In a previous post I talked about non-drug methods to manage pain in the spine-neck and back. You may want to review it now, but reading this one first is fine. This post will focus on other painful conditions.
While people often discover methods to relieve pain that work for them, I am focusing here on treatments that are supported in the medical literature or recommended by knowledgeable professionals. For this post, I reviewed many articles which summarized current studies.
Finding trustworthy medical information
How do doctors know what works and what doesn’t? Since medical knowledge has changed since we went to medical school , how do we know what is current information?
We read literature pertinent to our fields on a regular basis, attend conferences, and talk to other doctors. But when we need a specific question answered , we do what you do-we Google it.
One of the most frequently reviewed is PubMed listing more than 28 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. The service is free and anyone can use it. PubMed is a service of the National Library of Medicine, the largest biomedical library in the world ,located in Bethesda, Maryland,
Another major reference is the Cochrane Library, a collection of databases in medicine and other healthcare specialties ; a fee is charged to use this service.
Basic points about complementary treatments for pain management
We should use medication and surgery when appropriate, but when these can’t be used or are not helpful, we can consider alternative methods, or what I and other doctors prefer to call complementary or integrative treatment.
This post focuses on symptom relief, not necessarily curative treatment.
Herbals and supplements are drugs and can be effective for certain conditions, but this post will discuss non-drug treatments only.
Many cases of pain improve spontaneously with no specific treatment.
Almost everything works sometimes.
There are few if any down side to any of these treatments. Used under supervision they are unlikely to have adverse side effects or result in long term complications.
The most important ingredient in managing a chronic or persistent condition is having a therapeutic relationship with your physician and other healthcare professionals- physical therapist , mental health counselor, nutritionist.
Migraine is more than just a bad headache; it is a disorder of the brain which causes pain as well as other common symptoms including nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and noise. Dizziness, numbness, and loss of vision occur less frequently.
Most people with migraine require some type of medication for relief, but non-drug treatments can supplement meds and can be helpful for prevention. Integrative treatments that work according to studies include
- CBT-cognitive behavioral therapy
- relaxation training
I mentioned fibromyalgia in my post about back and neck pain, but include it here since it causes pain in other body areas.
Fibromyalgia seems to be a disorder of nerves which makes them super sensitive, leading to diffuse muscle and joint pain that can become disabling. Complementary treatments recommended include
- Mind-body-guided imagery, hypnosis, biofeedback, mindfulness meditation , relaxation
- Tai chi
- Hydrotherapy, balneotherapy
Osteoarthritis of the knees (degenerative arthritis)
It is likely that arthritis in other joints responds to these therapies but there aren’t enough large studies to confirm.
- tai chi
- walking and strengthening exercises
- Balneotherapy-bathing in hot water mineral baths
Tessa Frank discusses how she became frustrated when increasing doses of opioids didn’t relieve her chronic pain, and what she’s doing now to manage her pain.
“While I no longer use opioids, I do use non-opioid prescription medications and a spinal cord stimulator to provide pain relief for my CRPS, complex regional pain syndrome, a chronic, debilitating neuropathic pain condition.
I’m also hyperaware of how stress triggers my increased feelings of pain, so to mitigate stress, I personally have found relief in meditation, relaxation and yoga among other approaches.” (excerpt)
If you didn’t read it earlier, here’s a link to the previous post about treating pain, along with a brief excerpt.
“Pain in the spine results from many medical conditions, ranging from minor to life threatening. Most cases are due to routine or excessive physical activity or a minor injury causing strain of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and will go away with no or minimal intervention in less than 12 weeks.”
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In a future post I will talk about non-drug treatments for other conditions.
always exploring the HEART of health with you.