Dr. Shirley Zabol is a naturopathic doctor using natural products and complementary treatments to treat short-term and chronic pain. Here, her top recommendations, which she customizes to each person’s individual needs.
1. Acupuncture is based on traditional Chinese medicine and seeks to “open up the body’s lines of energy, or chi, pathways, to allow the dispersement of pain and inflammation,” explains Zabol. “When energy circulates, there is less pain.” For patients who are receptive to this treatment, Zabol uses slender acupuncture needles, gently placed at various locations on the body to improve energy flow. In some cases, painful conditions can be resolved in just a few sessions. Others need regular visits on a long-term basis.
2. Hot/cold hydrotherapy is a treatment used to manage pain and swelling with an acute minor injury. Heat expands and opens the blood vessels; cold contracts it. “You’re opening and closing blood vessels, flushing out inflammation and stagnation,” says Zabol. “At home, you can do a shower or, if you want to isolate your foot or hands, assemble a bowl of hot water (hot to the touch but not uncomfortable) and a bowl of ice water. Do three minutes hot water followed by two minutes cold. Repeat this three times a session. Do three sessions a day.”
3. Remove inflammatory “nightshade” foods. Certain foods, know as nightshade foods – eggplant, potatoes, red and green peppers – contain a component that ramps up your body’s reaction to inflammation. Help your body ease inflammation by avoiding these foods.
4. Add foods and supplements that calm symptoms. “For arthritis, add powerful healing foods to your diet like garlic, ginger and turmeric, which have natural inflammatory properties.” suggests Zabol. “Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines are naturally abundant in these ingredients. Bone broth also helps reduce inflammation. Supplements like glucosamine, curcumin and MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) are really good for treating chronic pain. They don’t take away the arthritis, but it retards the process,” says Zabol. You need to keep taking these supplements to maintain their effect.