Alternative Strategies for Dealing With Chronic Pain

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The U.S. is experiencing a chronic pain epidemic, with 11% of Americans suffering from long-term pain. Sometimes, this pain is bad enough to disable people, leaving them unable to work or have social lives. Those who suffer from chronic pain or opioid use have a hard time doing anything apart from coping. There are many technologies and non-pharmaceutical strategies that can help patients deal with chronic pain. 

In the 90s, chronic pain groups advocated for doctors to treat pain more diligently. During this time, people who suffered from chronic pain were often dismissed by healthcare professionals. However, this had the unintended consequence of leading doctors to overprescribe pain killers to people with chronic pain. In the last few decades, this has caused millions of teenagers and adults to become addicted to opioids.

Although opioids can be the right course of treatment for some injuries, there are certain types of chronic pain that may be managed through alternative treatment methods. While this depends on the illness or injury that is being treated, healthcare professionals can sometimes only see what they’re capable of treating through medicine and pharmaceuticals.

However, these alternative methods can be extremely effective. If successful, these methods can eliminate the risk for of chronic pain sufferers becoming addicted to opioids. They can also give a person the opportunity to live a life free of perpetual drug use.

The benefits make these options worth exploring. However, it can take a lot of time and other resources to research these alternative strategies. Before doing so, it’s best to consult your doctor for their medical opinion about your options.

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Chronic Pain Epidemic

The likeliness of alternative treatments working depends on the type of chronic pain that people experience and the source of it. Some people experience chronic pain as a result of poorly healed injuries or nerve damage. Others experience pain due to factors like aging, or the development of a disease or illness.

Some reasons behind chronic pain include:

  • Improperly carrying or lifting heavy objects, which can cause dislocated discs in the back.
  • Congenital conditions such as spina bifida where the spine isn’t fully developed.
  • Poor posture and ordinary aging of the spine, which can lead to back pain.
  • Traumatic injuries that take several months to heal.
  • Diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, lupus, and fibromyalgia.
  • Other serious health problems like cancer or AIDS.

Sometimes, the cause for chronic pain can be unknown. When there are not obvious physical symptoms, it may be a sign of a neurological problem. However, there are cases where chronic pain just simply goes undiagnosed. These can be the most frustrating cases of chronic pain. When doctors are unsure how to treat a person’s pain, the patient suffers.

Depending on the reason behind a person’s chronic pain, there are various alternative strategies to explore for pain relief. Alternative pain treatment is often an attractive option. It can provide people with a natural treatment option as well as treat the stress associated with the chronic pain. At times, it can even be a cheaper option for finding pain relief.

Seeking alternative treatment options can be helpful for people with limited access to healthcare or funds. It can also benefit those looking for an integrated approach to their care. Alternative pain treatments can be particularly beneficial for individuals who deal with multiple health conditions at once, such as veterans who experience both chronic pain and PTSD, as this can help them manage their physical and mental health at the same time.

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Alternative Strategies for Pain Relief

It’s extremely important to find effective treatment for chronic pain. Untreated pain can result in severe depression, as well as a low quality of life. A survey of chronic pain patients by the American Pain Association indicated that 77% of participants reported being depressed, and 59% of them said their ability to enjoy life was compromised by their chronic pain.

While opioids are effective at treating pain, there are often alternative treatments that are better at treating specific types of chronic pain. These options also help treat poor mental health that comes as a result of the pain. While doctors should offer these options to patients, those suffering from chronic pain should research their options. By preparing information, they’ll be ready to ask their doctor about alternative options for pain treatment.

Although chronic pain is real and debilitating, sometimes patients simply exhaust their patience to mentally cope with endless pain. This is why a combination of treatments for pain, like certain medications, as well as physical, mental, and emotional therapies may be best to treat every area of a person who suffers as a result of chronic pain.

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Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is one of the most commonly recommended forms of therapy for people who have undergone great bodily trauma. This involves weekly sessions with a physical therapist who helps improve the strength and mobility in certain bodily areas.

These specific areas often cause pain through a range of normal daily activities. In circumstances where the body needs retraining, physical therapy is usually one of the best options for pain treatment. This form of therapy can provide a long-term cure for the areas where a person is experiencing pain.

Physical therapy can be physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. It often involves pushing the body to its limits to attain strength and better movement. This can be particularly difficult after a serious injury, illness, or surgery that can cause the body to lose functions that were once second nature. Trying to teach the body to relearn movements and motions it doesn’t remember learning can be a challenge. However, it’s an effective method to treating pain for people who are eligible candidates for physical therapy.

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Acupuncture

Acupuncture is another form of alternative medicine that involves placing thin needles in the skin throughout the body’s pressure points. This is done in hopes of relieving nerve pain throughout the body. This traditional chinese medicine is done to treat pain, although it’s also used to treat several other various conditions.

Unfortunately, there is little clinical evidence proving this as an effective treatment option for chronic pain. However, some research suggests that acupuncture can be a cost-effective way to treat chronic lower back pain in leu of standard medical care.

Acupuncture is a generally safe practice; however, like anything else involving needles, it’s important that modern practitioners are properly trained. Accidents and infections have been known to occur as a result of negligence on behalf of the practitioner. When this occurs, it’s often as a result of the use of unsterilized needles. Therefore, if considering attempting this type of pain management treatment, it’s best to check the credentials for any practitioner you consider seeing, as well as consulting your doctor about the potential benefits.

