In 2018, The Washington Post reported that 50 million adults in the U.S. live with chronic pain. That’s more than 20 percent of the country’s population. To present that statistic another way, one in five people deal with pain “most days or every day.” A large number of those individuals have chronic pain that is “bad enough to frequently limit their daily lives or work activities.”
Pain Is Subjective
Medical professionals find it challenging to assess an individual’s pain complaint, as it’s completely subjective. Some researchers go so far as to state that “pain is hard to understand from a scientific perspective” because of many factors, including a person’s relationship between mind and body, environmental influences, and even genetic makeup. Recent studies involve families whose members have high tolerances for pain—or conversely, pain super-sensitivity—to determine if DNA code variances might have something to do with how pain receptors react.
Whether you have a health condition because of an injury or illness, or used drugs to deal with pain and developed a substance use disorder, painkiller misuse is still high, and not simply from illicit use. The Arizona Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith, and Family reported that in 2014, “enough prescription pain relievers were dispensed to medicate every adult in Arizona around-the-clock for 17–20 days.” What’s worse is that more medication doesn’t necessarily stop the pain, especially when certain drugs—such as NSAIDs or anti-inflammatories—have a ceiling effect, resulting in less pain relief.
Choosing Alternative Methods for Managing Pain
In the past 25 years, the public’s acceptance of holistic therapies gained solid ground as more people realized they have options for not only for pain management, but also abatement. With greater support from medical agencies and functional or integrative physicians, healthcare professionals also recognize the importance of including alternative treatments in pain therapy. This helps legitimize some of the modalities.
- The Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona in Tucson believes the “appropriate use of both conventional and alternative methods facilitates the body’s innate healing response.”
- As long ago as 1997, the National Institutes of Health issued a “pro-acupuncture consensus statement, acknowledging acupuncture as an effective tool for managing pain and nausea,” and the U.S. military uses acupuncture as a form of pain management.
- The Stram Center for Integrative Medicine in Delmar, New York cites numerous alternative therapies for pain management, including reiki, proper nutrition to combat inflammation and joint issues, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and medical massage, to name a few.
As you consider alternative pain management therapies, research options carefully and consult with qualified practitioners. It’s important to note that not all methods work for each person, and many modalities aren’t covered by health insurance. Nevertheless, a good number of people find pain relief using some of the following treatments. Each category has helpful links to learn more about that application.
This ancient Chinese method uses tiny, mostly irritation-free needling to increase blood flow through connective tissue and muscles and activate natural pain sensors.
Biofeedback therapists use breathing techniques, electrodes, and relaxation exercises to help individuals acknowledge the existence of pain while reducing the reaction of their nervous systems.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
The purpose of this modality is to utilize certain coping mechanisms to enable pain sufferers to work through how they think and feel regarding their conditions and thus reduce the impact.
Therapists of this treatment manipulate the head, neck, and spine to improve the flow of cerebrospinal fluid, which prompts the central nervous system to relieve pain and boost immunity.
A popular treatment used by athletes and people managing rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, this application of intense cold purportedly lessens muscle and joint pain, sudden injury issues, and other conditions.
People who hurt often think they should avoid movement, but researchers stress that exercise “normalizes the processing of pain signals, promotes the release of chemicals that turn off pain, and heals injured tissues.” Swimming, biking, yoga, tai chi, walking, and even light strength training are all suggested movement therapies.
Similar to cognitive behavioral therapy, a trained guide helps individuals learn to manage pain with relaxation techniques, deliberate breathing, and other coping skills.
Myofascial release therapy
Your joints, muscles, and bones are covered with a fine tissue called fascia. Myofascial release impacts restricted fascial tissues and their connective points to provide pain relief and increase mobility.
Nerve blocking and injections
This method targets specific nerve clusters to relieve pain sensitivity. Isolated medication applications allow for treatment—such as local anesthetic or steroid injections—in one area without entering the bloodstream.
A therapist provides a series of exercises to help you regain previous mobility or reduce consistent pain. Your physician may prescribe physical therapy, but you can seek it out on your own, too.
As mentioned above, yoga is a good exercise to release tension and improve mobility. It’s also an effective practice for stress relief, which can make managing chronic pain easier. Depending on how much you’d like to move, you can try mat yoga or chair yoga.
Holistic Support from Cottonwood Tucson
Our treatment practices incorporate many holistic applications to focus on whole person wellness, helping you heal from within and live a full life without limitations. Learn more about our philosophy of care.