(ĐTĐ) - Think back to the last time you bumped your elbow walking through a doorway. After shouting “Ow!” what was the first thing you did? Likely, you instinctively rubbed the sore area to ease the pain. This is the idea behind massage therapy – relieving pain and promoting wellness through touch.
(ĐTĐ) - Acupuncture is a type of traditional medicine that first began back in the East. It’s thought that it might have begun around 3300 BCE. Although the exact time is uncertain.
It’s thought that energy flows through our body in a specific pattern. When this route is disrupted, vital organs aren’t receiving oxygen and other essential nutrients. This is what causes disorders to occur. So an acupuncturist will apply either needles, heat or lasers to specific areas of the body known as meridians to remove the obstacle.
This will stimulate the nerves, tissue, muscle and organs, which will activate the body’s natural defense and restore the natural energy flow, qi. The end result would be relief of your symptoms, and improve overall wellbeing.
There is a total of 12 meridians, the one chosen depends on the symptoms that you are experiencing.
How Do These Little Needles Cure So Many Aliments?
Although the exact reason why acupuncture works so well is uncertain, there are several theories. They include gate, Neurotransmitter, Augmentation of Immunity and Circulatory
Doctors believe that the nervous system sends messages to your brain through what is known as the gate. When the gate has so many different messages it will become overloaded and stop sending the pain messages. So acupuncture overwhelms the smaller gates, causing it to shut down. This is what’s known as the gate theory.
With the neurotransmitter theory,it’s thought that the chemical neurotransmitter nor adrenaline and Serotonin is stimulated by acupuncture, this increases the body’s natural response while decreasing their symptoms.
The endorphin theory is similar to the one above. Doctors believe that acupuncture causes your body to release endorphins. The increased endorphin level decreases our symptoms.
The Augmentation of immunity theory states that acupuncture raises the levels of white blood cells, hormones, triglycerides, prostaglandins, gamma globulins and other essential body levels. This increase helps the body to create homeostasis, an overall wellbeing.
Circulatory theory believes acupuncture will either open the blood vessels wider or constrict then, make them smaller. This fluctuation is what causes the symptom reduction.
What Can Acupuncture be used for?
People use Acupuncture to treat numerous disorders. Because I’m unable to list them all I’ve chosen the most common. If your illness isn’t listed, please check with an acupuncturist first, before giving up on this treatment choice.
Some of the most common include; pain reduction in the back, neck, face and shoulder. It’s also shown to relieve headaches, migraines, sports injuries, muscle spasms and contractures. Many use it for disorders like; TMD.
Fibromyalgia, neuropathy, myofacial, sciatica, radiculitis, arthritis, neuritis, tendonitis, neuralgia, osteoarthritis, bell’s palsy, sexual issues, infertility, gynecological problems, respiratory illness, insomnia, allergies, PMS, skin diseases, digestive issues and cancer treatment.
Some say it helps with constipation, nausea and vomiting. It is known to reduce stress and depression, it has helped people stop smoking and it helps strengthens your immune system.
How Bad Does This Treatment Hurt?
If you’re like many, the thought of having needles poked into your skin makes you a little squeamish. It did me too at first, but then I did a little research and found out the needles that’s used is extremely tiny in diameter.
In fact the largest needle an acupuncturist might use is 0.0137 inches thick. Where a needle used to draw blood is 1. 5 inches in diameter. That is a huge difference. Many I talked to say they don’t feel the needles, because they are so tiny
Does it really work or is it a hoax?
Many people use to believe that acupuncture has the placebo effect. Recently MRI’s have been done during an acupuncture. It has shown a difference in brain wave patters during the procedure.
I met a lady who sees an acupuncturist for cancer treatment. She’s in her 10th year of remission.
How is the Areas Chosen?
Since there are specific connected energy routes that flows through our body, to our vital organs. The doctor will look at your medical history, and the symptoms that you’re experiencing.With his knowledge in traditional oriental medicine, new research and experience, he will choose the areas accordingly.
How Often Should I Go?
