Alternative Treatment for Pain Management: Hot Yoga

Yoga by Augusto Mia BattagliaBy April 

Recently I have returned to my hot yoga practice, in some instances I realize I must strengthen my weaker arm consistently to restore my strength. I dare to hold each pose with real body power as I visualize a much more fit version of myself. I’ve listened to the hot yoga instructors words as we attempt each pose with much determination. I hear the instructor gently assist our inner doubts, “roll your arms under your body face down on the floor, this will be very therapeutic if you have any minor injuries”, she mentions. Ahhh… what a relief I think to myself. I am really assisting in my bodies recovery is what I am thinking during the entire 90 minute hot yoga class. I understand that to some extent, some injuries may not be gently healed in a hot yoga class. However, for minor injuries I believe some sort of yoga practice, including more gentle types of yoga may be therapeutic. Healing the body from pain takes a lot of energy, hydration in the body and determination.  So be sure to give your body extra tender, loving, care as much as you can with your particular circumstance. Our bodies will thank us for consistently tending to it as our temple.

Bikram Choudhury started learning a Hatha type of yoga at age five. At age eleven Bikram was the youngest winner ever of a National India Yoga Competition. However at age twenty, Bikram suffered a weightlifting injury that crippled him. With the help of his guru, “Bishnu”, at age twenty Bikram created a twenty six posture yoga series and two breathing exercises that completely restored his health. This yoga is now called “Bikram Yoga”. Bikram Yoga is a 90 minute yoga class performed in a heated room, so being very hydrated is essential. Toxins are released during hot yoga, also the twenty six postures are all performed as a sequence to prevent illness, injury and limit the effects of aging. This type of yoga also creates balance and strength in the body.

If you find yourself interested in hot yoga for healing your body, find a local studio and try it out. I highly recommend checking with your doctor first before engaging in this type of exercise.

Here are a couple links for more information or to locate a convenient class:


New Guide to Knee Pain

Knee X-Ray, Scott Thieman, Flickr

Today we are publishing our new guide on knee pain designed to help you learn about the knee, understand the diagnosis of knee pain and then learn about alternatives to treat and manage knee pain. 

Click here to read the Guide to Knee Pain.


New Writer on - Marion

Welcome Marion to the writing team!

Name:  Marion

About me: I'm in my mid-fifties and live with my husband on the Eastside of Lake Washington in the Seattle area. I’m a former academic researcher and now I work as a writer and volunteer. I'm passionate about helping people come through challenges and create better lives.

Experiences with Pain: Fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, knee and ankle injuries, osteoarthritis, back injury, Sjogren's Syndrome 

Before I had cancer, I did a lot of hiking, backpacking and rockhounding. I also enjoyed a martial art, armored medieval foot combat re-creation.  Over the years I had repeated ankle and knee injuries, plus the occasional back injury. I've re-conditioned and healed a great deal, but I have to be careful to stay in shape and not aggravate old problems. Staying flexible and maintaining good balance is important to me.

Around age 30 I began to have trouble with dry eyes, eventually diagnosed as Sjogren's Syndrome.  Although my case is mild it requires that I actively manage dry eyes, nose and mouth and sometimes other symptoms. People with Sjogren's also have a higher risk of lymphatic cancer. 

At age 35, I was diagnosed with Stage III Hodgkin Lymphoma.  I underwent a chemotherapy regimen called ABV-MOPP.  Thankfully, the treatment cured the cancer, but left me with fibromyalgia, osteoporosis and peripheral neuropathy in hands, arms and feet.  Managing these and other aftereffects of treatment is a life-long commitment. I walk and do yoga to stay in shape, and still go hiking in summer.

Osteoarthritis runs in my mother’s family and I have it in my neck, knee and hands.  My sister also has fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis.

I choose to manage my pain as much as I can with alternative therapies because I tend to experience side effects from drugs. Fortunately, there are many other ways to approach chronic pain!

Why Making a commitment to lets me share what's worked for me, so that the knowledge can help others get a head start.  Learning to work with practitioners, make lifestyle changes, engage with remedies and treatments and understand research is powerful "medicine" for managing chronic pain.  

