Reports suggest that over 50 million Americans live with lingering pain caused by migraines, past traumas, or conditions such as osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and many others. The standard treatment typically includes NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines) and opioids. However, they can do more harm than good in the latter case. Luckily, alternatives to pain medication for chronic pain relief exist in the form of nonpharmacological therapies and techniques. Every one of them helps reduce persistent discomfort and, thus, enables patients to learn to enjoy life all over again!
Scientifically-Backed Alternatives to Pain Medication for Chronic Pain Relief
Until recently, chronic pain was seen solely as a symptom, not an illness. Fortunately, that has changed, and nowadays, medical professionals recognize how important treating it as an actual condition is. However, lingering pain treatment often includes medication that, when used frequently, leads to addiction. That’s why many have begun turning to alternative treatments instead of taking the typical medicated approach. Today, we introduce you precisely to those non-standard pain management strategies. Ones that are 100% backed by science!
#1 Managing Chronic Pain by Practicing Mindfulness
Mindfulness is more than just a fad; it has existed for some time. This form of meditation, with its roots in Eastern cultures, is gaining traction in Western medicine as a way to alleviate symptoms of various illnesses. Reducing stress, chronic pain, and even depressive and anxious episodes are just a few advantages associated with learning to tune into your body, connect with the environment, and help your mind unwind. Positive emotions and self-awareness are two added benefits.
But how exactly does mindfulness ”cure” chronic pain? Well, it doesn’t cure it per se. It does, however, change one’s perception of pain, reduce their pain threshold, and, thus, help one cope with it better. That begs the question, if mindfulness can alleviate long-term discomfort, what’s to say it is nothing but a psychological manifestation? Well, science says it isn’t. That exact science, or rather MRI scans, proves that mindfulness alters the neural response to pain. It appears to be particularly effective in treating pain related to fibromyalgia, inflammatory bowel diseases, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Mindfulness-based programs most typically include a group environment and an instructor. However, some people may experiment with practicing it using books or audio recordings. On top of group classes during which joint discussion is encouraged, writing exercises to foster self-awareness are often conducted.
Acupuncture is based on traditional Chinese medicine, practiced for hundreds of years. During an acupuncture session, tiny needles puncture the skin at certain spots to activate or change the flow of chi — energy which helps maintain normal bodily functions. In Western medicine, however, these needles stimulate the nervous system to produce more or fewer chemicals, depending on what is needed to recuperate.
Multiple studies that researched the effectiveness of acupuncture for chronic pain treatment revealed that the therapy is highly beneficial. They have also shown that its effects last over time and are not prescribed to placebo. Furthermore, this ancient Chinese practice is considered one of the safest alternatives to pain medication for chronic pain relief. And while it’s commonly used to treat back pain, joint discomfort, and migraines, acupuncture has also provided lasting relief in those suffering from more serious medical conditions. Crohn’s disease, endometriosis, and ulcerative colitis are only a few examples.
#3 Physical Therapy
Physical therapy, or PT as many would call it, is a form of active treatment that can help patients regain strength, improve mobility, and lower discomfort. A physical therapist is responsible for conducting such treatment, which revolves around exercise, electrical stimulation, ultrasound, massage, and others. All of these work together to disrupt pain signals, increase blood flow, and stimulate the production of endorphins, thus minimizing pain.
Physical therapy primarily deals with pain caused by injury, which may occur from overly exerting yourself physically. Many would agree that prevention is the best form of treatment, which is why asking for help with physically demanding tasks like lawn care or moving can be beneficial. However, you can count on PT for pain relief if an injury occurs.
On top of alleviating trauma-induced chronic pain, physical therapy can also relieve that resulting from hip and knee osteoarthritis, back problems, and sciatica. It can also make those afraid to move to feel more at ease and safe with exercises, thus helping them physically and mentally.
#4 Chiropractic Adjustment
Many individuals swear by chiropractic adjustment. This hands-on therapy entails spinal manipulation and, in some instances, manipulation of other body parts to improve range of motion, alignment, and physical function. According to practitioners, fixing the spinal alignment is important as it lessens the strain on the central nervous system. This, in turn, boosts the body’s ability to repair itself, which results in lower pain.
However, there is one downside to using chiropractic therapy as one of the alternatives to pain medication for chronic pain relief. And that’s because only musculoskeletal ailments have been shown to benefit from the technique. Nevertheless, patients experiencing neck discomfort, scoliosis, headaches, and migraines report feeling better even after a single chiropractic session, with those dealing with lower back pain reporting the most significant relief. Furthermore, this therapy has also proven effective for individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) and those experiencing osteoarthritis-induced hip and back pain.
The question is, where are chiropractic sessions held? Well, typically, in a professional setting or a medical office. And while even a single visit can help, typically, multiple ones are necessary. Thankfully, most insurance policies cover this type of treatment.
During a session, a chiropractor will perform adjustments on a patient that either sits or lies on a table. It’s common to experience symptoms such as muscle soreness or fatigue a few days after therapy. Patients may feel similar to how they would go after strenuous physical activity.
Alternatives to pain medication for chronic pain relief can make your life easier. Unfortunately, a pharmaceutical approach can be the only option in specific situations. However, taking drugs without a doctor’s approval isn’t wise. If abused, they can lead to a vicious cycle of addiction. One that you can only break through a rehabilitation program. However, when taken correctly, painkillers can be effective in reducing discomfort.