The amount of needed treatments depends on three things; the type of disorder, the severity and how long the person’s been suffering. This is why some only require a few treatments, while others may take a little longer. The acupuncturist can recommend the specific amount of time you will need. Of course, as your body heals, your need for acupuncture will decrease.
Does This Treatment Take a Long Time?
The length of the visit depends on the treatment plan. Generally it doesn’t last for more than an hour. Once the needles are placed the doctor may choose to leave them up to forty-five minutes. Again it depends on the severity of the disorder.
Are There Things I Should and shouldn’t do Beforehand?
Before the Treatment
If you feel hungry you’re allowed to eat a small light meal.
Be sure to wear something that is loose and comfortable. So it will be easier to do your treatment.
Don’t drink, take drugs, put yourself in a stressful situation, or do too much activity for 6 hours. Many acupuncturist will advise you to use these 6 hours to rest.
Make sure you jot down any changes you’re feeling and questions you might have.
Don’t eat a large meal for at least an hour afterwards.
What will happen when I Arrive?
Once you arrive the acupuncturist will get your full medical history. They will also ask you about your symptoms and ask you about personal habits. The acupuncturist will palpate different areas of your body and check pulse points. All of these steps will help the acupuncturist determine your plan of care.
The Prickly Truth
Acupuncture began in China thousands of years ago. Since making its way to the western culture its cured people of numerous illnesses. Although many don’t believe this treatment’s helpful, MRI and personal testimony have proven otherwise.
If you have a knee injury, you may worry that exercising could cause more damage or pain. But the opposite is true: Strengthening the muscles that support your knee, and keeping them flexible, is the best way to prevent further injuries. Start slowly, and build your strength over time. Some muscle soreness is normal when you exercise. But you shouldn’t feel more pain, especially in your knee. If you do, stop and contact your doctor.
Warm Up Your Knee
Stretching can help your leg muscles perform better. Warm up before you stretch, though. You can ride a stationary bike for about 5 minutes, take a brisk 2-minute walk while pumping your arms, or do 15-20 wall push-ups followed by the same number of calf raises. It will help you get more out of your workout and lower your risk of injury.
Straight Leg Raises
If your knee’s not at its best, start with an easy strengthening exercise for your quadriceps, the muscles in the front of the thigh. This move puts little to no strain on the knee: Lie on your back on the floor or another flat surface. Bend one knee and place your foot flat on the floor. Keeping the other leg straight, raise it to the height of the opposite knee. Repeat 10-15 times for three sets.
Your hamstrings are the muscles along the back of your thigh. Lie flat on your stomach. Slowly bring your heels as close to your buttocks as you can, and hold that position. Do three sets of 15. You can also do this exercise standing while holding on to a chair. If this becomes easy, you can add ankle weights, slowly increasing the weight from 1 to 3 to 5 pounds.
Prone Straight Leg Raises
Lie on your stomach with your legs straight. Tighten the muscles in your bottom and the hamstring of one leg, and lift toward the ceiling. Hold 3-5 seconds, lower, and repeat. Do 10-15 lifts and switch sides. You can add ankle weights as you gain strength. You should not feel back pain. If you do, limit how high you lift up. If it’s still painful, stop and talk to your doctor.
Close the Chain
Wall squats are “closed chain” exercises, advanced strengthening moves that keep your feet on the floor. Stand with your back against a wall, your feet about shoulder-width apart. Slowly bend your knees, keeping your back and pelvis against the wall. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Don’t bend too deeply or you could injure your knee. If you feel pressure or discomfort in your knees, adjust your position. Repeat the exercise, and try to hold the sit position a few seconds longer each time.
Stand facing the back of a sturdy chair, other support such as the back of a couch, or a wall bar at the gym. You can also do this on the stairs, holding on to the banister with your heels hanging off the edge of the step. Slowly raise the heels as high as you can, then lower. Do three sets of 10-15. If this move becomes easy, lift one foot slightly off the floor, placing all your weight on the other foot.
Place one foot on a step bench, platform, or the lowest step on a staircase. Keeping your pelvis level, bend your knee and slowly lower the opposite foot to the floor. Lightly touch your toe to the floor, then rise back up. Repeat 10-15 times, then switch legs. If this exercise becomes easy, use a higher step, or touch your heel instead of your toe.
