Pain Relief That Doesn’t Come In A Bottle: Part One – Forest Bathing

People the world over have long known about the benefits of safe sunbathing and how exposing our skin to the sun for short periods of time creates essential Vitamin D. Spending time out of doors in nature has always been recognized as healthy. What many people may not know –especially those who suffer from chronic pain – is that immersing yourself in nature may help to relieve chronic pain.

While many people enjoy the benefits of sunbathing, the Japanese have long enjoyed forest bathing. It’s called “shinrin-yoku.” This is the very simple act of spending time in the forest connecting with the environment. 

The Japanese attribute the sounds of the forest, the scent of the trees, the sunlight playing through the leaves, the fresh, clean air with providing a sense of comfort. These sensations ease stress and worry, help us humans to relax and to think more clearly. Being in nature can restore our mood, give us back our energy and vitality, refresh and rejuvenate us. Of course, if you don’t have access to an actual forest, any green space and natural environment will do.

In 2009, Forest-therapy expert Yoshifumi Miyazaki published a paper that reviewed previous research on the physiological effects of shinrin-yoku. After analyzing evidence from field experiments conducted in 24 forests in Japan, he concluded that when compared to city settings, spending time in forest environments could:

•lower concentrations of cortisol

•lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure

•increase parasympathetic nerve activity (the relaxation response)

•lower sympathetic nerve activity (the fight-or-flight aka stress response)

Each of the results listed above directly contribute to the lessening of pain. Stay tuned for more pleasurable and pain-relieving activities that are free and can set you free from the life-draining habit of popping yet another pill.


From What If To What Is

What if we lived in a world where all back pain was treated by qualified chiropractors? What if anyone with back pain automatically gets referred to a chiropractor for care? What if insurance companies favored chiropractic care over opioid prescriptions and surgery? Of course, this sounds like a dream scenario to me. As a chiropractor and an advocate for the most effective way to bring suffering to an end for the millions of people who suffer from back pain, in the most cost-effective way, it only makes sense that this scenario should be a no-brainer.

Maybe Someday This Will Be The Way

If chiropractic care was the go-to treatment for back pain, those who suffer would suffer far less, they would save money and so would the insurance companies. In fact, the pain level for everyone involved would go way down. How can I say such a thing, you may ask? Research has shown that when back pain treatment is provided “solely by chiropractors” insurance claimants returned to work more quickly. Here is the exact statement:

“A study by the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute found that medical care costs less and claimants return to work more quickly when low back pain treatment is provided solely by chiropractors. Costs were also lower when chiropractors provided physical medicine services, but other types of clinicians handled evaluation and management. However, the difference was not as dramatic.”

How The Research Was Conducted

I consider this research and findings so important that I want to make it available to as many people as possible as frequently as I can. Here is how the research was conducted. “WCRI researchers examined more than 2 million claims from 28 states with injuries dating from Oct. 1, 2015, through Sept. 30, 2017, to compare costs and claim duration for workers who were treated exclusively by chiropractors to workers who received no chiropractic care and workers who received services from both chiropractors and other types of providers. Claims that involved serious conditions needing immediate care, such as tumors and fractures, were excluded.”

It’s important to note that there are some conditions that require other kinds of treatments and that those cases were not included in the research. As the results also concluded, “The average medical cost per claim for low back pain patients who were treated exclusively by a chiropractor for both physical medicine and evaluation and management was $1,366, 61 percent less than the $3,522 treatment cost for low back pain cases that received no chiropractic treatment.”

Fewer Drugs And Expensive Diagnostic Tests

The WCRI study also showed that, “Injured workers treated exclusively by chiropractors also used fewer drugs and diagnostic imaging scans. Comparing a subset of claims with similar characteristics, the researchers found only 1% of claimants treated by chiropractors were prescribed opioids, compared to 10.3% of claimants who were not treated by chiropractors. In the chiropractic group, 4.3% of claimants received a magnetic-resonance imaging scan, compared to 18.9% for the non-chiropractic claimants.”

