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511 Saxony Place
Encinitas, CA, 92024
United States

(858) 248 2272

Reach your potential with a unique blend of Physical Therapy, Yoga Therapy, Massage and Essential Oils in Encinitas, CA with Doctor Alison McLean, DPT, ERYT, HHP, C-IAYT.

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10 Ways to Ease Pain When You Have a Flare-Up

Alison McLean

Life happens. Everything can be humming a long great until you lift that extra weight at the gym, or try that fancy yoga posture in class, or you just bend over to help you kid with his homework and oops now you can't move. First determine if ER is warranted and go if needed! Then discover if this is an ongoing issue or new injury. During the first 24-48 hours it is important to create the space for healing. This means resting, supporting yourself, moving slowly and gently and asking for help. Here are 10 tips to help ease your pain, and support the body and mind while healing:

1. That old saying of RICE is still effective and true. Rest, ice, compression if appropriate, and elevation. Usually what is most important and hardest to do is rest! Legs up the Wall or on a chair is a great way to accomplish two things at the same time (elevation and rest) for you over achievers :).

2. After RICE'ing for 10-15 min get up walk around, or (gently move the knees side to side while on your back if you can not walk) for a few minutes. Then lie back down. Repeat this whole cycle every 1-2 Hours. 

3. When not RICE'ing and in between ice sessions, apply essential oils to room temperature skin to support the muscles and joints. Peppermint, panaway, copabia, frankincense, and deep relief are some good examples. Do not put these on right after or right before icing to avoid burning your skin. Be consistent, apply every 2-3 hours (their max window of effectiveness) and cycle with ice to avoid burning. You can dilute with coconut oil.  If you do this round the clock (except for attempting to sleep- see below) in conjunction with light movement, ice and rest you will start to feel better in 48 hours. At this point continue. It's easy to get back to activity too quickly and delay healing. 

4. Take an epsom salt bath with the above mentioned oils. Again this one accomplishes many things at one time, since this type of bath will do more than just clean your skin. The water, salt and oils will soothe sore and taxed muscles. A calming bath will also help to decompress a frayed nervous system. Research shows that those who are able to stimulate the relaxation response, focus on the breath and clam the mind are better able to reduce the frequency, location and intensity of pain. Which leads to next point.

5. Stay calm. Yes, your mental state can exacerbate your pain. If you are freaking out, not to worry you can reverse this. If baths are not your thing, start by taking deep breaths. Feel your belly and ribs move without aggressively forcing, and focus on the exhale especially. Close the eyes and visualize the body healing as the air moves in and out.  Set a timer for 10-20 minutes and just breath and mediate on healing. It will help to stop the freakout and better prepare the mind/body to heal. When the mind is calm, this is also an opportunity to listen to your body. The body will tell you what you need in a given moment to help it to heal. Sometimes you have to work through the layers of the “shoulds or should nots” first….

6. Sleep. It maybe hard due to location/type of pain, but try. Put on soothing music, or the app headspace, use relaxing oil blends, anything to set the tone for relaxation before sleep. You might wake up more frequently because of pain, but do your best to try to go back to sleep. When you sleep the body and mind can really focus on healing due to the physiological cascades and brainwaves that occur while sleeping. 

7. Still having trouble falling asleep? Try setting your self up in a restorative pose where pain is reduced or nonexistent, while diffusing relaxing essential oils like lavender, stress away frankincense, grounding, peace and calming, for example. Set a timer for 10-20 minutes so you don't actually sleep in this position. When the timer goes off, with only the necessary movement, maintain the stillness and support yourself into bed. You can also set yourself up in a restorative pose during the day to reduce pain and keep the nervous system calm.

 Legs Up the Wall. You don’t need all the fancy props, use what you have at home, just make sure you are comfortable.

Legs Up the Wall. You don’t need all the fancy props, use what you have at home, just make sure you are comfortable.

8. Ask for help. This can be a hard one. Asking others for support. Sometimes we feel we always have to be strong, or asking for help can be like admitting a weakness. Those are just stories. Here is the truth, we are all human and non of us are invincible. We work best as humans in community. The definition of community is helping, working together and supporting others in some aspects. So reach out, allow another to take care of you. It can go a long way, for you and them.