Lie on one side with legs stacked. Bend the bottom leg for support. Straighten the top leg (without locking the knee), and raise it to 45 degrees. Hold for 5 seconds, lower and relax briefly, then repeat 10-15 times. Switch sides and repeat. Vary the exercise by pointing the toe of your upper leg slightly toward the floor as you raise it.
Sit on a leg-press machine with your back and head against the support and your feet flat on the foot plate. Adjust the seat back until you feel comfortable. Slowly push the plate away from you until your legs are extended (but do not lock your knees). Bend your knees and return to your starting position. Do three sets of 10-15 reps. (Ask a member of the gym staff for assistance the first time you do this.)
No-No's for Your Knee
No exercise should ever cause or increase pain. Remember: Muscle soreness after a vigorous workout is normal, but any kind of sharp, shooting, or sudden pain in the muscles or joints is a sign that something is wrong. If you feel pain while exercising, stop right away and check with your doctor.
Aerobic Exercise That Works for Your Knee
If you have knee pain, avoid exercises that aggravate it. This may include high-impact activities such as running or intense aerobics. Use a common-sense approach and notice what feels right for you. For example, some people find that elliptical machines hurt, while others do not. A great activity for people with sore knees is swimming: Your body in water weighs 1/6 of what it does on land.
(ĐTĐ) - Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of taking a pill regularly for pain relief. Here are some alternatives.
Merck & Co.'s decision to discontinue the pain relief drug Vioxx has left millions of people scrambling for an alternative for pain management. According to the American Pain Foundation, there are more than 50 million Americans suffering from chronic pain, or 25 million experiencing acute pain as a result of injury or surgery. Worldwide, 2 million people were taking Vioxx at the time of the recall.
If you're a pain sufferer, here's some good news: Plenty of options exist to ease aches, and many of them don't come in pill form. After all, Vioxx only entered the market in 1999, and arthritis, menstrual cramps, post-surgery pain, and other aches and pains soothed by the drug have been around and managed for a much longer time period.
Only a few common alternatives are discussed in this article. There are dozens, if not hundreds, more pain relief approaches out there. Many of them may be snake oil in various shapes and sizes, and we know that has been around for ages.
Before trying any pain relief approaches, it is important to talk with your doctor. Some therapies may not be safe or appropriate for you, even if they are of the nonpharmaceutical kind. Different factors need to be considered before undergoing any treatment, including your medical condition and history.
Also keep in mind that none of the resources available are perfect pain remedies. They may not provide complete pain relief. They do not work the same for everyone. You may have to try a number of different strategies and combine some of them before finding an acceptable level of pain relief. As with any treatment, there may also be risks and side effects.
A benefit of trying out alternative therapies is that you may find a pain relief option that works for you. We all know how priceless pain relief can be. So don't give up on finding respite for your suffering.
Take an active part in your rehabilitation, advises Penney Cowan, executive director and founder of the American Chronic Pain Association. She says people need to ask themselves, "What's my role in regaining control of my life and actually living with this pain?"
"A big part of pain management is feeling like you have to regain control of your life, because the pain has taken over," says Cowan.
Pain Relief With Physical Therapy
There is no one solution to pain, but at least one expert says physical therapy is highly effective. "I recommend it to almost all of my patients," says Hayes Wilson, MD, chief rheumatologist at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, and national medical adviser to the Arthritis Foundation.
Physical therapists teach people how to take care of themselves. "If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day. If you teach him how to fish, he eats for the rest of his life," says Wilson, noting physical therapists are like fishing instructors.
He is not far off. According to the American Physical Therapy Association, physical therapists teach patients self-management skills. In the case of arthritis, therapists show people how to deal with pain in day-to-day life. They show people how to build up strength and improve range of motion, and how to make sensible decisions about activities to prevent arthritic flare-ups.