From What If To What Is

I continue to support research and legislation that leads to less suffering physically and financially for patients, employers, and insurance companies. I am hopeful that the results of this study will result in new legislation that leads to a time when we find it difficult to believe that chiropractic was ever questioned about its effectiveness in successfully, responsibly, and safely treating back pain.

The Use of Antidepressants For Pain Relief Is Not A Solution

We humans are endlessly resourceful and experimental. I suppose I should add “hopeful” as well since we are continually looking for a magic pill for chronic pain relief. Perhaps “delusional” is more apt. As a society, we endure rampant addiction, suicide, and violent behavior in pursuit of this magic pill. Yet despite these efforts, experience has shown us time and time again that “there is no safe and effective pharmaceutical for pain.” In fact, I came across this reminder in a recent article which states, “Unfortunately, when a pain patient goes to most physicians seeking help for chronic pain, they (the doctor) will reach for their prescription pad because that is all that they have been trained to do. However, there is no safe and effective pharmaceutical for pain. (Italics mine). The best results for pain relief are found in a wide array of alternative pain treatments.”

Pills Create Profound Problems And Greater Pain.

To highlight the “experimental” nature of this quest, back in the 1960s some doctors started prescribing anti-depressants to patients who experienced chronic pain. This practice became popular throughout the 1970s and is still in use by some doctors today. It was common – and in some cases still is – to prescribe opioids and antidepressants simultaneously. This is a deadly combination, and the risk of overdose is exponential. Today, it is widely known that antidepressants are also addictive and cause suicidal thoughts.

And yet, the powers-that-be still do not acknowledge the greater benefits of, nor do they prescribe alternative non-addictive, non-surgical methods for pain relief. This continues to astonish me.

The problem is that there is a psychological aspect to all pain. According to a recent article in an industry journal, “Since October of 2004, the FDA has required anti-depressants also carry black-box label warnings indicating that their use in adolescents may increase the risk of suicidal ideations and behaviors. Two years later, the FDA added the warning for young adults ages 18 to 24. There have also been many reports of suicide in older adults after starting antidepressants and many case reports of antidepressants causing violence, including homicide.”

We Must Demand Better

I know we are better than this. As a society, as medical professionals, parents, and patients, we need to pay attention and not be intimidated to ask questions and not just ask for but demand alternatives to medications for pain, anxiety, and depression. These alternatives include chiropractic, massage, yoga therapy, acupuncture, among others. The overprescribing of yet another medication is not helping one bit. I acknowledge that there are cases of chronic pain when medications are necessary but in most cases they are not. 

How much more can we take before we understand the importance of working with the body’s natural healing capacities to overcome pain? Hands on treatments like massage and chiropractic, movement that realigns the body and awakens the spirt such as yoga and tai chi are just a few alternatives that may not be a magic pill that relieves pain instantly, but over time will contribute to individual and collective healing

A Proven Method To Save The Country Billions And Help People In Pain Without Opioids

If there were a proven method of helping people feel better when confronted with injury that causes chronic back pain, save the country billions of dollars in medical bills, lost wages from being out of work, along with saving corporate costs from the effect of injury on worker productivity, all without opioids, do you think the powers that be would go for it?

There Is A Proven Method For Helping Those In Pain Without Opioids

The fact of the matter is that there is a proven method that accomplishes the list of benefits I provided above. It’s called Chiropractic Care. And I quote from an article published by Insurance stating, “A study by the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute found that medical care costs less and claimants return to work more quickly when low back pain treatment is provided solely by chiropractors. Costs were also lower when chiropractors provided physical medicine services, but other types of clinicians oversaw evaluation and management, but the difference was not as dramatic.”

Chiropractic Is A Win-Win That Those In Power Can’t Benefit From

The Insurance industry clearly knows the power of chiropractic. But the question is how to convince those in power that there is still money to be made without creating a country of drug dependent people. Influencing those in power comes down to greed over good. We just haven’t been able to crack the code on that behavior and truth be told, it sickens me. The lives lost, the money needlessly spent, the continued diminishing productivity of our country. The cost is incalculable, yet the greed is so powerful that those in power prefer to be blind to the good. This is so clear when you see the difference in the number of opioid prescriptions when patient’s go to a chiropractor for care first, before they get turned into “chronic pain patients” instead.