Favorite Pain Management Web Sites:


Old, New, And Alternative Treatments For Pain Management

Massage Therapy, Michael Oh, FlickrIce, Ice Baby! 

Lying in a hospital bed, with close to twenty pounds on ice packed around my shattered leg, I wondered when humans first thought about using cold for pain therapy.

It has to have been used for thousands of years, in areas where it could be collected. At least the nurses covering me in ice didn't have to travel to a nearby glacier, chip away their supply, and haul it back to the sixth floor of Harborview Medical Center. 

Reducing swelling, pain and inflammation resulting from injury using cold therapy is a balancing act. Many people cannot tolerate ice on or near an injury for more than ten minutes at a time, while others can fall asleep and need to be monitored to avoid frostbite. It is up to the individual to determine how long they can deal with the cold and try to work within a range of ten to thirty minutes per session. Avoid heat on injuries for the first twenty-four hours or as recommended by your physician. While it may feel nice at first, heat can create more problems down the road.

Alternating Hot And Cold

Using a cold pack first then a hot pack later ( +24 hours post-injury or at doctor's advice) can often help relieve muscle and joint pain for me in about half an hour. A quick note about heat pads - microwave and electric heating pads are great if used according to instructions. Seriously, read the instructions. Severe burns and a worsening of your condition can quickly follow improper use of heat. If you do not have someone monitoring you while using heat, use timers capable of waking you up, should you fall asleep. You can get a serious burn while asleep that won't wake you up until too late, if at all. 

My wife fell asleep using an ultrasound device and suffered a serious burn to her shoulder that took weeks to heal, so be careful with other common machines used for pain control.

Seek medical attention if any unusual symptoms develop after a cold and heat session. Be sure to let doctors know exactly what you had been doing and for how long. Inform them of any and all medications, too. Don't forget about any herbal supplements or remedies in the disclosure as some have the ability to block or alter drugs and their effects.

Fish Oil

I had been taking a high quality fish oil capsule two or three times a day for about a year before I crashed my bike, and continue to take it daily.  The main reason was for heart health and inflammation reduction. One of the unintended benefits seems to be rapid healing and fading of the scars at the repair sites. 

The scars from the August 2010 surgeries are much less noticeable than my August 1979 football knee repairs. A woman who had a recent double knee replacement I would see at physical therapy asked me if I put some kind of anti-scar cream or something on my leg because she was noticing my scars fading much faster than hers. We had surgery about the same times and are roughly the same age.

While I will not name a brand of fish oil, I would recommend that any brand you try be of a high quality fish stock, like salmon or other omega-3 rich source fish, and a brand that is purified to remove unwanted elements. I works well for me, but my wife can't take any of the fish oil products without getting heartburn or the "fish burps".

Massage And Magnets

Healing massage can work wonders to get your blood and your joints moving again.

In my family, we have also used a couple of non-powered massage roller devices that have some fairly powerful magnets in them. I can't say that the magnets actually do anything, but the massaging action they give feels pretty terrific.

It is not unusual for the spouse receiving the roller massage to start snoring a few minutes into the session, so something relaxing is happening there.

The types of injuries I sustained were severe enough that blood clot formation was likely without blood thinner medication, so I could not use various massage devices until cleared to do so and neither should you, to help avoid possible complications. Check with your health care provider before using any device, powered or not, before using it anywhere near a seriously injured site.

Read Up On It But Don't Believe Everything You Read!

Check out your friends and relatives to see what they have tried out for pain relief then check that information against WebMD and other sites put up by the Mayo Clinic and the like.

Before subjecting yourself to additional risk of injury from an unproven therapy, Check It Out!  Got it?

Thanks again for checking us out!


Shoreline, WA


Pain Management is a Family Affair

Jordan Brock, FlickrGoing Home At Last

Recovery from a severe injury can take weeks or months, and usually means that even very independent people by necessity become dependent upon others for help.

Daily activities once taken for granted require assistance, such as putting on a sock, or getting help to rise up out of a chair. Yup I've been there, and not too long ago. I would need help doing almost everything for the first two weeks at home and it drove me nuts. It also helped me refine the ability to relax the pain down to a dull roar and to appreciate being home with family, including the dog.

