Pain

Dr Ronald Livingston discusses the homeopathic approach

Pain is perhaps the most widespread and arresting symptom of which  patients complain. This makes it particularly suitable to illustrate the  action of individual homeopathic medicines.Defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “suffering or distress”, it could  be described as awareness of disturbance of equilibrium, ranging from  slight discomfort or unpleasantness, soreness, tenderness and aching to  agony. Much attention is given nowadays in pain clinics to the underlying  source and explanation of pain and its function. The central nervous  system contains nerve paths concerned predominantly either with muscular  activity or sensation. It is the sensory part of the nervous system  with which we are concerned. Physiologists sub-divide the two types of  pain into protopatic or crude pain and epicritic or more subtle forms of  pain which are conveyed through different pathways in the nervous  system. The ordinary approach to this is highly material, even when concerned  with matters of the emotions and the mind. We are all accustomed to  describe everything in terms of weights, measures and calibrations, to  fragment and analyse events and problems into ever smaller parts, rather  than consider them as different parts of a whole within which all  aspects combine, building up into a harmonised totality. It is in the latter manner that the homeopathic physician considers  pain and other subjective, emotional and psychological states of  indisposition or illness.

Instinctive 

Pain, we consider, is protective in character – one of the ways in which  nature expresses the patient’s needs. Without pain we would not survive  very long. Our vulnerability to all sorts of influences adverse to our  well­being, especially physical dangers like burns, cuts and other  injuries would be vastly increased. Our instinctive reaction to anything  unpleasant, whether physical or mental, is to withdraw from it.In practice we describe pain – emotional or physical – under a  variety of headings, each of which suggests to us the probable need for a  particular homeopathic remedy best suited to that particular kind of  pain within the overall range of the patient’s temperament and  character. For instance, an aching pain is almost certain to respond to  Arnica. A sharp cutting pain like that inflicted by a clean razor edge  responds to Staphisagria. The pain of a sting or stab with a small point  of entry, as for instance from stepping on a rusty nail, responds to  Ledum especially if the pain is relieved by cold.Pain resulting from a blow to the soft tissues of the eye is  enormously relieved by Bellis perennis. Grazes and superficial wounds  and those injuries or conditions in which pain shoots along a limb  respond to Hypericum. Cantharis relieves the pain of a burn or scald,  Apis or Urtica urens that of stings and allergic lumps and bumps which  itch intolerably. Apis patients are made worse by heat.The pain and aching in varicose veins respond very well to Hamamelis  and Placenta. The pain of ulcers in the mouth and elsewhere in cases  where the patient is aware of discomfort only when food or some other  object is passing over the area concerned reacts well to Nitric acid. 

All these guides to the selection of a particular medicine with its  own special relationship to a corresponding type of sensitivity should  always be considered within the overall mentality or character of the  patient; although, in the acute type of pain encountered in the ordinary  circumstances of everyday life, these particular indications nearly  always lead to the correct medicine. Perhaps the most generally effective medicine useful in emergencies  of all sorts is provided by Dr Edward Bach’s rescue remedy. It is a  combination of five of the Bach remedies, all but one of which are  prepared from spring water essence of certain wild flowers discovered by  Dr Bach to have a special affinity to certain moods.Pain related to more chronic conditions is much more likely to  respond to the constitutional medicine of the patient than is the case  of most of the acute states referred to earlier. Chronic cases involving  pain must be handled by an experienced homeopathic physician who is  competent to probe into the deeper realms of the patient’s nature and  condition. The medicines which fit the whole personality may be one of  the enormous materia medica available to us through the genius of Samuel  Hahnemann and his disciples and successors in the remarkable art and  science of homeopathy. Rhus tox is useful for the type of aching pain often associated with  muscular stiffness (or myalgia), which is worse for first movement,  better for continued movement and much better for a hot bath. Ruta grav  is not dissimilar in its action but is better suited to treatment of  ligaments and tendons.Joint pains and aches are sometimes referred to as arthralgia; nerve  pains as neuralgia. The number of parts of the body which may experience  pain is of course legion.Headaches and toothaches are often encountered. Many subdivisions of  these pains are described mainly according to their position or  character. A migraine, the one-sided headache classically associated  with nausea or sickness, blindness and/or various visual disturbances  involving sparks, flashing lights or restricted fields of vision, is  likely to respond to Sepia, Natrum mur, Phosphorus or other medicine  depending on the other characteristics linked to the medicine picture  most similar to the patient’s personality.

Characteristics

Generalised toothache will very often respond to Plantago, muscular  spasm of every sort to Mag phos. Abdominal pain due to dyspeptic  problems which doubles the patient up responds well to Mag phos or  Colocynth and to Arsenicum album where the pain is of a burning  character and relieved by heat. Cardiac pain, characterised by a feeling of constriction and/or  pressure like a tight band round the chest or a heavy weight pressing on  it – often accompanied by pain transmitted down the left arm or upward  to the neck – responds to Cactus grandiflorus and Latrodeatus mactans. Dysmenorrhea (pain associated with the menstrual cycle) often  responds well to a number of different medicines, particularly Sulphur,  Lilium tigrinum, Lachesis, Silica and Sepia, each with its own  characteristic features associated with the overall nature of the  medicine as it compares with the symptoms of the patient. For instance,  the first two of these remedies feel the heat, while the last two feel  the cold.Lilium tigrinum rushes about in furious haste believing herself  unable to finish all her chores; Lachesis is very loquacious; Silica  timid, gloomy and withdrawn; Sepia morose, temperamentally  unpredictable, sometimes joyous, sometimes miserable, feeling the cold  and hating fat.

Opium  

Causalgia, or the pain experienced at the site corresponding to that  of an amputated limb, is often helped by Chamomilla. This remedy is, in  general, best suited to the type of pain – found anywhere in the body –  which combines intolerable pain with annoyance, as for instance in the  teething of infants. A discussion of pain should not omit reference to Opium which is used  homeopathically for the absence of pain and reaction to stimuli where  these would not be expected – a most peculiar and extraordinary  aberration of the usual responses. Opium is also useful for the physical  pain we understand as fear – as in nightmares when the terror returns  again and again, night after night, often for years. From the foregoing it will be seen that we can take virtually any  symptom or any medicine as a launching pad and use it to illustrate the  basic principles of homeopathic therapy.