7 Effective Alternative Pain Management Techniques
From ancient China to current high tech, there effective ways to get pain relief
Not everybody’s a fan of over-the-counter (OTC) oral pain relievers. They can be effective solutions for sore muscles or aching joints, but our whole body receives the medication because it’s digested and metabolized.
Some people are sensitive to the most common and popular OTC oral pain relievers known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These medications are effective at pain relief, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that NSAIDs can cause gastric bleeding, heartburn, and ulcers – as well as strokes or heart attacks. So, if you can’t – or don’t – want to reach for the bottle of pain relievers, what are your options?
This alternative pain management technique has been used for thousands of years. Its origins are traced to China, and it involves inserting needles the width of a human hair to regulate movement within the body’s meridian system.
The Mayo Clinic observes that it’s effective at stimulating nerves which can boost the body’s natural painkillers. Acupuncture’s main drawback is that it must be administered by a knowledgeable practitioner.
Another pain management system with a history spanning thousands of years, this approach uses scents from essential plant oils. These oils stimulate the body’s olfactory system, which is the part of the brain connected to smell. When the molecules reach the brain, they affect the limbic system. This part of the body controls heart rate, blood pressure, and hormone balance. According to the Cleveland Clinic, it’s believed that this can alter your perception of pain.
Biofeedback can help as an effective alternative pain management technique. A therapist applies sensors to your skin. They monitor conditions such as heart rate, brain waves, muscle tension, and muscle tension.
Devices relay these measurements as audible tones or images generated on a computer screen. It’s often most helpful for stress headaches. WebMD explains that it’s a way to harness the mind’s ability to promote relaxation, and therefore, control pain. One of the most effective forms of biofeedback is known as electromyography or EMG. It measures muscle tension.
Like many alternative pain management techniques, hypnotherapy takes an indirect approach to relief. It induces an altered state of consciousness to help you gain control over body states, including your pain symptoms. Hypnotherapy can be effective at helping you reduce your need for pain medication by decreasing the anxiety you associate with your discomfort.
The National Institutes of Health cites multiple studies that show hypnotherapy is effective at reducing the pain associated with a variety of health conditions from lower back pain to arthritis. Self-hypnotism is something you can learn, but it may be necessary to engage a professional therapist to perform this form of alternative pain management.
We know we feel better after a massage, but why does it work as an alternative pain management technique? Manipulation of the soft tissues increases blood circulation, and it activates the body’s lymphatic and nervous systems. It’s a noninvasive, drug-free way to encourage the body to marshal its own natural painkillers.
The Harvard Medical School explains that it can help to close pain gates by stimulating the nerves to send competing sensation messages to the brain. Instead of feeling pain, we feel pleasure. Like some forms of alternative pain management, massage should be performed by a knowledgeable practitioner. It’s likely not something you can do yourself.
6. Complementary medicine
Many of these alternative pain management techniques are known as complementary medicine, which means that they extend beyond the scope of scientific medicine – such as oral painkillers. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health explains this means they are used in combination with conventional medicine – whereas alternative treatments are used in place of conventional medicine.
7. Topical pain relievers
CopperGel contains menthol and camphor. These natural pain relievers act as counter-irritants, meaning they create a cooling sensation that blocks the pain signals traveling from the sore area to your brain. This is called the gate control theory of pain. CopperGel allows you to apply it precisely where the pain exists – such as an area of sore muscles or a stiff joint. You also don’t have to worry about the possible negative side effects associated with OTC oral pain relievers that use an NSAID as the active ingredient. Read how world-class athletes use this method for pain relief.
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*The FDA regulates food, drugs, and cosmetics that contain CBD. CBD products have not been subject to FDA review as part of the drug approval process, and there has been no FDA evaluation of whether they work, what the proper dosage is, how they could interact with other drugs, or whether they have dangerous side effects or other safety concerns.