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Hugs For Pain Relief

Hugs over prescription opiods

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Original post can be found here.

I just love hugging my newborn granddaughter and look forward to the day she hugs me in return. Something happens to me, something transformative. Honestly, it feels like an I.V. morphine-love drip releasing into my veins. Who needs opioids?

Indeed, research shows me that the love drip is called oxytocin. Some experts say that there are some health-related benefits of hugging to the release of oxytocin, often called “the bonding hormone” because it promotes attachment in relationships, including mothers and their newborn babies. Oxytocin is made primarily in the hypothalamus in the brain, and some of it is released into the bloodstream through the pituitary gland. But some of it remains in the brain, where it influences mood, behavior and physiology.

In a U.S. News article “The Benefits of Hugging” written by Stacy Colino, she states that a hug a day, just might keep the doctor away and that besides helping you feel close and connected to people you care about, it turns out that hugs can bring a host of health benefits to your body and mind.

Colino referred to psychologist Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine who explained how hugging fits in: “When you’re hugging or cuddling with someone, [he or she is] stimulating pressure receptors under your skin in a way that leads to a cascade of events including an increase in vagal activity, which puts you in a relaxed state.”

The hugging and oxytocin release that comes with it can then have trickle-down effects throughout the body, causing a decrease in heart rate and a drop in the stress hormones cortisol and norepinephrine.

There’s also some evidence that oxytocin can improve immune function and pain tolerance — pain that many have turned to opioids for relief. With regard to moods oxytocin is known to increase levels of feel-good hormones such as serotonin and dopamine, which may be why it has calming effects. “It reduces depression and anxiety, and it may have an effect on attentional disorders,” Field says. Again, these are symptoms that many have turned to opioids for relief.

In 1982 Ruth Harris started the “Hugs Not Drugs” project and was ultimately sponsored by Nancy Reagan in 1991 whose own slogan was “Just Say No” as part of the campaign on America’s war on drugs.

All of this is not to say opioids don’t have their place, but today there’s an even bigger drug epidemic and an even bigger war on opioids. Imagine where we’d be today if we’d practiced a little more hugging. “Like diet and exercise, you need a steady daily dose of hugging,” Field says. But the quality of the hugging counts, too. “If you get a flimsy hug, that’s not going to do it,” Field says. “You need a firm hug” to stimulate oxytocin release. 

So starting today, why not reach out and hug someone; what’s it going to hurt? But first, try wrapping your arms around yourself and giving a gentle but firm squeeze. You’ll be ready to go out and peddle some “Hugs Not Opioids.”

I’m headed over now to cuddle my granddaughter. I might even change a diaper!

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Improve Range Of Motion, Decrease Pain.

Squirel stretching practicing range of motion

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Stiff muscles and joints are a part of life. Aging may play a factor, or an injury. For many, it’s just that stupid chair at work! In any case, I found a general rule of thumb very useful for many of the patients that I treat for pain (not only pain, but this is a good starting point) which is very useful and helps immensely in the treatment process. It’s a simple rule of thumb that I keep in mind, and it is “increase range of motion, decrease your pain.”

With an understanding that this does not apply to every patient, I have seen many people benefit from simply improving their range of motion, in particular the lower extremities.

skeleton arm jointWhat is Range of Motion you ask?

“The full movement potential of a joint, usually its range of flexion and extension. For example, a knee might lack 10 degrees of full extension due to an injury.1

Why is this important?

In an age of opioid epidemic and with very limited options on the pharmacological medicine, natural treatment options provide a great solution to helping individuals in the treatment of pain. You’d be surprise how many times very important clinical findings are missed, such as overly tensed muscles and restricted motions. So I’ve made it a point to use all the diagnostic tools at my disposal to get a better idea of the pathology (The cause or the origin of the disease).

Hey, how do you know this stuff? Do you do this like everyday?

Yes I do. I practice in the cities of Pasadena, Downey, and Burbank. Based in Los Angeles, California, but I call the world my home. Yes, I am looking forward to traveling more and helping more people where I can. I see anywhere from 5 to 14 patients a day,  dealing primarily with pain management in the worker’s compensation arena and private insurance sector. So I do have an opportunity to see and treat people first hand, and the goal is to always help patients move to the next step and improve their lives.

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, it makes sense. TCM explains that we have energetic pathways called medians which travel superior to inferior and vice versa, meaning from top to bottom and from the bottom to the top. These meridians carry what we call “Qi” and “blood” to different areas of the body. Injury to these areas causes the pathway to work inefficiently and malfunction, causing pain, soreness, stiffness, or redness.

How do we approach this? By unblocking the channels and creating a better flow of energy, improving the circulation. Acupressure works very well and is why I focused my area of expertise on this therapy. But it is a conjunction of acupuncture, acupressure, herbs, stretching, heat, nutrition, and sleep…yes, sleep, that will work best.

This is not intended to be a medical diagnosis, so please see your healthcare provider and ask them about natural ways to help improve your movement for you health.

  1. 2016. Medicinenet.com. http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=5208