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Natural Awakenings Tucson

Conquering Chronic Pain in Tucson

Jun 02, 2017 11:52AM ● By Michelle Bense

cain in our bodies for various reasons, some of us are unfortunately plagued with chronic pain. Many live most of their lives in pain and discomfort, relying on prescription or over-the-counter drugs to help ease the aches. However, there are plenty of holistic and natural modalities that could potentially be the solution for chronic pains, and they’re available right here in Tucson.

Detox Therapy

As a chronic pain sufferer, Debbie Shaw, owner of Alternatives in Health Care Detox Therapy Spa (, created her spa as a way to help other people deal with pain and weight issues. Fibromyalgia and myofascial pain syndrome left her exhausted, overweight and in debilitating pain. After decades of trying different products and therapies to “get her life back”, she found a combination that worked extremely well for her. She now keeps herself highly functional with a few go-to ideas.

Her first move was to detoxify her body, then “seriously” clean up her diet. Shaw, an aesthetician and board-certified chiropractic assist, now avoids gluten, caffeine, nitrites, sulfides and sulfates as much as possible, and she only drinks herbal teas and alkaline water. Just these things helped her lose weight, think again, have more energy and decreased her pain level by about 80 percent.

Shaw also regularly gets massages, acupuncture and chiropractic care. Far infrared therapy in any form helps relieve pain quickly, and fascia blasting has been a tremendous way to remove knots and tightness in her whole body, leaving her more flexible. CBD products, colloidal silver, omega oils and other vitamins and minerals are part of her supplemental arsenal, many of which she carries at her clinic—and all of the therapies that she uses are also available at her spa.

Feldenkrais Method

Tammy Rosen Wilbur, Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner at Tucson Feldenkrais Center (, shares that the Feldenkrais Method of somatic education is highly effective at eliminating chronic pain by releasing chronic contractions, bringing the body into alignment and interrupting habitual movement patterns that cause the pain.

With this gentle yet effective technique, students are guided through a series of movements in an Awareness Through Movement class, or are gently manipulated in a private, Functional Integration session to retrain the brain and nervous system. “When change is made in the brain and nervous system, the chronic patterns of holding, bad posture or poor biomechanics can be permanently resolved,” says Wilbur.

Many students of Feldenkrais Method are able to avoid invasive surgeries and make full recoveries, often seeing immediate results. Those who have already experienced a surgery have used Feldenkrais Method to speed their recovery and regain full motion of their joints.

Wilbur completed four years of training in the Feldenkrais Method at the Feldenkrais Institute of San Diego in 2010. As a professional modern dancer, teacher, choreographer and former dance studio owner, she is intimately aware of the importance of good biomechanics for optimal performance. She has extensive experience with stroke recovery, joint replacement recovery, back pain, TMJ, feet/ankle problems and high performers like dancers or athletes.

MyoFascial Release

“For most chronic issues, I have found adhered fascia is involved,” says Zachary M. Saber, MyoFascial Release Expert at Transformational Medicine PLLC ( “Muscles are restricted, causing heavy, painful areas that seem to never heal.” 

While there are many remedies, there are actually some that assist in eliminating pains immediately, allowing one to actually get more help to remove and repair the cause. According to Saber, liquid calcium magnesium is an immediate remedy for sore muscles and joints. Ice packs on an inflamed area will reduce pain immediately, then allow the patient to resolve the cause. Once fascia is released, muscles can then be stretched.

“From there, you can strengthen, use PT functions to increase use and strength. Breaking up the scar tissue, the adhesions in the body, immediately resolves chronic pains,” enthuses Saber.

Integrative Low-Level Laser Therapy

A licensed acupuncturist and director of HanLing Acupuncture Healing Center, Inc. (, Steve Liu says that one of the most common chronic pain disorders is caused by soft tissue injuries such as tendonitis, muscle strain and ligament sprain.

“Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), icing and cortisone injections usually are prescribed to relieve pain. They do rid inflammation and ease the pain quickly the first time they are used, but when applied frequently, they lose their effectiveness and the acute disorder becomes a chronic pain condition,” explains Liu.

At HanLing, his special technique integrates traditional Chinese acupuncture, cross-fiber massage and low-level laser therapy. Liu was an electrical and laser engineer in Silicon Valley, and has combined photobiomodulation therapy with acupuncture to treat acute and chronic pain conditions since 2000. Besides practicing acupuncture and laser acupuncture, photobiomodulation therapy, Functional Medicine and Chinese herbal medicine, Liu also coaches patients on a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle.