9. Did I mention rest? The tendency is to say "I'll just do this lightly" or "I will be careful..." These decisions usually do not end well. I have had numerous patients in my clinic say those exact words only to cause more pain. Light move movement ONLY for just a few minutes at a time. An entire yoga or exercise class is not advised during the first two weeks of a new injury or flare up, even the gentle ones! Why? Because when you are in a group setting you will always be tempted to do more than what your body can handle in the moment, so the risk out ways the good. But, only in those first two weeks. 

10. I have to end with this. Schedule an appointment with a professional. This will ensure you are on the path to healing, and don't set yourself up for future issues.  This step is super important! I often have patients that show up in the office YEARS, after an injury they blew off. At that time it's not necessarily the injury that is hurting, but some other area of the body that was compensating and picking up slack. In other cases it's more than one region that is now in trouble. Sometimes injuries are a fluke thing, but often they are a compound of factors building up to the incident. Figure out the root cause to prevent future occurrences. 

Schedule a free consult to determine if you do have an injury or issue that needs professional help:

You will be so glad you invested your time since I will share with you all that I know to help heal and prevent future injuries.  Hopefully you won't have to use this email any time soon, but if you do there you go.

To help you stay healthy and moving with ease here are some upcoming workshops:

Yoga Therapy for Stress Relief: Reducing Pain for upper back, neck and Shoulders 10/6, 2-4PM, at Prana

Ignite Your Wellness Mini Retreat 10/7. 12:30-4:30, at Yoga Del Mar.

Stay healthy. 

The Epigenetics Myth

Alison McLean

Epigentics came into my life around the same time I was first diagnosed with Lynch Syndrome and then more strongly when I was diagnosed with cancer. Always the seeker I purchased many books, and read many articles on the subject. Epigentics is “the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself” defined by Google. Wikipedia defines it as “the study of heritable phenotype changes that do not involve alterations in the DNA sequence. In more common language epigentics is controlling your external environment (everything from where you live to what you eat, put on your body, lifestyle, exercise etc) to prevent certain genes from turning on and increasing the risk of cancer or heart disease, or some other disease or illness. When there is an awareness about what we put on and in our bodies our health can be positively affected. However, in my experience what is currently written about in books on epigentics and disease prevention, does not provide the full picture about disease and healing.

Epigentics itself is an important field however, there are some problems as to the style, presentation of the information, as well as gaps into the big picture of illness, disease and healing. This can leave those with cancer, or a loved one with a disease feeling isolated, shamed, confused and frustrated.

There are a few issues with some of the articles and books supporting epigentics. First, is they ignore and skip over any hereditary genetic mutations like Lynch or BRCA (which is different than a gene just being turned on). Several of the books I read mentioned that individuals with a hereditary gene mutation only make up a small percentage of cancers- 5% or less. This is mentioned twice in the first 48 pages of The Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton Ph.D, who states “95% of breast cancers are not due to inherited genes.” Personally I believe this is inaccurate, due to gene testing/profiling being relatively new. For example, my grandma lived her whole life with Lynch Syndrome probably (she never had a genetic profile). She had multiple cancers and surgeries, with doctors preaching a healthy lifestyle to her. She listened and lived with shame, blame and guilt thinking her health, diet etc was never good enough, as well as fear about what to feed her grand kids. However, she was healthy, yes she could have improved slight areas, but she Rollerbladed several miles in her 70s or did some type of cardiovascular exercise most days of the week for an hour or two, and cooked 98% of her meals at home with grown vegetables and picked fruit. She actually was beyond her time compared to most females of her generation in actions and thoughts on health. I think there are many individuals with cancer, or cancer survivors who have an undiagnosed gene mutation, like her,  because doctors just do not know. With short times in doctor offices, and multiple specialists it often takes years or generations for the story to come together for a gene mutation diagnosis, like Lynch. However, as more doctors become aware, and more genetic profiling is completed I do believe the percentage of cancers from genetic mutations will increase, which will make several books on epigentics out of date. I e-mailed Dr. Lipton regarding this, and received no response. As someone with a genetic mutation I do not believe all is lost, or there is no hope. I believe we can still learn to listen to our bodies, meditate, and live a healthy lifestyle, and reduce our risks.

