If you are reading this because you suffer from chronic pain, let me start by saying that your pain is real! This is true, even if your doctors have been unable to come up with a medical explanation for your pain. Why do I say this? Because both in my practice in Trumpington and Central Cambridge as well as when working as a mental health nurse, I have worked with people who have been told that because the reason for their pain hasn’t been found that they must be making it up.
The additional pain that this causes adds another layer of complexity to the treatment of chronic severe pain.
If the pain is so bad that it prevents the person getting on with their lives I often use the words of a colleague I worked with for nine years when I first came across severe chronic pain which the medical doctors had been unable to find a cause for and ask, “Given that I may not be able to take your pain away, which is better, that it totally controls your life or that you have a much more normal life, doing things despite the pain?”
This is a complex subject, or pain clinics which often have doctors prescribing medication, psychologists, psychiatrists and alternative practitioners all working together would not exist. A quick search on Google will reveal that there are scores if not hundreds of books on the subject ranging in price from just over a fiver to over £150!
So, what is my approach as an aromatherapist?
Firstly, I will during my history taking make sure that there is not a medical condition such as osteoporosis that I need to beware of. This wouldn’t stop me doing massage but it would affect how I did the treatment.
I would almost certainly include Bergamot as part of the treatment for it’s ability to move blocked Qi or energy and treat depression. (Depending on which study you read, between 75% and 90% of those with chronic pain also suffer from depression.) This creates a positive feedback loop as those with depression also experience more pain. I would use Lavender as one of the best oils for pain relief as well as it’s uplifting effect. I would also use, Neroli, Jasmine or Rose oil especially if working with someone who felt that their pain was not believed. Frankincense is an oil I would use to aid acceptance.
For the massage, I have found that working on the bladder meridian is often helpful. This runs up the back of the legs and then either side of the spine. In particular working on the area either side of the spine. This seems to be especially true if the area where the pain is experienced can not be massaged for some reason. There are also acupressure points on the hands and feet that can be helpful with some people.
Like most things in massage, there is not a one size fits all solution so it is important that I ask my clients what works for them and to tell me at once if something seems to make it worse.
I may also suggest that a client sees an acupuncturist or suggest lines of discussion with their doctor if appropriate. On occasion, I may also insist on the client’s GP/consultant approval to work with them.