Alternative Treatments for Chronic Pain

Often, when an insured begins to suffer chronic pain, the insured’s first thought is to contact his or her doctor to seek out a prescription for pain medication.  At the same time, many insureds do not want to take pain medication because such medication can often have harmful side effects.  In this post, we will be looking at some alternative methods of treating chronic pain that insureds who are hesitant about taking pain medication may want to consider.

Acupuncture[1]

This is a technique where practitioners stimulate specific points on the body by inserting thin needles into the skin.

The Case For.  Results from several studies suggest that acupuncture is an effective method of treating chronic pain, particularly low-back pain, neck pain, and osteoarthritis/knee pain.

The Case Against.  Studies also suggest that, although acupuncture can help relieve back pain immediately after treatment, it is less effective as a long-term solution.  Additionally, improperly performed acupuncture can cause serious side effects, including infections, punctured organs, collapsed lungs, and injury to the central nervous system.

Hypnosis[2]

Stress often aggravates and increases chronic pain.  Hypnosis seeks to lessen pain levels by alleviating stress levels.

The Case For.  Multiple studies have shown that hypnosis is useful for reducing pain, including an analysis of studies by the Mount Sinai School of Medicine that revealed moderate to large pain-relieving effects from hypnosis.

The Case Against.  Other studies suggest that the positive effects of hypnosis are merely the result of a placebo effect.

Yoga[3]

While exercise is often recommended as a treatment for chronic pain, many insureds fear that rigorous exercise will actually increase, not lessen, their pain.  Yoga offers a gentle way to exercise that doesn’t involve too much stress on joints while still enabling you to strengthen the muscles around your joints.

The Case For.  Duke University Medical Center completed a review of 20 years’ worth of studies and found that yoga is an effective treatment for many forms of chronic pain, including osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and fibromyalgia.

The Case Against.  Yoga can be difficult for people who aren’t very flexible, and classes can sometimes be too strenuous for those just starting out.  Beginners should start with basic poses before attempting advanced poses that could exacerbate their pain if not performed properly.

Food[4]

Many people assert that altering your diet is an effective method of fighting pain-causing illnesses.  More specifically, foods that have been linked to lowering pain levels include:

  • Cherries (arthritis, muscle pain)
  • Ginger (migraines, arthritis, sore muscles)
  • Salmon (aching back, neck, and joints)
  • Turmeric (aching joints)
  • Edamame (arthritis)
  • Hot peppers (arthritis)

The Case For.  All of these foods are easy to find and fairly easy to work into your diet.  They are also present a natural alternative to medicines that may have potentially harmful side effects.

The Case Against.  These treatment options won’t necessarily work unless the rest of your diet is fairly healthy.  The potentially helpful effects of these foods will often be offset by the junk food that many people consume.  Consequently, a major overhaul your diet may be necessary in order to see any meaningful results.

Drink[5]

Most people know that drinking water and staying hydrated is essential to staying healthy and fighting off potential pain.  Interestingly, studies have shown that alcohol may be another drink that may help with chronic pain.

The Case For.  A study done by the University of Aberdeen’s Institute of Applied Health Sciences School of Medicine and Dentistry in the U.K. surveyed 13,574 adults and found that moderate to heavy drinkers (10-15 glasses of wine or 15-20 beers per week) reported less disability pain than those who didn’t drink.

The Case Against.  Alcohol could simply be a form of self-medication that causes greater deterioration in patients over the long run.  Alcohol consumption can also lead to alcoholism—a serious debilitating condition that shares many of the same characteristics as pain medication abuse.

Aromatherapy[6]

This technique uses scents from essential plant oils that are either applied directly onto the skin or inhaled.  Some oils that are specific for pain are:

  • Lavender Oil
  • Chamomile Oil
  • African Marigold Oil
  • Peppermint Oil

The Case For.  A 2005 study showed that aromatherapy significantly decreased the pain and depression levels of 40 arthritis patients.  Oils are also relatively inexpensive and easy to procure, and besides decreasing pain, the good smells may also lower stress.

The Case Against.  The sample size for the 2005 study was not very large, and the number of other studies that avow aromatherapy’s effectiveness is relatively small.

Chiropractic Therapy[7]

Chiropractic adjustments include the manual manipulation or adjustment of the spine.  Essentially, a chiropractor moves joints in your spine and/or massages soft tissue to help relieve pain or put your body in a better position to prevent pain.

The Case For.  Numerous studies have displayed that chiropractic therapy is effective for certain kinds of low back pain and neck pain.

The Case Against.  Studies also show that chiropractic therapy is not necessarily more effective than other treatments.  Additionally, chiropractic therapy is often only effective when combined with exercise.

Conclusion

Be sure to consult with your doctor before trying any of these methods.  When assessing the effectiveness of various treatments, it is important to remember that every person has different levels of pain.  Consequently, you may find that treatments that alleviate the pain of others may not work for you personally.  In the end, you must simply figure out what is most effective for you, whether it be traditional medicine or alternative medicine. 

REFERENCES

[1] Info taken from “Acupuncture: What You Need to Know,” available at https://nccih.nih.gov/health/acupuncture/introduction?lang=es.

[2] Info taken from “Hypnosis, Meditation, and Relaxation for Pain Treatment,” available at http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/hypnosis-meditation-and-relaxation-for-pain-treatment?page=3.

[3] Info taken from “5 Pain-Relieving Yoga Poses,” available at http://www.prevention.com/fitness/yoga/yoga-poses-relieve-aches-and-pains.

[4] Info taken from “10 Healing Foods That Fight Pain Naturally,” available at http://www.prevention.com/health/health-concerns/10-healing-foods-fight-pain.

[5] Info taken from “Alcohol Consumption Linked With Less Disability in Chronic Pain,” available at http://www.oncologynurseadvisor.com/daily-oncology-news/drinking-alcohol-less-disability-chronic-pain-risk/article/429826/.

[6] Info taken from “Chronic Pain and Aromatherapy,” available at https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/overcoming-pain/201201/chronic-pain-and-aromatherapy.

[7] Info taken from “Top 10 Chiropractic Studies of 2013,” available at https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/top-10-chiropractic-studies-of-2013/.