Yet physical therapy is far from a panacea. In patients with severe rheumatoid arthritis, a condition that can shave 10 to 15 years off life, Wilson sees immune-modulating drugs as a first choice of treatment, and physical therapy as an adjunct.
In patients with osteoarthritis, the condition could worsen if swelling isn't fully addressed. "I think physical therapy does decrease inflammation to a certain extent, but I think the most dramatic changes to inflammation are made pharmacologically (with medicine)," says Wilson.
In looking for a physical therapist, it is important to first find out whether your health care plan covers visits. Next, look for a trained professional, someone who is licensed to practice in your state. It is also helpful to find a therapist who has experience in dealing with your particular condition.
Pain Relief With Acupuncture
Easing pain with needles may sound agonizing, but acupuncture is an ancient form of pain relief.
Acupuncture originated in China thousands of years ago. In traditional practice, needles are pierced through the skin in specific areas to improve the flow of energy throughout the body. Western scientists suspect the practice may stimulate the release of chemicals, which can either soothe pain, or prompt the body's natural healing systems.
The National Institutes of Health has sponsored a number of studies on acupuncture, including its affect on arthritis, inflammation, and chronic pain. Until researchers can better pinpoint how acupuncture works in pain relief, physicians such as Wilson say the patient's faith in the procedure has a lot to do with its success.
"I think it can work for anybody, but it's going to work for the people who believe in it," Wilson says, adding that many treatment strategies are effective in part because of the patients' belief in them. "People who don't believe they're going to get better, I think, are less likely to get through."
Acupuncture is not recommended for people who are taking blood thinners, or for those with a bleeding disorder. Risks of the procedure involve dangers inherent in needle use, including spread of an infectious disease, piercing of organs, minor bleeding, and broken or forgotten needles.
Pain Relief With Stress Management
"The reign of pain falls mainly in the brain," jokes Dennis Turk, professor of anesthesiology and pain research at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
Yet there is a truth to Turk's joke. "You can never have pain without a conscious organism to interpret it," he says, referring to the brain. With this organ, people make sense out of noxious sensations and determine how bothersome they really are. A host of factors, including psychological ones, can affect how people perceive sensations, what they decide to do about them, and how they interact with their world.
Stress is a big psychological factor that can intensify the perception of pain. When people are distressed, their muscles tend to become tense and may arouse already tender tissues. On an emotional level, the pressure may amplify their perception of pain. "Emotional arousal or stress may lead them to interpret their situation as being more difficult, and may make them avoid certain types of activities, because they're afraid it's going to make their pain worse," says Turk.
To alleviate the pressure, Turk recommends trying to change the source of stress. For instance, if you find yourself always arguing with your spouse, it may help to find a way to communicate with him or her instead.
If it is not possible to change the source of tension, try distracting yourself with enjoyable activities such as spending time with friends, watching a movie, or listening to music. Participating in something pleasurable may shift focus away from pain.
Another strategy is to unwind. Relaxation techniques include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, visualization, massage, yoga, and Tai Chi. These practices have been proven to be effective.
Some people have found stress relief by joining support groups or by getting individual counseling on how to best cope with their stress or ailment.
For the most part, many of these stress-management strategies have been proven to be effective. Yet not everyone can benefit from each of the techniques. Different methods work for different people. For instance, there is good evidence that people who go to support groups experience pain reduction and dramatic improvements in their physical and emotional functioning. Nonetheless, a person who doesn't want to talk about their ailment would not be a good candidate for a support group.
Pain Relief With Exercise
Many people in pain often avoid exercise because movement hurts too much. Yet their inactivity may actually worsen their condition.
"The human body was designed to be in motion no matter what state of health you're in," says Sal Fichera, an exercise physiologist, certified personal trainer, and owner of ForzaFitness.com in New York City. "If you let your body become inactive, then you will let your body degenerate."
Muscle degeneration can lead to other problems such as diminishing bone density, depression, and a weakened heart. In contrast, regular exercise can help keep joints flexible and strong, and better able to deal with arthritic pain. Plus, physical activity promotes the release of mood-enhancing chemicals in the body that can help diminish the perception of pain.
