Category: Health Literacy

Pehu

Pehu

An important topic in health care is the impact of chronic, degenerative inflammation on the quality of our lifestyles. A Hawaiian word for this concept is “pehu”

Pehu is characterized by the time periods involved. For recent injuries, stress or trauma, the cardinal responses are heat, swelling, redness, pain and loss of function (acute).

In older, recurrent injuries, long term stress or trauma (chronic), those responses are changes of temperature ( loss of heat), swelling (edema), change of color (black or dark), episodic pain or periodic loss of function (morning joint stiffness).

These are different conditions. The latter, chronic state usually follows soon after the former, acute state. Although the idea of acute inflammation has been an observed condition since the early days of conventional medicine, there is no clear understanding of the causes for chronic or auto-inflammatory disorders. Biomedical efforts to address and manage symptoms of Pehu have involved steroidal drugs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, surgery or physical medicine.

Care

Our experience in designing and implementing care plans for ohana, or former patients with Pehu has highlighted the need to approach each person as an individual. The goal is to evaluate each person and to create an integrative series of modalities, both modern and traditional, to address their ever changing profile of resilience and remission.

Pehu (Chronic Inflammation)

A central issue in health care is the concept of chronic inflammation. I use a Hawaiian word Pehu, to describe this syndrome. This may also be called auto-inflammatory disorder. This occurs when the host immune system attacks the body. Auto-immunity is another descriptive term. The condition may progress from a mild, occasional attack, to a painful, daily attack.

Our approach to understanding and providing care for this commonplace issue is to utilize more than one treatment modality. This integrative approach has been slowly but surely making a positive impression within the biomedical as well as alternative and complementary fields of health care.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

One representative chronic, auto-inflammatory disorder is rheumatoid arthritis. A blood test may be used to help confirm this diagnosis. How would you approach it, if you learned that you and other family members were diagnosed with this condition?

Would you expect your physician to prescribe drugs to relieve your symptoms of joint pain, muscle weakness and joint stiffness? How effective is that approach? Are there other ways that may be used to aid or supplement that type of pharmaceutical intervention?

Integrative Care

In my search for the answer to that question for my former patients, I was able to discover that mindful movements such as medical chi gong (qigong), or tai chi chuan (taijiquan) were capable of providing improved coordination and body mechanics, especially when practiced on a daily basis. Visualizing the breath and vital energy flowing through the joints also offered relief.

Applying herbal oils or salves on the skin helped to soothe tight muscles and improve circulation of blood and lymph fluids from the extremities and back to the heart. The use of hot stones on the body also aided in the spread of pain relief wherever it was applied. Stretching movements and Yoga have been documented as being very helpful in relief of inflammatory symptoms.

Food choices are also important in avoiding inflammatory impacts on our bodies. Nutritional supplements and herbs may help to offset the severity of the attacks.

Professionals may use needles to puncture the skin in special points across the body, especially around the joints. Chiropractic adjustments were effective in keeping joints open and functioning properly. Medical massage methods were also very helpful in relieving neuropathy, especially in combination with one or more of the above mentioned modalities.

Neuropathy

Neuropathy may be present in cases of auto-inflammatory conditions. Neuropathy is related to symptoms of pain, stiffness, numbness, tingling, weakness or paralysis. When related to an internal organ, the neuropathy is a signal that organ damage has occurred.

I believe that neuropathy is the primary reason for a patient to seek medical or integrative health care. My studies have revealed that biomedical care is needed in some cases of neuropathy, but the integrative approach is most effective in the management of auto-inflammatory neuropathy.