Therapeutic Massage

Severe pain in the body can sometimes occur as a result of extreme physical labor or tension. This can happen when a person does a lot of physical labor and doesn’t slow down or do enough self-care. Excessive physical labor can result in painful straining of the muscles and joints in the body. Often, this can be treated through a lot of bed rest and physical relaxation through descensatory pods and therapeutic massages.

Although therapeutic massages are often considered a luxury indulgence, they can be really effective in easing pain by working strain and tension out of the muscles throughout the body, which can relieve both physical and mental stress and anxiety. This can also help relax the body enough to relieve pain for a short period of time. Still, it’s best to combine this treatment with physical rest, as they are both likely needed.

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Temperature Therapy

Temperature therapy uses cold and heat to relieve aches and pains by improving circulation and blood flow to injured areas. Heat therapy can help with muscle flexibility, and also helps heal damaged body tissue. Dry heat, such as from heating pads, dry heating packs, and saunas can all provide these pain-soothing benefits.

However, moist heat — such as from steamed towels, moist heating packs, and hot baths — are often considered more effective in relieving pain, as they more quickly increase blood flow to these areas. Cold therapy, on the other hand, can be used with ice packs, frozen gel packs, ice baths, and coolant spray, which help relieve pain by reducing inflammation in painful areas, as well as temporarily reducing nerve activity.

With both heat and cold therapies, those with chronic pain should be careful to apply moderate temperatures on the body. Excessively cold or hot products can damage the skin. Cold and heat can be alternated to treat osteoarthritis by using cold to contract the blood vessels to decrease pain, and then expands them with heat. The incoming blood then brings nutrients to help heal injured tissues.

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Exercise

Exercise plays an extremely important role in interrupting the severe stiffness and soreness that comes with joint and muscle conditions. These conditions include arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia, lower back pain, and more. Those experiencing pain with movement often become idle in an attempt to avoid the pain. Unfortunately, this tends to make their condition worse, as it can increase the stiffness in their joints and bodies.

Those with joint stiffness should participate in gentle activities, such as water aerobics, jogging, or stretching. These activities can help give people with chronic pain the motion they need to relax their bodies. Exercise is often recommended as a method for easing pain, as it’s natural and accessible to anyone. However, it is important to be careful when exploring exercise as a treatment option; 25% of adults who tried using exercise for pain treatment experienced adverse effects.

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Meditation

Mind and body techniques, such as yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and breathing can relieve mental and emotional stress from chronic pain. Through these techniques, those suffering with chronic pain can restore a sense of control over their bodies. This can help their muscles physically relax. Chronic pain can sometimes cause a “fight or flight” response from the body, which can stir reactionary bodily behavior.

However, by relaxing the body and mind, meditation can help chronic pain sufferers regain physical and mental control over themselves. Some studies show that meditation can help decrease chronic pain by 57%, and by more than 90% for advanced meditators. Although this isn’t an effective treatment for everyone, it’s worth considering to find a natural method for pain relief.

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Music Therapy

Listening to music can be used as a therapeutic activity. It helps people decompress and engage the mind in a way that is different from other day-to-day activities. Different styles of music can have different effects and can be used to provide the listener with a feeling of satisfaction that releases endorphins into the body. Studies show that music helps to decrease pain symptoms while inducing feelings of pleasure. It has been used as a clinical tool to procure deep responses from listeners and to put individuals at ease.

The impact music has on the mind can serve as various forms of therapy, including treating chronic pain. By engaging the mind, music can help take the edge off for people who have a hard time thinking about anything apart from the pain they’re experiencing. Children who experience pain are an especially receptive population to using music as a form of therapy.

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Bonding with Pets

Pets are often used as service and emotional support animals. They can be very helpful and provide much relief to people who are disabled or experience chronic pain. Chronic pain can have a huge toll on a person’s mental and emotional health. Any bond that provides emotional relief and support can be crucial to a person’s overall mental and physical health. Pets can help people suffering from chronic pain from experiencing worsening depression and anxiety, and help stabilize their emotional wellbeing.

Pets can give those with chronic pain a better quality of life, and help them feel less depressed and lonely. It can also keep them more physically and mentally engaged. Cuddling with a pet can help to release oxytocin, which helps relax the body and mind, relieving stress. However, before getting a pet to help relieve emotional stress, it’s important to ensure that those suffering from chronic pain are either still capable of moving around enough to take care of a pet, or have a support system to help take care of the support animal.

Chronic pain is a huge problem in the U.S. and around the world. Hundreds of millions of people suffer from debilitating chronic pain that can result in a poor quality of life. Although opioids can help treat some types of chronic pain, it’s often best to seek alternative strategies for pain treatment in order to avoid the risk of addiction. Alternative treatment methods are also more effective in treating strained mental health connected to chronic pain.

Although these alternative treatment methods may not work for everyone, they’re worth trying to seek relief. However, treatment plans are ultimately a decision between the person experiencing pain and their doctor. If you’re experiencing chronic pain, it’s crucial to find relief, and a pain-relief strategy that works for you.

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Brooke Faulkner

Brooke Faulkner is a mom and writer in the Pacific Northwest. She is passionate about sharing her knowledge about the healthcare industry to help both healthcare providers in providing quality care, and families like hers in getting the healthcare they need.

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