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Independent health store advice on natural solutions for chronic pain

Looking for advice on natural health and wellbeing? Your local independent health store can offer a wealth of knowledge and expertise. This month we speak to Nick Tofalos, an osteopath and owner of Garstang Health Food Store in Preston.

Pain is the equivalent of a warning light in your car and should always be listened to. Would you ever consider ignoring the car warning light and carrying on regardless? That would be a road to catastrophe with your car. The same is true for your body.

The habitual use of painkillers and anti-inflammatories is effectively putting a sticking plaster over your warning lights so that you can carry on regardless. It may well eventually lead to the destruction of joints, damaged soft tissues, serious gut problems and even heart disease.

Before ever considering pain relief you should always ask one simple question: “Why have I got this pain?” Once you have established the ‘why’ you may then head down a suitable pathway to find an answer to your problem. At this point you may then begin looking at whether pain relief is required or not. It is also worth noting that pain can also help wounds heal quicker.

Natural pain-relievers

Fortunately, natural pain-relievers are often gentler acting than modern pharmaceuticals so do not come with the same associated side effects. For traumas and sports injuries, arnica creams are excellent; if it involves a bony injury then use comfrey oil – this is the only safe, effective way to help a cracked rib.

We also know that omega-3 essential fatty acids are a really useful anti-inflammatory and have other widespread benefits, so a good quality fish or flax seed oil should be a staple part of everyone’s diet.

Feverfew is an excellent herb for migraine-type pain. For congestive headaches one of the simplest things you can do is put your feet in a basin of hot water for a few minutes. I had a patient who would lose his eyesight when his headaches hit, but he found the feet in hot water trick would stop the headache in its tracks.

Magnesium is also excellent for muscle pain and cramps – bathe in it, use an oil on your skin or take one of the many excellent supplements now available.

CBD oil

One of the most potent new supplements now available is CBD oil. CBD or cannabidiol is one of several compounds, known as cannabinoids, that are found in the cannabis or hemp plant. It does not produce a ‘high’ as it does not come from the part of the plant that has psychoactive properties. CBD oil can be taken under the tongue, or if you get the newer water-based versions it can be added to a drink. To ensure it is the highest quality, make sure it is made from a full spectrum plant extract. CBD can work within minutes and has many other useful qualities too. However, it can take 8–12 weeks to get optimum results so do be patient.

Interestingly, if you are taking an opiate-based pain killer from your doctor, CBD will allow you to take a smaller dose to get the same effects and will also slow down your build-up of tolerance to the drug. This means you will get good effects from your opiates on a lower dose for a lot longer.

If your back ever ‘goes’ then rule number one is to carefully go down onto all fours – we are, after all, merely quadrupeds that decided to stand up – and gently move your hips from side to side for 5–10 minutes to allow the blood flow to keep moving and to remove the strain of gravity bearing down on the injury. This can often rapidly help the problem settle.

However, above all else, never ignore your pain!

Garstang Health Food Store

Garstang Health Food Store is located on the High Street in Garstang, Preston, and has been established since 1971.

Nick Tofalos used to work as an osteopath at the natural therapy centre next door and took over the ownership of the store along with his wife when the previous owners decided to retire.

To contact the store, visit or call 01995 602833.

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