The Cost Of Greed

Let me share some more statistics from the Worker’s Compensation Research Institute report. “The average medical cost per claim for low back pain patients who were treated exclusively by a chiropractor for both physical medicine and evaluation and management was $1,366, 61 percent less than the $3,522 treatment cost for low back pain cases that received no chiropractic treatment.” The report also concluded that, “Indemnity costs were also lower for workers whose low back pain was treated exclusively by a chiropractor: $492 compared to $3,604 for workers who received no chiropractic treatment.”

The policymakers, the pill makers, and pushers, which includes the doctors and others in the medical field who routinely prescribe opioids are not concerned about doing good or improving the lives of those in physical pain. They are concerned about how long they can keep the money flowing into their accounts and how they can prolong the profiteering. Every person addicted to opioids represents a source of ongoing income for those higher up in the food chain. Each addict is like a mini-trust fund providing luxuries beyond the imagination of those suffering and dying and creating chaos in the lives of those who love them. If you feel like calculating the wealth of the few, keep the following statistics in mind:

•10.1 million people aged 12 or older misused opioids in the past year.
•More than 932,000 people have died since 1999 from a drug overdose. 
•Overdose deaths involving opioids, have increased by more than eight times since 1999.

Newly Proposed CDC Guidelines For Prescribing Opioids

Back in 2016, as the opioid addiction and death rates were climbing higher and higher, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued guidelines for prescribing opioids. Unfortunately, those guidelines were misconstrued as hardline rules for setting medication dose and duration limits and was misapplied by some medical professionals and organizations. So, when an updated guideline was released by the CDC earlier this year, I was anxious to see what changes were made. I’m happy to report, the new guidelines are more clearly set out and leave less room for misinterpretation.

As a chiropractor, I, for one, was elated to read in the new guidelines that, “opioids should not be considered as first-line or routine therapy for subacute or chronic pain,” and that the CDC, “points out that non-opioid therapies often are better for many types of acute pain.” Additional good news from my perspective: “The draft guideline authors found insufficient evidence to determine the long-term benefits of opioid therapy for chronic pain beyond 1 year.”

While the 2016 guidelines were harmful to patients with chronic pain, cancer, sickle cell disease and those in hospice, they also failed patients who are stable on long-term opioid therapy. And because some organizations followed the guidelines to the letter, some post-surgical patients as well as those with an opioid use disorder were denied access. It was also noted that while the intention of the 2016 guidelines was mainly to stem the drug overdose epidemic, it did not accomplish that objective. It merely drove people to other unethical and illegal outlets for the drugs.

The new guidelines also suggest that doctors and clinicians “should discuss with patients the known risks and realistic benefits of opioid therapy, work with patients to establish treatment goals for pain and function and consider how opioid therapy will be discontinued if benefits do not outweigh risks.”.

My hope is that these new guidelines are helpful in preventing more people from becoming opioid dependent due to prescribing practices that have not considered other therapies for pain relief first. Chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, and other therapies can manage pain in many cases if they are suggested by medical professionals. Now, we wait and see how effective the new guidelines will be.

During Mental Health Awareness Month We Must Address Suicide And Substance Abuse Disorder (SUD)

Mental Health issues have exploded throughout the country during the pandemic. Just about everyone has felt the stress of ongoing life and death concerns related to COVID-19 and its variants. More and more people are crumbling under the pressure and experiencing depression from mild to serious. But some groups of people are more vulnerable to chronic stress than others especially young people and those struggling with a substance use disorder (SUD) as well as those who suffer from chronic depression and other mental health issues.

2020 Suicide Statistics

In 2020, 45,979 Americans died by suicide.
Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the U.S.
Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-old Americans.
Every day, approximately 125 Americans die by suicide.
There is one suicide death in the US every 11.5 minutes.
There is one suicide death for every estimated 25 suicide attempts.
There are approximately 1,149,475 annual attempts in the U.S. (using 25:1 ratio) or one attempt every 27.5 seconds

We Must Pay Attention

The statistics are shocking and heartbreaking. We can no longer sweep mental health nor substance abuse under the rug and pretend they doesn’t exist. Both are mainstream problem and are interrelated and must be addressed openly.