The one thing I wanted most while in the hospital was to get out of the hospital. Don't get me wrong, the nurses and other staffers were great..

However, getting well enough  to go home became an all-consuming drive and helped me focus on moving around and doing everything the doctors recommended for improving at each stage of the repair process. It was difficult to remain a positive outlook each time the doctors on morning rounds took off the dressings and I got a good look at my leg. I had to keep telling myself that "Hey, It's still there!" and by doing the walks I can go home sooner (nurses documented each walk on the chart ).  I guess the hospital staff becomes an adopted family while you're there - at least if you get good ones like I did.

Tough Going

The hardest things to do were 1) getting out of the bed and 2) getting back into the bed. At first, it took two nurses to help lift me up and put the crutches under my arms. Then, it was a 75ft. trip out of the room and down the hall, turn around and go back. It took more will than I thought I had in me to complete the entire 150 ft. distance. The external fixator holding my leg in place until the actual surgical repair had two stainless steel pins drilled into my femur, through the muscles and two more in the lower portion of my tibia (the one big piece not broken). The fibula was only broken into two pieces, so no bionic hardware back there. Two carbon fiber rods about 18 inches long each were attached to a hinged joint in the middle and to the pins on each opposite end to spread the leg apart to the correct length (the impact had crunched it together - shorter).

The pins made my muscles behave like skewered chickens when I was up on the crutches. Muscles don't like to be forced to contract and stretch with something stuck through them. To keep the pain from getting the best of me, I would imagine I was riding on the bike in happier times. Just cruising along a nice, curvy two-lane mountain road, leaving the Corvette Club behind me in my dust. It worked until I became so tired I was ready to fall down. Talk about getting a bad feeling...

 When I got to the point of exhaustion, it was very hard to keep the pain levels from rising. It became necessary to slow down a little and pay more attention to where the halfway point in the three daily walks. If I had to go more slowly or rest along the way, I would do it to remain on top of pain through breathing control, working on proper form on the crutches, joking with one of the nurses, whatever it took to both be distracted from the pain, yet focused on what I was doing to avoid a fall or get too tired to make it back to the room.

Yay Home Team !

It was not possible for me to change the dressings on the wounds on my leg, so it was my wife and son who took over the nursing chores. I can't thank them enough for helping me when I couldn't help myself.The leg wasn't pretty for a long time and they stepped up. Love you guys.

There's no time to feel sorry for yourself when there's a CPM machine to crawl over to later, the dog needs to be fed and let outside, to later make a call to the insurance company and see why they aren't paying out a proper value on the totalled bike.

Have your team leave stuff for you to do when they have to leave for work or errands. It will help keep you busy and distracted. Write out checks to pay bills, go online to e-mail distant relatives. TV will bore you after a while and feeling useful in even a small way is preferable to being a zombie couch potato.

Read a book between exercise sessions, while using timers and a log to track your meds on a daily basis. This will be helpful should any issues arise with pain management. If you have detailed records of what you've been taking and when, it can help the pain docs figure out a new strategy should the original one be insufficient.

Pets are great for getting you up when you may not really feel like doing much of anything. My dog became "Penny, The Nurse Dog" and she would not leave my side except to go outdoors when necessary. Having to open doors for her, feed her, and give her little treats and scratches would get me up and moving around, which would start me doing other things around the house. It took an hour and a half do unload and reload the dishwasher while on crutches, but it let me feel useful.

Positive Attitude

Remember to say thank you to anyone taking the time to sit with you and help you out. Common courtesy is still required even when you hurt like hell. Point it out to yourself in those down moments that while yes, it hurts, you are alive and able to gripe about it another day. Then move your frame of mind to a more pleasant place in whatever way works best for you at that particular time. What worked yesterday sometimes doesn't work for today, so experiment with something new, or maybe your grandma's remedy. As long as it does you no harm, test it out. So-called alternative therapies will often work better than some narcotic from the pharmacy, so don't be put off by a therapy simply because it is foreign to you. Use common sense and learn to listen to your body and to what is trying to tell you.