Pain is, across the board, a top symptom when it comes to many health issues. Some conditions create acute pain, while others create a more chronic, ongoing, incredibly frustrating problem. Either way, it’s difficult to live a full and enjoyable life with pain threatening or lingering in the background. This is where pain management becomes your best friend.
But can’t you just medicate it away?
There are two types of physical pain: acute and chronic. Acute pain starts suddenly, is short-lived, and generally accompanies an injury or illness. Chronic pain, on the other hand, continues beyond the time expected for healing (longer than three months). Either type can range from mild to severe. Both have the potential to be quite debilitating, but chronic pain tends to be the worst because it can go on for years without any relief.
Pain medication is an obvious solution to the problem, but it’s creating problems of its own here in Indiana. Medications like opioids have an addictive quality. Not only do they cause the sufferer to feel less or no pain, they also offer a calming, high-like effect. This leads many to turn to pain medications to numb underlying physical or mental health issues. Addiction in the form of substance abuse is a true disease and one that has many doctors taking prescription pain meds more seriously than ever before. What does this mean for you? You can’t always get them when you need them. Because of this, many patients are turning to alternative methods for pain management.
Relief without meds?
Many alternative therapies are becoming more readily available because instances of both acute and chronic pain are, unfortunately, on the rise. Using a combination of therapies is often better than choosing just one. These alternative pain control methods are beneficial to the patient because they may address the root cause of the illness, injury, or problem while treating the current discomfort. Furthermore, they are noninvasive and can help patients avoid surgeries or the pitfalls of prescription medications.
Here are some of the top alternative therapies for pain management:
Exercise. Pain creates a vicious cycle that makes it hard to move your body, therefore decreasing your mobility. Exercise is an incredibly important tool. If you are suffering from pain in the joints, attending a water aerobics class can help you gently regain your range of motion while also supporting your body weight so you don’t further stress painful areas. Walking, swimming, cycling, yoga, tai chi, and Pilates all have similarly therapeutic effects.
Massage. Getting a massage may seem like an indulgence, but, in fact, therapeutic massage can decrease pain and tension and relieve stress and anxiety.
Physical or occupational therapy. Physical therapists guide you through a series of exercises to increase strength where it is needed and improve mobility, all in the name of decreasing your pain. Occupational therapists guide you through daily tasks and help you gain strength and range of motion. If you’re in pain because of surgery or injury, your doctor will most likely refer you to this type of therapy.
Chiropractic care. Finding the right chiropractor to help you manage chronic pain can be a lifesaver. Most people hear of this alternative therapy and think of posture. As it turns out, the alignment in your spine that creates great posture also helps you stay on top of pain. Signals from the nervous system run throughout the spine, so when your spine is out of whack, your pain signals may be as well.
Acupuncture. Traditionally a large component of Chinese medicine, acupuncture is quickly becoming a go-to therapy here in the West as well. By balancing the body with the help of threadlike needles, acupuncturists aim to promote whole-body healing through the stimulation of different channels of energy.
Meditation and mind-body practices. Although we think of meditation as a tool to reduce stress and anxiety, it can also treat chronic and acute pain. By helping you learn the art of concentration, a meditation practice helps you focus your attention and even redirect it away from pain. Not only that, relieving excess stress in the body with meditation can actually help lessen your nervous system’s response to pain in the first place.
Whether you suffer from acute or chronic pain, one thing is certain: Pain can zap so much of your energy that you don’t have much left to enjoy life. Relationships, jobs, and mental health suffer under the extreme weight of consistent pain. Taking medication is a great start, but supplementing or complementing that with an alternative therapy or two can truly set you on the road to healing better and faster with fewer side effects.