According to one source, “More than 90% of people who fall victim to suicide suffer from depression, have a substance use disorder (SUD), or both. Depression and substance abuse combine to form a vicious cycle that all too often leads to suicide.” Another sad truth this source reveals is that “Many who experience such severe depression (as a result of Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and other conditions) frequently turn to drugs, alcohol, gambling, and other risky behaviors to numb their pain and/or alleviate their negative feelings.”

I sit on the board of #Same Here Global Mental Health Movement ( The mission of the movement is to normalize society’s perception of mental health and make it part of our everyday conversation. #SameHere believes mental health lives on continuum and that we are all affected by life’s various stresses and trauma. Every person on this planet, diagnosed or not, is susceptible to this type of system breakdown – resulting in suicide – and we all need to pay attention.

Let’s do our part to help everyone, especially our loved ones who suffer from mental health issues and substance abuse issues. Not just during Mental Health Awareness Month, but year-round.


The Year of Integrative Health

Without question, the pandemic has been the cause of tremendous confusion about our healthcare system and medical care in general. As one writer put it, “the pandemic (is) spurring a hunger for answers and options that improve overall wellbeing and prevent serious illness.”

The Pandemic’s Silver Lining

The good news is that all the confusion has had a positive effect. It’s led to a shift that has consumers looking for ways to take greater charge when it comes to their health. As a result, the demand for holistic, complementary, integrative, and alternative therapies is rising. In fact, recent figures show that nearly 40% of Americans are turning to integrative treatments for their health concerns. This includes nutritional supplements, chiropractic care and meditation.

The Demand For Whole-Person Care

This is music to my ears for so many reasons. First and foremost is that greater numbers of people are becoming more attuned to their bodies, and they are demanding a seamless approach to “whole-person” care. This is causing a shift in the educational system as well. According to one article, “From University of Miami on the east coast to University of California Irvine on the west, some of the nation’s largest and most prestigious medical schools have added tracks dedicated to natural healing while the number of schools focused exclusively on integrative health and medicine continues to expand. The number of medical schools dedicated exclusively to the practice of integrative medicine is also on rise, like the Whole Health School of Medicine and Sciences recently founded by Walmart heir Alice Walton in Bentonville, Ark.”

Insurance Companies Seeing The Need For Coverage

Some of the forward-looking health insurance companies are already covering the costs of such treatments as acupuncture, mindfulness practice and massage. Chiropractic is covered by most health insurance policies due to its overwhelming evidence-based treatment modalities. The numbers are also in favor of expanding coverage based on a 2018 study in which complementary and alternative medicine users had a lower average expenditure than non-users over a one-year period. 

Health coverage for holistic care is central to ensuring that people have the option of choosing the therapies that are right for them. Without coverage for such treatments, patients may go without, leading to lower patient satisfaction and ultimately higher costs of care.

This Is The Year To Make Integrative Health The Norm

Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM) has declared 2022 the Year of Integrative Health. The time is now to make integrative health an integral component of modern medicine.

The AIHM envisions a day when it is no longer acceptable to treat illness using mainstream modalities alone. I see a different way as well, a way that embodies “a synergistic approach that integrates conventional medicine with therapies that take into account each individual’s mind, body and spirit. Integrative health brings together traditional and alternative therapies in a coordinated and complementary way.” I am on board with doing my best to contribute every effort to make this the norm.

Our Children Deserve Compassion Not Criminalization

Without having personal experience, most people cannot imagine the life of those who live in poverty, those who witness parental abuse, or suffer any kind of physical or sexual abuse. As human beings we all suffer from traumatic events of varying degrees, be it the divorce of parents, death of a loved one, witnessing or experiencing bullying, seeing on social media that your “friends” are always hanging out together, but no one invited you. Everything I’ve mentioned above represents stressors that can cause neurochemical disruption.