There are three types of exercise recommended for arthritis patients. The first, flexibility workouts, involve stretches that can help enhance range of motion. The second, cardiovascular or aerobic workouts, includes walking, water exercises, and cycling. The third, strength conditioning, includes isometric or isotonic workouts.
Isometric workouts are static exercises that involve applying resistance without moving the joint. For example, if you stand up against the wall and press your hands against it, you are working out your chest muscle. On the other hand, isotonic workouts use the full range of motion. They include bicep curls and leg extensions.
To decrease pain and prevent further injury, it is important to apply appropriate effort in proper form. Not all exercises are right for everyone. If one type of exercise does not work for you, there are always other options. Before starting a fitness program, make sure to consult with your doctor and with a trained fitness professional.
Pain Relief With Diet
Here's extra incentive if you've been thinking about losing weight: Shedding excess pounds could help reduce the risk of pain.
"If you're overweight and de-conditioned, your joints take a major hit, because of the increased poundage that your joints have to carry," says Elton Strauss, MD, chief of orthopaedic trauma and adult reconstruction at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
There are plenty of weight loss programs available, but keep in mind that regular physical activity and a nutritious, well-balanced diet are proven methods for weight loss.
On the other extreme, being underweight or weight loss with a poor diet and inactivity can exacerbate pain. "Your hormone levels are off," explains Lisa Dorfman, MSRD, a sports nutritionist and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association (ADA). Normal flow of hormones can help the body combat aches, and activate the body's own healing systems.
Dorfman says people need not become vegetarians for pain relief. She suggests limiting intake of animal protein and saturated fat, and beefing up on foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, another spokesperson for the ADA, agrees. She also suggests eating more whole grains and organically produced foods. She says steroid hormones and preservatives may negatively stimulate the immune system.
Pain Relief With Dietary Supplements
There is promising evidence that two types of dietary supplements -- Chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine -- may help relieve pain associated with osteoarthritis. Yet more research needs to be done on their long-term safety and effectiveness.
Side effects of chondroitin are rare, but could include headache, motor uneasiness, euphoria, hives, rash, photosensitivity, hair loss, and breathing difficulties. People with bleeding disorders or those taking blood thinners should consult with their doctor before taking the supplement.
Side effects of glucosamine include upset stomach, drowsiness, insomnia, headache, skin reactions, sun sensitivity, and nail toughening. Some glucosamine products may be made with shellfish, and may cause adverse reaction in people with shellfish allergies.
Some arthritis patients may find some pain relief with bioelectric therapy. "The people who benefit from bioelectric therapy are people who tend to have mild muscle pain," says Wilson, noting that people with joint inflammation, such as those with rheumatoid arthritis, may not get as much benefit.
In bioelectric therapy, a dose of electric current is applied to the skin to help distract the brain from sensing pain. The therapy tries to overload the brain with sensations to divert its focus on the original source of pain.
There may be skin irritation and redness as a result of bioelectric therapy. This strategy is not recommended for people who have a pacemaker, are pregnant, have blood clots in the arms and legs, and have a bacterial infection.
Strauss at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, warns against its use. "I don't think there are studies out there that show it works," he says.
Live a Healthy Life
In some cases, your physician may suggest combining nonmedicinal options with drug therapy. Try not to rule out medication altogether. The ideal goal of pain relief treatment, after all, is not just to alleviate suffering, but also to keep you alive and healthy.
Remember: The simplest -- yet often the most challenging -- strategy for pain relief involves eating right, sleeping enough, exercising, and managing stress. "If you look at pain management skills, they are nothing more than good living skills," says Cowan. "If we don't live our life and really pay attention, the pain overcomes us."
Source WebMD Feature
Bioelectric therapy is a safe, drug-free treatment option for people in pain. It is used to treat some chronic pain and acute pain conditions. It relieves pain by blocking pain messages to the brain. When you are injured, pain receptors send a message to the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). The message is registered as pain by certain cells in the body. Using bioelectric currents, bioelectric therapy relieves pain by interrupting pain signals before they reach the brain. Bioelectric therapy also prompts the body to produce endorphins which help to relieve pain.
