Managing Chronic Pain – Integrated Approach

Ayurveda, the ancient traditional medicine of India, defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and spiritual well-being. The focus of Ayurveda is on a predictive, preventive and personalized medicine. This is obtained through a low-cost personalized counseling about lifestyle measures (diet, activities, etc.), trying to involve the patient directly in the process of healing, increasing his self-awareness and good relationships with other people and nature. Prevention strategies pragmatically suggested by Ayurveda – including factors such as promotion of health education, individual awareness, integration of spirituality and ethics in healthcare system- may be applied in public health management, in order to improve perceived and objective life quality, promote healthy aging, limit drugs use (avoiding expensive side-effects) and reduce chronic diseases social costs. Ayurveda has a universal-coverage, being person-centered and consequently intercultural.

Ayurveda is a personalized medicine whose principle is based on patient individual constitution (prakrti) and relationships. Its focuses are a predictive, preventive medicine, a well-respected concepts in modern molecular medicine. Thus, we propose that Ayurveda and Western medicine may be tunefully integrated with reciprocal benefit. Finally Ayurveda is based on universal principles – not limited to a particular ethnic group or culture- being both person-centered and intercultural and it can be used as an integration of the existent healthcare systems as well as a template to rescue local traditional values in order to meet the needs of different populations.

Chronic pain is a complex phenomenon that causes a significant disruption in the lives of those affected. Chronic pain is difficult to treat and challenges healthcare professionals’ abilities to implement effective treatments. Therefore, chronic pain sufferers often seek complementary alternative medicine therapies such as meditation. Literature reviews have examined studies using mindfulness-based stress reduction program as an intervention for a variety of health problems. However, no reviews exist looking at a specific patient population’s utilization of meditation-based programs.

To impact the progress of chronic disease, Ayurveda has long held that specific stressors at the root of degenerative processes driving its progress must be identified and removed. It maintains that, once this is done, our bodies’ remarkable capacity to begin healing will begin to take effect. An intriguing question from the perspective of western science is why this should be possible. Allopathic medicine tends to propagate the viewpoint that the only hope for cure of a condition lies in a drug intervention.

It is clear that they must be considered fundamental to the scientific investigation of Integrative Medicine – because in its simplest and earliest definition, Integrative Medicine was simply described as a system of medicine, which regarded the whole person, including body, mind and spirit, to be of fundamental importance; that neglect of this fact does patients substantial damage and can even have a placebo effect; and because of this, pathology responds better when a Holistic approach is taken, and people are treated as persons, rather than as biochemical machines.

The fact of spontaneous recovery is well known. The placebo effect is now one of the best established effects known to modern scientific medicine – because all random control trials are placebo controlled. Integrative medicine recognizes this, and ensures that patients have the benefit of a placebo effect that they are surely entitled to expect, rather than it being negated for some reason.

The fact that spontaneous recovery is possible is well understood, and certain aspects of how to induce it and negate it. Recent scientific studies indicate that it works far more rapidly than previously imagined. But to promote it most effectively, lifestyle factors that have provoked the development of a patient’s chronic condition must be addressed. The body’s natural healing abilities, activated in the placebo effect, can then be promoted. These studies indicate, therefore, that our health and well-being can be vastly improved by integrative medicine. Observing these rules will make significant differences to the power of any therapy, increasing the rapidity with which its influences are felt.

One particular study has reported extraordinary increases in a factor relating to general health. Almost as an aside to the study of prostate cancer, further data published in Lancet Oncology demonstrated associated increases in the activity of telomerase, the enzyme partly responsible for maintaining general health: lengthening telomeres, tail ends of chromosomes, reverses processes associated with disease and aging. As the authors point out, no chemical drug has yet been found that can affect this. Yet, it would appear to be a natural process – appropriate habits of diet and lifestyle, which bring physiological function back into balance and harmony, may suffice to make it happen. No drug is needed!

The parent study to this great discovery was in itself a landmark, using state-of-the-art, high-tech procedures to establish the value of essentially Ayurvedic procedures, Ahara (diet) and Vihara (lifestyle). It used simple interventions that are both low-tech and low-cost: integrative medicine’s plant-based diets (like those in Ayurveda) typical of integrative medicine, combined with psychosocial support, and with lifestyle factors often including practice of (essentially Vedic) yoga and meditation.

Study showed that the practices incorporated into these treatments can alter regulated levels of expression in hundreds of genes in only a few months. Sophisticated ‘microchip’ technologies find them both turned off, ‘downregulated’, and turned on, ‘upregulated’. Remarkably, genes that are turned up consistently are protective ones, while genes turned down are those associated with disease e.g. cancer, heart disease and inflammation. This constitutes prima facie evidence for the body’s natural ability to heal itself, something which all proponents of traditional, natural systems of medicine from Charaka to Nagarjuna and Hippocrates have emphasized.

The same lifestyle changes that prevent or reverse heart disease also help prevent or reverse many other chronic diseases as well. The principle behind successful lifestyle intervention is that joy, pleasure and freedom are sustainable, while deprivation and austerity are not. When you eat a healthier diet, quit smoking, exercise, meditate and have more love in your life, your brain receives more blood and oxygen, you think more clearly, have more energy and need less sleep. The result is that brains grow so many new neurons that they become measurably heavier in a relatively short time period. The face similarly receives more blood, its skin becomes less wrinkled and glows more. The heart receives an increased flow of blood: stamina improves, heart disease may even be reversed. When sexual organs receive more blood, potency increases – Viagra itself is a circulation-increasing drug.

The primary need is to transmit the vision of possibilities, and to give those in authority confidence that the goods will be reliably delivered. Transmitting vision is the classic role of leadership. The time has come for Integrative Medicine to take a leadership role, and to lay out clearly its possibilities so that its programs can be tested on wide segments of the population.

Madhavi H. Rabadia

Lecturer Dept. Dravyaguna,

Indian Institute of Ayurvedic Pharmaceutical Sciences,

Gujarat Ayured University,

Jamnagar – 361008.

Mail id

Mobile no. 09426984345



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