Pain can be acute or chronic and can manifest in different individuals in different ways and intensities, ranging from mild to debilitating, which can affect relationships, jobs and personal independence. It is a sign that something may be wrong with the body. Whether the pain is stabbing, pinching, throbbing or aching, there are effective therapies as alternative to traditional pain medication.
Common pain types include migraines, arthritis, lower back pain, sciatica, neuropathic pain, herniated disc, muscular pain, cancer pain, post-surgical pain, shoulder pain, tooth aches, etc. Finding the right approach or a combination of therapies varies per person and it should take the individual as a whole, not just the localized area of pain. Coping mechanisms might also involve a combination of physical and psychological factors, like addressing a recurring tension headache.
Severity and nature of pain, as well as safety factors should determine when to seek medical help, drug treatments or even emergency help. In a variety of many other situations, individuals find relief in a series or combinations of alternative approaches:
- Cold and heat
- Massage therapy
- Physical therapy
- Cranio Sacral Therapy
- Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
- Tai Chi
- Energy Medicine
- Laser therapy
- Psychotherapy (e.g, behaviour modification)
Using natural or drug free therapies, like medication, may also require a trial-and-error approach to find relief. It empowers the individual to seek the appropriate balance and combination of treatments, without the concern of side effects. Stress management, relaxation techniques and development of awareness can change pain perception.
The American College of Physicians provided a guideline in April 2017 (1) on clinical recommendations to treat low back pain with non-invasive approaches, considering the risks of pharmacological treatments. According to the recommendations, since acute or sub-acute low back pain improves over time, regardless of the type of treatment, non-pharmacologic treatments should be given first preference. Exercise, stretching and strength training can improve pain and function and, as such, should be included in cases of chronic low back pain.
(1) Qaseem A, Wilt TJ, McLean RM, Forciea MA, for the Clinical Guidelines Committee of the American College of Physicians. Noninvasive Treatments for Acute, Subacute, and Chronic Low Back Pain: A Clinical Practice Guideline From the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2017;166:514–530. doi: 10.7326/M16-2367