What Conditions Are Treated With Bioelectric Therapy?
Bioelectric therapy can be used to treat chronic and acute pain conditions including:
- Complex regional pain syndrome, also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy or RSD.
- Back pain.
- Muscle pain.
- Headaches and migraines.
- Disorders of blood flow in the upper and lower limbs.
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome (affects the jaw).
- Disorders of the nervous system, such as diabetic neuropathy.
- Pain and ulcers of the skin resulting from poor circulation or scleroderma (a chronic condition that can cause thickening or hardening of the skin).
Bioelectric therapy isn't right for everyone. It is not recommended for people who:
- Have a pacemaker.
- Are pregnant.
- Have thrombosis (blood clots in the arms or legs).
- Have a bacterial infection.
How Effective Is Bioelectric Therapy?
Bioelectric therapy is effective in providing temporary pain control, but it should only be a part of a total pain management program. When used along with conventional pain-relieving medications, bioelectric treatment may reduce the dose of some pain medications by up to 50%.
What Happens During Bioelectric Therapy?
During bioelectric therapy, several small, flat rubber adhesive discs (called electrodes) are applied to your skin at prescribed areas to be treated. Sometimes rubber suction cups (called vaso pneumatic devices) may be applied to your skin. The electrodes are hooked up to a computer that programs the precise treatment dosage required. High frequency alternating electrical currents (around 4,000 cycles per second) are then applied to the electrodes. The currents move through the skin quickly with little discomfort. During treatment, your response to the electrical stimulation is measured.
When electricity is applied, a mild vibrating, tingling sensation is common. This sensation should not be uncomfortable; you should feel a relaxing, soothing pain relief. As the currents are applied, you will provide verbal feedback to the clinician. If the sensation becomes too strong, please tell the clinician right away so the treatment can be adjusted. You should be comfortable and enjoy the treatment, which lasts about 20 minutes.
What Are the Side Effects of Bioelectric Therapy?
In rare cases, skin irritation and redness can occur under the electrodes during bioelectric therapy.
How Often Should I Get Bioelectric Therapy?
The number of bioelectric therapy sessions required depends on each person's condition and response to treatment. One bioelectric therapy session does not usually result in pain relief. Therapy usually begins with about five sessions in one week, followed by three treatments per week. A normal course of treatment includes 16 to 20 treatments.
How Do I Prepare for Bioelectric Therapy?
If you are taking insulin or blood-thinning medications, your doctor may give you specific instructions to follow before getting bioelectric therapy.
You may be asked to fast before the procedure, and you may need to make arrangements for someone to drive you home after treatment.
Source International Spine Intervention Society
The most common form of electrical stimulation used for pain management is transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy, which provides short-term pain relief. Electrical nerve stimulation and electrothermal therapy are used to relieve pain associated with various conditions, including back pain. Intradiscal electrothermal therapy (IDET) is a treatment option for people with low back pain resulting from intervertebral disc problems.
TENS Therapy for Pain Management
In TENS therapy for pain management, a small, battery-operated device delivers low-voltage electrical current through the skin via electrodes placed near the source of pain. The electricity from the electrodes stimulates nerves in the affected area and sends signals to the brain that "scramble" normal pain perception. TENS is not painful and has proven to be an effective therapy to mask pain.
Intradiscal Electrothermal Therapy (IDET)
Intervertebral discs act as cushions between the vertebrae. Sometimes the discs can become damaged and cause pain. IDET uses heat to modify the nerve fibers of a spinal disc and to destroy pain receptors in the area. In this procedure, a wire called an electrothermal catheter is placed through an incision in the disc. An electrical current passes through the wire, heating a small outer portion of the disc to a temperature of 90 degrees Celsius.
IDET is performed as an outpatient procedure while the patient is awake and under a local anesthesia. Early studies indicate that some patients may have continued pain relief for up to six months or longer. The long-term effects of this procedure on the disc have not been determined.