Early traumatic events in life that result in chronic stress are referred to as Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACEs. The problem of drug addiction arises when a young person living with stress is exposed to drugs through an injury, a friend, or a search for self-medication, the drug falsely gives them the spike in neuro chemistry that normalizes their world. Imagine the pull one would feel to use again and again and again. The root of most drug addiction is emotional. It’s a mental health problem.

Everyone doesn’t respond the same way to life’s stressors. Yet instead of having compassion for those who end up depending on drugs for a sense of comfort, we arrest them and consider them criminals. We inflict more abuse and more damage. We fail to acknowledge and address the real issue.

If we don’t address mental health and addiction simultaneously, we will never get out of the mess we are in. And as if we didn’t already have adverse childhood experiences at every turn let’s add political hatred, strife in our streets, a deadly virus and war.

Now, let’s top all that off with the greed of drug-dealing cartels that are happy to meet the growing demand for drugs. They are unleashing Fentanyl and its death furry to all 50 states. Last year enough Fentanyl to kill 1.2 billion people was seized at our southern border. That’s enough to kill every person in America 3 times.

Here is a little wake-up call; we lost more people from drug overdose last year than the combined deaths of 36 years of war in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. I have never been more concerned for our children and young adults as they suffer through these years. It’s time to help them instead of continuing to hurt them.

Awareness Is The First Step

I have launched the non-profit, Overdose Free America, which uses the power of celebrity and entertainment to bring the opioid crisis the visibility and support it deserves. In addition, I sit on the Board of Same Here Global whose mission it is to normalize society’s perception of mental health and make it part of our everyday conversation. Fortunately, these two groups have collided bringing much greater awareness to these interrelated issues. If you have a loved one who has suffered with substance abuse and mental health issues, please check out both organizations. They are here to help.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) And Substance Abuse Disorders

This month I am turning my attention to unaddressed adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and the difficulties of stardom at a young age, both of which far too frequently lead to a variety of substance abuse disorders. But, it isn’t just those in the limelight who suffer.

Not Just The Death Of Another Rock Star

28 years ago, on April 5, 1994, rock legend Kurt Cobain committed suicide. He was 27. Even though he died of gunshot wounds to the head, most people chalk his suicide up to his addiction to heroin. But it’s not that simple. The question that is never asked is, “Why was he addicted to heroin?” We don’t inquire as to why do so many people become addicts of any kind. The stigma of drug addiction was alive and well then as much as it still is today.

Adverse Childhood Experiences can be found in the background of most people who suffer with addictive behaviors. According to an article published by the national group promoting ACEs science, “The Adverse Childhood Experience Study was released in 1998. It quantified the connection between many childhood experiences and their consequences later in life, but it wasn’t the first study to link child abuse to mental illness, suicide, and drug use. According to Charles Cross’ masterful biography of Kurt Cobain, Heavier than Heaven, Kurt had an ACE score of at least four (divorce, witness to domestic violence, psychological abuse and at least one measure of neglect).”

Let me clarify what those scores mean by continuing with the previous article. “With an ACE score of 4, someone’s odds of using IV drugs are 3900% higher than someone with an ACE score of 0, and their odds of attempting suicide are 1122% higher than someone with an ACE score of 0. Let those numbers sink in; those are actually four-digit numbers, not typos. And as someone’s ACE score increases, the odds of each of those outcomes increases as well. Kurt’s story wasn’t one of personal failure despite societal gifts, but rather one of succumbing to the laws of statistics.”

Fame And Abuse A Lethal Combination

In another article, it is revealed that when he was on the precipice of global fame, Cobain wrote: “I decided to use heroine on a daily basis because of an ongoing stomach ailment that I had been suffering from for the past five years, [and that] had literally taken me to the point of wanting to kill myself. … The only thing I found that worked were heavy opiates.”

