Tag Archives: migraines

How I Came To Embrace Alternative Medicine

It all began when I got back from a two-and-a-half week vacation in the United States last January. As I resumed my normal routine of running, yoga and the daily schlep to both kids’ schools, something didn’t feel quite right. Specifically, there was a throbbing pain on the left side of my bum.

I’d had recurring trouble with my piriformis muscle before, so I began doing some stretches that I’d learned during my last round of physiotherapy. But after things got so excruciating that I had to give up yoga and started popping painkillers on a regular basis, I booked in to see an osteopath at a nearby facility. (I’d seen an osteopath successfully for a different injury a few years back.)

Osteopathy didn’t work this time around. The pain didn’t go away. Instead, over the next few months, it migrated to other parts of my back – upper and lower. There was one point when I could hardly walk. Meanwhile, my migraines – which have grown in intensity over the past decade or so – were getting progressively more frequent, despite changing – and upping – my meds.

Enter Pilates. At the advice of a friend who’d also had severe back pain, I began doing intensive Pilates and massage with a physio-therapist in my neighborhood three to four times a week throughout July and August. She also did acupuncture on my back and neck and gave me this weird magnetic patch to wear on my back on the airplane and when I sat at my desk for long intervals.

The upshot? I feel fantastic. Sure, I spend 40 minutes every morning doing back exercises (because eventually we all turn into our mothers.) But other than the occasional twitch to remind me that I still have something called a Lattisimus Dorsi muscle and it isn’t necessarily my friend, I feel really great. I’ve resumed running three times a week. And most importantly of all, I haven’t had a headache in 16 days…which must be a record for since moving to England five years ago.

I wouldn’t say that the cumulative effect of this experience has been to make me an evangelist for alternative medicine, but it has certainly moved me much closer in that direction. I’ve never had an issue with popping pills to address aches, pains and all manner of illness, and I still don’t. But I now feel that alternative medicine – whether used alone or in conjunction with traditional medicinal cures – can be hugely helpful.

And apparently, I’m not alone. More than one third of adults and nearly 12% of children in the United States now rely on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), according to a large Federal survey released in 2008.  Non-vitamin, non-mineral natural products are the most commonly used CAM therapy among adults. But use has also increased for things like deep breathing exercises, meditation, massage therapy and yoga. What all of this suggests is that CAM is becoming normalized within our health care system, as reflected in the fact that several CAM provisions were included in President Obama’s health care reform bill.

So the next time that back gives you some trouble and you reach for the Vicodin, give it a second thought and call a physical therapist instead. You might find yourself pleasantly surprised.

 

How about you? Have you ever tried alternative medicine and found it useful…or not?

 

Image: Pain by Racchio via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

 

 

Tips For Adulthood: Five Grown Up Beers To Drink

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

I’ve always been a beer drinker. In my youth, when quantity tended to weigh more heavily on my mind than quality, I wasn’t terribly discerning about what I drank. Budweiser…National Bohemian…Coors Light – it was all the same to me.

As I’ve grown older, however, I’ve come to be much pickier about what I drink. This is partly a function of my growing awareness that hangovers in adulthood aren’t nearly as much fun as they used to be. I also suffer from  migraines, and – for better or for worse – I can no longer drink anything but beer (and only one at that), unless I want to bring on a bad headache. And, let’s face it. I didn’t want to be another one of those middle-aged women drinking to excess.

But here’s the good news. Now that I’m confined to only one type of alcohol – and very limited quantities therein – I am far choosier when it comes to what kind beer I’m willing to drink.

Here are five “grown up” beers that I can recommend:

1. Kasteel Cru. This is actually a champagne beer – (not to be confused with Miller High Life, the so-called “Champagne of Beers.”) It’s made of champagne yeast that comes from malted barley. I sampled it the other night when my husband and I went out to celebrate our anniversary and we wanted to try something different. It’s got a clean, elegant taste and if you love normal champagne but it doesn’t love you, this is the beer for you. It’s also the ideal alcoholic drink for those of us who can’t decide if we’re really high-brow or low-brow in our tastes.

2. Badger Golden Glory – Admittedly, this sounds like some kind of moonshine you might get from your distant uncle’s farm in Appalachia. But it’s actually a quite refreshing premium ale subtly flavored with a hint of peach. And amazingly enough – despite the peach extract – it doesn’t come off as at all fru-fru. One of my more “manly” guy friends recommended it and I’ve been sold ever since.