The second issue is the language, and tone of several of the articles and books. The tone indicates that the individual with the disease should have been able to prevent, and keep their bodies healthy if they had followed the exact guidelines put forth in the book. Because of this there is a sense of shame, self blame, and guilt associated with receiving a diagnosis such as heart disease or cancer in the community. Or, even the expectation that an individual should be able to heal themselves through diet, lifestyle and mediation without help of western medicine, which can have some huge irreversible consequences. One book even mentions that individuals with cancer have a weakness. As mention in Yogic Management of Cancer by Dr. Swami Nirmalananda. She states “with disease there are weak body systems.... inviting various diseases”. Don't we all have a weakness? How can this be an invitation to disease? This is also an awareness for those of you with a friend going through cancer. They maybe experiencing these emotions, but are afraid to express them due to displaying their "weakness".

I find myself having conversations with other individuals with cancer or diseases saying “cancer is not your fault” or “do not feel guilty relying on western medicine to help heal and become cancer free”. Or other individuals are stressing themselves out trying to have the “perfect diet”, “perfect workout routine” as defined by someone else. Not from what their body's tell them they need. Then the overdoing and restrictiveness combined with stress, actually increase inflammation putting them at higher risk for all sorts of issues including cancer. A paradoxial situation.

 My current cancer prevention- western and alternative modalities

My current cancer prevention- western and alternative modalities

Yes, we need to take responsibility for our health, our bodies, what we put in and outside and if we abuse our bodies, and our emotional state. Awareness is key. This is my passion. However, it is not a guarantee, nor the only factor to keep diseases and injuries away. I know many people, myself included who have been diagnosed with cancer while living a "healthy lifestyle" and doing the inner work of emotional and mental healing and evolution. Now I am not perfect, yes my diet is not 100% pure organic, I store anger in my body unconsciously, and am learning how to more effectively process emotions. But, I am human being learning and evolving just like everyone else. I do not have a faulty weakness, a defect or something wrong with me that lead me to have cancer. I am an imperfect vulnerable human, just like the authors of the books and articles. Sometimes cancer is just part of our journey, and we need western medicine to help heal and prevent in combination with lifestyle and emotional management. It' not anything we did wrong, or could control. I wonder if the tone of some of these books would change if the author themselves went through the journey of a cancer patient? It's not just the cancer diagnosis that makes this journey difficult, it's all that cancer brings with it. It's the decisions, doubt, ups and downs, procedures, complete changes in schedule and what is known, unknowing, lack of control, fear, just to name a few.....

Maybe that's the biggest lesson I learned from my cancer journey. We only get one shot here on this merry go round called earth, and we might as well take some risks, live from and follow our hearts, as well as, own up to areas we can improve. Maybe this the best way to prevent cancer and diseases after all? When we are in alignment with our purpose, then ideally we are supported in whatever way life evolves. Cancer or no cancer. So yes, eat your kale, get to the gym, but also take a lazy lounge day and have your donuts once in a while too. Listen and love yourself moment to moment to determine what it is you really need. If you have cancer believe you can heal, love yourself (even the part with cancer) and create a support community that also believes you can heal. There is power and hope in that more than anything else. There are some wonderful books supporting the power of the mind and belief on overcoming. However, let go of the shaming if you do need help, and realize it's not a perfect path. Because perfect environment or not, there are no guarantees, we are not invincible. S**t of all sorts happen so we might as well enjoy the ride while we are here on this planet earth. Even if the moments are not perfect, we can still learn how to enjoy each one and make them "perfect" in our own way. When I do this I can truly experience appreciation and gratitude for all that I do have, genetic mutation or not.

If you would like help developing a 1:1 wellness plan schedule a free consult here: