Pain can leave you feeling helpless, with no control and at the mercy of medications prescribed by your physician. Although your prescriptions may be effective, you might struggle with medication side effects and associated risks.
If that’s the case for you, integrative therapies may supplement the care of your doctor and may address the far-reaching biopsychosocial effects of pain.
The Mayo Clinic reports that research shows integrative therapies practiced in conjunction with your current medical care and physician’s approval may be effective in relieving many types of pain, including arthritis, low back pain, joint injury, post-surgery pain, headaches, cancer-related pain, pelvic pain, and menstrual cramps.
In the Lompoc Valley, there are a number of integrative modalities available for patients needing help.
Based on traditional Chinese medicine, which describes some 2,000 key points in the human body, acupuncture uses extremely thin, carefully placed needles to connect pathways throughout the body. These pathways, known as meridians, conduct energy or qi (“chee”) to regulate spiritual, emotional, mental and physical balance. This time-tested therapy has been scientifically proven to be effective in the treatment of pain.
Biofeedback works by placing sensitive medical sensors on the skin -- typically a fingertip. The information of your body’s physiological responses displays (or “feeds back”) on a screen. The biofeedback information can help you learn to control "involuntary" bodily processes by adjusting your thought patterns and physiological responses. Biofeedback is a non-invasive, non-pharmacological method that may help reduce your pain and stress level.
- Chiropractic Care
While a chiropractic mainstay is a spinal manipulation, chiropractic care also often offers postural and exercise education, ergonomic training (how to walk, sit and stand to limit back strain) and myofascial release. The most impressive research on chiropractic therapy is spinal manipulation for low back pain. As one of the alternatives to pain-relieving drugs, the American College of Physicians low back pain guidelines recommend spinal manipulation along with heat, massage, and acupuncture.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of short-term counseling that may help reduce your reaction to pain. Another form of brief therapy used for pain management and available in our area is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).
Hypnosis for pain relief has been documented since the 1840s. Lately, increased interest in hypnosis has been generated due to a further understanding of the brain's role in the pain experience. Many studies show, through advanced brain imaging, that hypnotic suggestions can alter the pain experience in the brain’s pain network. Research reviews of hypnosis demonstrate benefits directly on pain severity, pain meaning, fear of pain and sleep disturbance.
- Massage Therapy
Research shows that massage can reduce pain and anxiety for people with arthritis. Massage can lower the body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol and boost the production of serotonin, which in turn, can improve mood. Additionally, massage can lower the production of the neurotransmitter substance P, often linked to pain.
Yoga is one type of therapy that helps quiet and relax the mind, while the body stretches and strengthens. Practicing yoga might not directly relieve the source of your pain, but it may relax your body, loosen tense muscles, refresh your mind and mentally prepare you to better manage your discomfort. Personalized, one-to-one yoga instruction can be tailored to your physical abilities and health concerns.
- Physical therapy
Physical therapy uses a variety of techniques to help manage everyday activities with less pain and teaches you ways to improve flexibility and strength. A physical therapy program can pave the way to the benefits of an ongoing exercise program, tailored by a Physical Therapist to your physical abilities and goals.
During Pain Management Awareness Month, consider non-pharmacologic options for relieving pain. Consideration of these integrative options is critical for patients, caregivers, and medical care providers, given the need for solutions to reduce opioid risks. Every day in the U.S., more than 115 die by an overdose of opioids. The risks of opioid addiction and resulting deaths, specifically prescription opioids, have been designated as a public health crisis. Perhaps by adding options to the care plans of those experiencing pain, the need, and therefore risk, of opioid tragedies may be reduced.