Radiofrequency Discal Nucleoplasty
Radiofrequency discal nucleoplasty is a newer procedure which utilizes a radio frequency probe instead of heating wire to disintegrate a small portion of the central disc material. The result of this intervention is partial decompression of the disc, which may help relieve pain caused by bulging discs pressing on nearby spinal nerve roots.
(ĐTĐ) - The term alternative therapy, in general, is used to describe any medical treatment or intervention that has not been sufficiently scientifically documented or identified as safe and effective for a specific condition. Alternative therapy encompasses a variety of disciplines including acupuncture, guided imagery, chiropractic treatment, yoga, hypnosis, biofeedback, aromatherapy, relaxation, herbal remedies, massage and many others.
In the past decade, strong evidence has been accumulated regarding the benefits of mind-body therapies, acupuncture, and some nutritional supplements for treating pain. Other alternative therapies such as massage, chiropractic therapies, therapeutic touch, certain herbal therapies, and dietary approaches have the potential to alleviate pain in some cases. However, the evidence supporting these therapies is less concrete.
Mind-body therapies are treatments that are meant to help the mind’s ability to affect the functions and symptoms of the body. Mind-body therapies use various approaches including relaxation techniques, meditation, guided imagery, biofeedback, and hypnosis. Relaxation techniques can help alleviate discomfort related to chronic pain.
Although the World Health Organization currently recognizes more than 30 diseases or conditions that can be helped by acupuncture treatment, one of the main uses of acupuncture is for pain relief.
Sixteenth century Chinese doctors believed that illness was due to an imbalance of energy in the body. In acupuncture, disposable, stainless steel needles are used to stimulate the body's 14 major meridians, or energy-carrying channels, to resist or overcome illnesses and conditions by correcting these imbalances.
Acupuncture is also thought to decrease pain by increasing the release of chemicals that block pain, called endorphins. Many acu-points are near nerves. When stimulated, these nerves cause a dull ache or feeling of fullness in the muscle. The stimulated muscle sends a message to the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord), causing the release of endorphins (morphine-like chemicals produced in our own bodies during times of pain or stress). Endorphins, along with other neurotransmitters (body chemicals that modify nerve impulses), block the message of pain from being delivered up to the brain
Acupuncture may be useful as an accompanying treatment for many pain-related conditions, including: headache, low back pain, menstrual cramps, carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and myofascial pain. Acupuncture also may be an acceptable alternative to or may be included as part of a comprehensive pain management program.
Chiropractic Treatment and Massage
Chiropractic treatment is the most common non-surgical treatment for back pain. Improvements of people undergoing chiropractic manipulations were noted in some trials. However, the treatments effectiveness in treating back and neck pain has not been supported by compelling evidence from the majority of clinical trials. Further studies are currently assessing the effectiveness of chiropractic care for pain management.
Massage is being increasingly used by people suffering from pain, mostly to manage chronic back and neck problems. Massage can reduce stress and relieve tension by enhancing blood flow. This treatment also can reduce the presence of substances that may generate and sustain pain. Available data suggest that massage therapy, like chiropractic manipulations, holds considerable promise for managing back pain.
Therapeutic Touch and Reiki Healing
Therapeutic touch and reiki healing are thought to help activate the self-healing processes of an individual and therefore reduce pain. Although these so called "energy-based" techniques do not require actual physical contact, they do involve close physical proximity between practitioner and patient.
In the past few years, several reviews evaluated published studies on the efficacy of these healing approaches to ease pain and anxiety and improve health. Although beneficial effects with no significant adverse side effects were reported in several studies, the limitations of some of these studies make it difficult to draw definitive conclusions. Further studies are needed before the evidence-based recommendation for using these approaches for pain treatment can be made.
Dietary Approaches to Treating Pain
Some people believe that changing dietary fat intake and/or consuming plant foods that contain anti-inflammatory agents can help ease pain by limiting inflammation.
A mostly raw vegetarian diet was found helpful for some people with fibromyalgia, but this study was not randomized and was without a control group. One study of women with premenstrual symptoms suggested that a low-fat vegetarian diet was associated with decreased pain intensity and duration. Weight loss achieved by a combination of dietary changes and increased physical activity has been shown to be helpful for people suffering from osteoarthritis.
