain?”
What about the sensation can we undo? Is it tied up in inflammation? Is it tied up in infection? Are there structural issues that propagate it? Is this an issue about gut permeability and about a reaction to the environment or to foods? Is this something that we can look at, or hormones, at our stress response, whether or not we have a balance of neurotransmitters? All of these things drive this concept of pain. Many of these things patients have full control over.
When we work to unwind pain, we break it into its component parts. Not just those things that drive it, but the sources of pain whether it comes from muscles or tendons or ligaments or nerves or bones or joints.
Each one of those things can have a different intervention associated with it. Perhaps yoga will be the thing most important thing for the person to do, or acupuncture, or chiropractic, working on mindfulness and reframing their perspective.
All of these things can have dramatic impact on how pain is experienced by the individual.
The more we give them control over their experience, the more likely it is that they will not suffer from reversible pain.