3. Corona – Here’s a beer that never goes out of style. When I first began drinking it as an adult, I used to feel horribly guilty – like I’d never quite outgrown that Spring Break in Cancun during my junior year in college. (Yup, been there; done that; got the tee-shirt.) But when it’s like 100 degrees outside and you need a cool pick-me-up, there’s nothing better than a Corona with lime. Click here for easy instructions on how to put the lime into a Corona. If nothing else, you’ll score lots of “cool points” with those who’ve never seen this done before (speaking of not growing out of Spring Break…).

4. Daas Blonde – I love Belgian beer. But this one – which I was recently introduced to via my organic grocer – is a real gem. It’s a premium organic Belgian beer that uses fresh Wallonian spring water, organic wheat and barley and is certified organic by the Belgian and UK Soil associations. Because, really. If you’re going to consume all those calories, you need to know that it’s also good for the planet. But, seriously folks. Delicious.

5. Beer Ice Cream. OK, I haven’t actually tried this one yet. I only learned about it last week when my colleague Joann Weiner talked about it on her post about the unusually relaxing week she spent in Washington, DC and beer ice cream made a cameo. I’ve subsequently learned that beer ice cream has been around the U.K. for seven years now. I’m terribly excited to try it. As someone who loves ice cream *and* beer, I don’t think I’ve been this excited about a twofer since they invented the Fluffernutter sandwich!

Image: Hefe Weizen (Wheat Beer) from DOS82 via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Tips For Adulthood: Five Reasons To Confront Pain

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

I went to see a neurologist last week. I suffer from migraines. And while they aren’t nearly as bad as those endured by some of my friends – i.e. I don’t vomit, I’m not light-sensitive, etc. – they aren’t pleasant.

I really should have done this awhile ago. My migraines have been steadily increasing in frequency and intensity for several years now. But you know how it is:  you need to go see your G.P./primary care doctor, get a referral, and then block out the time to actually deal with the problem, rather than just suffering through.

But because I really didn’t want to overdose on Ibuprofen, I finally took the plunge and went to see a specialist. (I also finally broke down and went to see the dentist about a different but equally persistent problem I’ve been having with my teeth.)

If – like me – you’re avoidance-prone where pain is concerned, here are five reasons not to ignore the problem any longer:

1. It won’t go away on its own. Rather, it will just get worse. In the case of my teeth, it turns out that I wasn’t just clenching – as I’d long believed – but grinding. The dentist could actually show me where I’d worn down my front right canine tooth so that it was no longer pointy, but flattened out from grinding so much over time. That’s not good, especially since we all know that smiles are key to a happy marriage.

2. The fix is often quite simple. I think one reason that many of us put off going to the doctor to address an ongoing problem is that we fear that the fix will either not exist (why bother?) or be too complicated (requiring many more time-consuming doctor’s office visits.) And sometimes that’s true. But a lot of times, you just need a new medication (or mouth guard). That proved true for me in both cases. So it’s actually more efficient to go early to the doctor, rather than spending all that money on painkillers that don’t actually do the trick.

3. Pain feeds on itself. I have a pretty high threshold for pain. Which is why I tend to wait until a limb falls off before I go and see a doctor. (Even as I write this, I have a pain I’m ignoring in my upper left shoulder – a reminder that I ought to be stretching!) But even if it’s manageable, pain tends to feed on itself. It makes you tense. You become irritable. It’s distracting. You sleep less well. (The National Sleep Foundation reports that 2/3 of chronic pain sufferers experience sleep problems). So it’s better just to take the plunge and eliminate the pain effectively once and for all.

4. It can lead to other positive changes in your life. As you know, I’m a big believer in yoga for all sorts of reasons. But in addition to the fact that my life coach told me to do it, another reason that I do yoga is that physical therapist I saw for my Piriformis Syndrome told me that he thought it would help. I’d already done yoga when I saw him, but had stopped because of the pain in my, um…ass. He reminded me that yoga would actually help control that pain, not aggravate it. So I resumed yoga, and it turns out he was right.

5. You get ideas for blog posts. When I was in the neurologist’s office last week, we talked about what I do for a living. I actually joked with him that he should “Stay tuned for a post on visiting the Neurologist.” Et voilà!

Image: Headache by ehaver via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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