Alternative Medicine for Pain Relief

Chronic pain conditions can be extremely frustrating. Pain management specialists may be an invaluable resource, but appointments often must be scheduled far in advance and treatment may be a long-lasting series of trial and error. Fortunately, there are alternative methods of treatment that many chronic pain sufferers have found effective.

  • Acupuncture – This ancient Eastern therapy involves the careful placement of long, thin needles into specific areas of the patient’s skin. Eastern medicine places tremendous importance on the flow of energy in the body, and acupuncture is believed to help correct misguided flow of this energy. While Western medicine does not place the same focus on energy, there is much evidence that acupuncture has benefits in treating chronic pain, including that caused by hard to treat conditions such as fibromyalgia. 

  • Stress Reduction Techniques – Chronic pain and stress form a vicious cycle. Pain may lead to stress, which may lower the patient’s ability to cope with pain, causing pain to feel more intense, leading to more stress. While painkillers may reduce the pain and consequently reduce stress, the opposite approach may be even more effective. Reducing or managing stress may alleviate pain. There are a number of stress reduction techniques, including: 

    • Yoga – This series of carefully designed stretches may provide physical relief to the body while also relaxing the mind.

    • Guided Imagery – An expert in this field leads a patient, or group of patients, in redirecting any negative thoughts by focusing on specific images. This method allows positive thoughts to flow more freely.

    • Biofeedback – Studies suggest that awareness of involuntary bodily responses, such as blood pressure or heart rate, in response to pain may allow a patient to gain control over these responses. Awareness of bodily responses may help a patient relax, leading to better management of pain.

    • Massage Therapy – Massage is well known for being a relaxing procedure, but evidence shows it may also relieve pain.

    • Aromatherapy – Scents from essential plant oils are either inhaled or applied to the skin for a variety of desired effects. Studies have shown this therapy may have pain relieving benefits for many chronic pain sufferers.

  • Therapy – Studies show that chronic pain and depression often coexist in patients. Therapy intended to treat depression may therefore have a positive impact on pain management.

While pursuing alternative medicine or therapies may not seem like “medical” information, it is important to keep your doctors and pain management team informed of your progress. Your doctor will discuss the pros and cons of these alternative treatments with you to help you determine what the best options for you may be. Some alternative treatments may actually be harmful for individuals in certain cases. Hypnosis, for instance, may benefit a number of chronic pain sufferers, but may lead to severe psychological damage in patients with traumatic incidents in their past.


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