Still, further research is needed to determine the effectiveness of dietary modifications as a pain treatment.
There is solid evidence indicating that glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate are effective for knee osteoarthritis. These natural compounds were found to decrease pain and increase mobility of the knee and were well tolerated and safe.
Other dietary supplements, such as fish oils, also show some evidence of benefit, although more research is needed.
It has been difficult to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of herbs. If you decide to use herbal preparations to better manage your pain, it is of critical importance to share this information with your doctor. Some herbs may interact with drugs you are receiving for pain or other conditions and may harm your health.
Things to Consider
Alternative therapies are not always benign. As mentioned, some herbal therapies can interact with other medications you may be taking. Always talk to your doctor before trying an alternative approach and be sure to tell all your doctors what alternative treatments you are using.
What is chiropractic?
Chiropractic is a hands-on therapy based on the theory that subluxations in the spine may cause many medical disorders (especially disorders of the nervous system). Chiropractic medicine originated in the late 1800s in the United States.
Chiropractic treatments usually involve adjusting the joints and bones in a person's spine using twisting, pulling, or pushing movements. Some chiropractors use heat, electrical stimulation, or ultrasound to help relax the person's muscles before doing a spinal adjustment.
The primary theory behind chiropractic therapy is to help the body heal itself by correcting subluxation of the joints, particularly the bones of the spine (vertebrae).
What is chiropractic used for?
Research has shown chiropractic therapy to be effective in treating low back pain and to be helpful in treating neck pain and headaches. The effects of chiropractic treatment on nonspinal conditions, such as high blood pressure or ear infections, have not been scientifically proven.
Is chiropractic safe?
Discuss with your chiropractor any potential risks associated with chiropractic treatment. Side effects may include minor pain or discomfort at the point of manipulation, headaches, and fatigue. Most of these effects go away within a day.
Chiropractic students must have a minimum of 3 years (90 credits) of undergraduate study before applying to a chiropractic college. After completing a 4-year program, the chiropractic student receives a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degree. Chiropractors are licensed in every state and must pass a four-part examination with the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners.
Always tell your doctor if you are using an alternative therapy or if you are thinking about combining an alternative therapy with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on an alternative therapy.
What Does Chiropractic for Back Pain Involve?
A chiropractor first takes a medical history, performs a physical examination, and may use lab tests or diagnostic imaging to determine if treatment is appropriate for your back pain.
The treatment plan may involve one or more manual adjustments in which the doctor manipulates the joints, using a controlled, sudden force to improve range and quality of motion. Many chiropractors also incorporate nutritional counseling and exercise/rehabilitation into the treatment plan. The goals of chiropractic care include the restoration of function and prevention of injury in addition to back pain relief.
What Are the Benefits and Risks of Chiropractic Care?
Spinal manipulation and chiropractic care is considered a safe, effective treatment for acute low back pain, the type of sudden injury that results from moving furniture or getting tackled. Acute back pain, which is more common than chronic pain, lasts no more than six weeks and typically gets better on its own.
Research has also shown chiropractic to be helpful in treating neck pain and headaches. In addition, osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia respond to the moderate pressure used both by chiropractors and practitioners of deep tissue massage.
Studies have not confirmed the effectiveness of prolotherapy or sclerotherapy for pain relief, used by some chiropractors, osteopaths, and medical doctors, to treat chronic back pain, the type of pain that may come on suddenly or gradually and lasts more than three months. The therapy involves injections to strengthen loosely connected tendons and ligaments.
People who have osteoporosis, spinal cord compression, or inflammatory arthritis, or who take blood-thinning medications should not undergo spinal manipulation.
All treatment is based on an accurate diagnosis of your back pain. The chiropractor should be well informed regarding your medical history, including ongoing medical conditions, current medications, traumatic/surgical history, and lifestyle factors. Although rare, there have been cases in which treatment worsened a herniated or slipped disc, or neck manipulation resulted in stroke or spinal cord injury. To be safe, always inform your primary health care provider whenever you use chiropractic or other pain relief alternatives.