Every year, millions of people suffer from acute or chronic pain. While many sufferers use medications, some patients seek alternative treatments for pain, with the goal still to reduce discomfort. Many sufferers believe acupuncture and chiropractic therapy can help relieve their symptoms. Others have found relief from changes in diet and exercise. Mental relaxation techniques can distract the body from pain and help with stress-related conditions.
While it may seem counter-intuitive, acupuncture has been used in Eastern medicine for centuries to help with pain and other medical conditions. Acupuncture involves inserting small needles into the body at predetermined positions. This stimulates the nerves that tell the brain to produce pain-blocking chemicals known as endorphins. Some medical researchers dispute the role of acupuncture in reducing patient suffering, but these procedures are recognized by some medical organizations as effective alternative treatments for pain.
Chiropractic and massage therapy also are alternative treatments for pain, especially for patients suffering from chronic back problems. During this therapy, patients undergo a series of manipulations that are intended to get the spine into proper alignment. While chiropractic care remains controversial within the medical community, many patients feel these treatments have helped them with their chronic back pain.
In addition to these physical therapies, many patients turn to diet and exercise to help alleviate chronic pain symptoms. Patients can choose from a variety of diets and herbal supplements. Arthritis sufferers often try to avoid foods such as nightshade plants, which are thought to increase inflammation. Other patients turn to various types of vegetarian diets to try to reduce pain. While there is little scientific evidence that these alternative treatments are helpful in pain relief specifically, switching to a healthier diet and getting some exercise can improve overall health and well-being.
A final alternative for pain relief is mental relaxation techniques such as meditation, biofeedback and hypnosis. These techniques allow the patient to relax and focus his or her mind away from pain and suffering. Mental exercises also may help patients cope with stress during traumatic situations. While these treatments may not be effective in dealing with severe pain, they do not have any harmful side effects and can be easily combined with more tradition pain therapies.
It is important for a patient to first consult with his physician before beginning any alternative treatments for pain relief. Some of these treatments may have significant drawbacks and may not be effective in alleviating the patient’s suffering. Many areas have pain clinics that can assist patients in choosing the best combination of traditional and alternative treatments for their condition.