Neuromuscular Therapy

Neuromuscular Therapy (NMT) is an effective therapy patients could add as a way to cope with physical pain and improve the outcomes of medical interventions. NMT is a soft tissue therapy that focuses on tender areas in muscles, referral pain and nerve entrapment/compression.

Stephanie Dixon, a licensed massage therapist and certified neuromuscular therapist at Adaptive Massage Therapy (, has almost 10 years of experience working with chronic pain and injury rehab.

“Tender spots in muscles are usually ischemic, meaning there is less blood flow to the area. NMT restores circulation to the sensitive tissue so the muscle can get oxygen again,” explains Dixon. “Referral pain is often associated with ischemia, especially if the pain has been present for a long time. NMT helps slow down and reset the nerves that are firing pain signals.”

That is valuable for chronic pain patients whose nervous systems may be sensitive from injuries or illnesses. Muscles that are always contracted can put pressure on nerves, causing pain, numbness or tingling. By directly treating the muscle, NMT relieves the compression. While NMT can treat specific muscle concerns and relieve pain, it doesn’t strengthen muscles or cure chronic illness, but effectively manages painful symptoms. It can help patients stick with physical therapy and it’s safe and gentle, so it can be received on most medications.


Patti Thompson, an Adult Nurse Practitioner and Certified Medical Support Clinical Hypnotherapist at Sage Path Therapy (, suggests hypnotherapy as a method for dealing with and getting to the causes of pain. Hypnotherapy offers a variety of techniques to reduce, and in some cases, eliminate chronic pain. It uses natural brain wave patterns, also found during sleep and meditation, to change the perception of pain and alter the body’s response to it.

“A recent National Institutes of Health study suggests that ‘self-management’ programs are more effective than traditional drug-based treatments in improving the perception of pain and improving quality of life for those who suffer,” says Thompson, who has 40 years of conventional and alternative healthcare experience. “There are many aspects to self-management, including the ability to control pain levels and participate in daily life. Hypnotherapy is proven to be an effective tool in this effort.”

Thompson offers group workshops and individual sessions to teach self-hypnosis for pain management, anxiety, insomnia and other problems associated with chronic pain.

Back Pains

“The back is the strongest part of our bodies, and yet, it is one of the most common ailments. Between 70 and 80 percent of most industrialised people will have some sort of back or neck problem in their lives,” says Othon Molina, Ph.D., licensed massage therapist (

According to Molina, health is an ongoing process and constant exercise is essential to maintain it. With loss of flexibility and ongoing stress, we can throw our back out. When disks buldge from too much pressure or tear from a severe strain, they protrude and press on the nerves. This major problem can be corrected, but it takes time. The longer the problem, the more need for manual therapy (medical massage and corrective exercises) to correct the structure.

Strength is the final element necessary for a healthy back. “If you lack exercise and your muscles have no tone, or if you only do certain exercises, you’re probably out of muscular balance. The most common problem is weak abdominal muscles and tight back muscles, which put more stress on the lower back,” explains Molina. “During an acute condition, see a doctor. Often some wobenzyme (natural) or even muscle relaxers, ice and bed rest can correct most episodes.”

Overcoming Opioid Addiction

Those who want to replace their current pain management plans with any of these therapies may find themselves stuck in an endless loop of prescription drugs. Dr. Lance J. Morris, with a private practice at Wholistic Family Medicine (, says it is important to remember that most drugs are not designed to fix or cure medical conditions. Usually, they are used to treat and reduce symptoms, often with no regard to the underlying cause of the problem, which can lead to temporary suppression of the symptom, and potentially opioid addiction.

One of the most important nutrients in dealing with addiction is niacin or B3. Taken orally, it induces a vasodilating effect called a “niacin flush”. According to Morris, “This flush feels like heat from deep in the body with skin flushing and blanching, followed by itching, and usually lasts about 15 minutes. With pain, particularly pain caused by narcotic withdrawal, this ‘counter irritant’ effect can be very soothing.”

Niacin is a precursor of the co-enzyme nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), a substance given intravenously that can stop withdrawal reactions, including pain and cure addiction. Alternating intravenous, high dose vitamin C with minerals like magnesium and potassium plus B vitamins, the results are even more dramatic.

Michelle Bense is a freelance editor and writer based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Connect at [email protected].

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