This is relevant because when someone suffers with emotional stressors over a long period of time those stressors eventually turn into physical changes in health like the stomach pain that Kurt suffered with. Hurtful memories are permanently stored in our nervous system and when those memories are from severe trauma or repetitive micro traumas it changes our neuro chemistry and eventually our metabolic processes. I was not surprised to find out that Cobain’s biographer, Charles Cross, presents indications that Kurt very likely experienced sexual abuse as a child. 

Childhood Fame Comes With Intense And Constant Stressors

Living with chronic stress takes its toll. This is seen with child actors as well as with others who achieve fame at a young age as models and musicians. According to a Psychology Today article, “Because of the nature of show business, child actors are often exposed to drugs, alcohol, and sex at an early age. At the same time, young actors must constantly cope with rejection, jealousy, self-scrutiny, obsessive thoughts, and the nonstop need to be perfect.”

Mental Health Issues At The Core Of Substance Abuse Issues

Whether in the limelight or not, children under chronic stressful conditions are at high risk of becoming emotionally unstable and of becoming drug, alcohol, or sex abusers. As a country and a culture, we are challenged to take these issues far more seriously than ever before. The stigma associated with drug use and mental health issues is not helpful. I have launched the non-profit, Overdose Free America, which uses the power of celebrity and entertainment to bring the opioid crisis the visibility and support it deserves. In addition, I sit on the Board of Same Here Global whose mission it is to normalize society’s perception of mental health and make it part of our everyday conversation. Fortunately, these two groups have collided bringing much greater awareness to these interrelated issues. If you have a loved one who has suffered with substance abuse and mental health issues, please check out both organizations. They are here to help.

How Will We Collectively Address The Growing Mental Health And Addiction Issues

Even though we may feel that it’s safe to venture out into the world again, as COVID-19 and its variants seem to be frittering out, the results of this global pandemic will be felt for a long time to come. Mental health issues are widespread, with the CDC revealing that “about 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depression compared to one in 10 adults who reported between January and June of 2019.” Experts around the world are concerned for the young people growing up in the pandemic and post-pandemic environment.

I am concerned about how we, collectively are going to address and help those who are suffering now and those who are sure to suffer later in ways we cannot yet anticipate or imagine.

How Will A Generation Weaned On Uncertainty Find Its Strengths

In a recent article, “a consultant clinical psychologist in the U.K. working with adults and children, told CNBC that he believes it will take “at least a generation” to resolve the damage to many young people caused by missed milestones and experiences crucial for development.” According to the consultant, Alex Desatnick, “Kids who grew up in this state, in this condition, and those things that they were deprived of, they will take this with them through life.” He adds, “I hope that as a society we will do as much as we can to compensate for what happened to them and is still happening.”

The same article talks about numerous studies that have been conducted throughout the world on the impact COVID has had on mental health. One study looked at the global prevalence of depression and anxiety disorders in 204 countries and territories in 2020 due to the Covid pandemic. It found that “mental health dramatically declined in that year, with an estimated 53 million additional cases of major depressive disorders and 76 million additional cases of anxiety disorders seen globally. Women and younger people were found to be affected more than men and older adults.”

Many psychologists and psychiatrists have reported an inability to help the influx of people seeking mental health support during the pandemic. One psychologist working in New York said, “There’s definitely a huge mental health impact from a long period of uncertainty and change that’s left people very isolated and not sure how to connect. That created a big pressure cooker, especially for people who already have a vulnerability.”

One Grassroots Organizations Is Doing Its Best To Reach And Help The Vulnerable

I am actively involved in the grassroots organization Same Here Global, dedicated to normalizing the conversation around mental health issues. The organization is founded on the knowing that “Everyone in the world is affected by life’s inevitable traumas and stresses. We can’t escape them, as they are part of the human experience, and they impact us on many levels. Mental health exists on a continuum, with some simply experiencing more severe declines than others over varying periods of time in their lives (and/or being more genetically predisposed to such declines.)”
We are all in this together and together we will be facing the results of this devastating period which has been the cause of so much unprecedented change and uncertainty. I know that we human beings are capable of growing stronger through facing our fears and our uncertainties. I am betting on that strength and calling on everyone to dig deep and find theirs and help the most vulnerable ones in your lives.