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Does holistic pain relief actually work?

We’ve been conditioned to reach for drugs as soon as symptoms strike. However, holistic pain specialist Sophia Kupse believes there are other options...
Does holistic pain relief actually work?
February 13, 2017   |    Sophia Kupse

Pain is your body’s way of letting you know it’s been damaged or something is wrong. We’ve all experienced it and usually take immediate action to help put things right. Emotional pain, on the other hand, is a by-product of either short or long-term psychological conditions, including stress, anxiety or depression, often brought on by life events.

Sometimes, people struggling with pain will turn to a medical solution, such as painkillers or antidepressants, without addressing the underlying causes. But a holistic approach to relieving pain is important for recovery, as it means the root cause is being treated, as opposed to just the symptom.

As a holistic pain specialist, I have seen people every day in my practice, for over 20 years, who have been down the medical route, but still cannot find a reason for their pain.

According to the Health and Safety Executive Labour Force survey (2014/2015), stress, depression, anxiety, musculoskeletal disorders and back pain result in the loss of more than nine million working days a year. But new studies published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine suggest our most frequently-used strong medications are not only ineffective, they may even be dangerous.


It is important to recognise different levels of pain, which fit in two classifications…

Acute pain is short-term pain of less than 12 weeks’ duration; chronic pain is defined as continuous long-term pain that either lasts more than 12 weeks, or persists for an unusual length of time following trauma or surgery, or due to conditions including osteoarthritis.

If the cause of pain can’t be put down to physical trauma, or a diagnosed condition or autoimmune disease, it’s likely to be from inflammation in the muscles – created by accumulated lactic acid – which has formed knots that are putting pressure on the sensory nerves. There are three main habitual or environmental causes of inflammation: dehydration, lack of movement and sugar. It is essential to address these factors and many people have alleviated their symptoms through following an anti-inflammatory diet.

In my experience, it is also important that a client recognises where and when their pain originated. For example, one client of mine had suffered from chronic back pain for more than 10 years, which had led to sciatica (pain caused by irritation or compression of a spinal nerve root). It was only after we got to the cause of the pain, which was related to his difficult relationship with his mother, that we could begin to restore his health. He worked on letting go of the past and learned to accept that his mother’s negative behaviour towards him was not his fault, but rather, it was related to how she had been rejected by her own parents. Following this, his pain healed within days and it never came back.

However, it’s worth remembering that chronic pain can be debilitating and not straightforward to treat. But exploring the mind/body connection is important.


Different people ‘hold’ stress in various ways; some hold it in their minds. They may worry so much about a problem they can’t think clearly. Negative thoughts activate adrenaline and cortisol, our body’s ‘fight or flight’ response. If you do not use it quickly, it converts to lactic acid, building knots and pressure pockets in the biggest muscle groups of the back, increasing pain.

Negative memories get trapped in the biggest muscle groups in the body – mainly the neck, shoulders and back – and when untreated, they lead to pain. You may then tense your back muscles, which can, in turn, trigger lower back pain.

Positive thoughts, on the other hand, release the good endorphins oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine, which have a healing effect on the mind and body, keeping the muscles in a relaxed state and reducing pain.


Indeed, there is now plenty of research to suggest the answer to chronic pain lies not with drugs, but inside our brains through changing our expectations about pain. There has never been a greater need or time for the holistic health approach.

Pain-Free: Easy Steps To A Happier Healthier You by Sophia Kupse is out now on Amazon (paperback £9.99), The Muscle Whisperer


As part of an overall pain management regime, the following have been shown to help treat acute and chronic pain:

Stay positive: Negative emotions are associated with pain that is more disabling. Daily meditation can help refocus the mind towards a more positive state and create some distance from thoughts.

Bach pain: Listening to classical music has a profound impact on the brain. In 2011, researchers at York University found that listening to the complex melodies of Bach or Mozart is more effective at reducing pain levels than many other sorts of music.

Keep moving: Creating a strong core will help alleviate lower and mid back pain. Movement helps to reduce pain by ‘unfreezing’ the body, allowing the pockets of lactic acid accumulating in the myofascial layer to break down and release stored pain.

Light relief: Carrying too much weight, puts pressure on the skeletal system, leading to pain. Drinking more water will help discharge toxins that add to pain and reduce inflammation in the body.

Pain release: Eliminating sugar from your diet will also lead to a reduction in pain. Following an anti-inflammatory diet involves getting your
omega-3s, which work similarly to aspirin. Introduce nuts, cold-water fish, avocados and whole grains into your diet. Turmeric is also effective for treating inflammation.

An integrated approach: This specialised treatment involves using volcanic heat to discharge toxins, ice marble to reset muscle memory and then manipulation to restore oxygenated blood and nutrients to the muscles. Also, identifying what negative thoughts the mind is going back to, will help prevent the ongoing creation of pain.


Research shows rest may not be the best treatment for back pain. Remaining active is the way to help prevent the pain recurring.

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