Reduce pain without resorting to pills

With the growing concern of the ever-expanding epidemic of opioid use, it would seem that there would be other alternatives for pain relief.  There is but too often individuals want quick, easy-to-use relief.  It may seem that taking over-the-counter or prescription painkillers are always the answer for reducing pain.  For anyone who is experiencing severe, prolonged pain that may often be the solution.  But, for others with mild to moderate pain, other methods can be quite effective without resorting to swallowing a pill for finding pain relief.

Here are 4 pill-free treatments for pain, whether chronic or acute, to consider:

· Physical Therapy

When you’re in pain, the last thing you may want to do is get your body moving but physical therapy can be an essential part of pain management.  Physical therapy can be highly effective for all types of chronic musculoskeletal and neuropathic types of pain.  Some of the conditions that physical therapy is used for alleviating chronic pain include osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic headaches, rheumatoid arthritis, and neuropathic pain caused by injury to tissues or nerves.

One goal of physical therapy is to help a person become stronger.  When a person does not engage in physical activity or movement, they become weaker.  Working with a physical therapist teaches people how to move safely and functionally in ways they haven’t done for a while.

Physical therapy uses a variety of type of pain management from manipulation of joints and bones, cold laser therapy, and movement therapy and exercise.  Getting a person moving several times a week helps manage chronic pain by increasing strength in the muscle, endurance, stability in the joints, and flexibility in the muscles and joints.  Movement also helps reduce inflammation, stiffness, soreness and works with the body healing itself by encouraging the production of the body’s natural pain-relieving chemicals. 

· Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a centuries old art used to treat many conditions and relieve pain. Traditional Chinese acupuncture involves the insertion of extremely fine needles into the skin at specific acupoints.  The theory is that it may relieve pain by releasing endorphins, the body’s natural pain-killing chemicals, and by affecting the part of the brain that governs serotonin, a brain chemical involved with mood.

Acupuncture is considered very safe with few if any complications.  As far as whether it does help relieve pain is mixed.  Some studies show acupuncture does relieve pain while other studies show it works no better than a placebo.  But it is hard to decipher the findings as most acupuncture studies have been small. 

It is advised for anyone who wants to try acupuncture for pain relief to seek out an experienced acupuncturist who has certification from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

· Therapeutic Massage

When dealing with pain, whether acute or chronic, getting a massage may sound like a good, natural solution.  Many people often go to a massage therapist for pain reduction with conditions of fibromyalgia and arthritis that can have positive results. 

People who are looking for a more natural way to manage chronic pain, massage therapy can be a good start for improving quality of life.  Massage is a powerful tool for relaxing both body and the mind.  Research has found that people with arthritis in their wrist and hand had lowered anxiety and depressed mood after a massage therapy session.

The benefits of massage therapy for chronic pain include the following:

·         Increases serotonin, which reduces pain naturally

·         Naturally increases deep sleep

·         Increases range of motion

·         Lowers anxiety and improves mood

·         Various Devices

Depending on the source of pain and its cause, there are various devices that can also help manage pain.  These include splints, braces and even canes and walkers.

Splints and braces can be useful for acute injuries, chronic conditions and for the prevention of injuries.  The use of splints and braces are often used for the management of musculoskeletal disorders.  Bracing can be useful for acute injuries and also for chronic conditions.  The purpose of splints and braces is to improve physical function, slow disease progression, and diminish pain.  They are also used to immobilize an unstable joint or fracture, to unload a portion of a joint and improve pain and function.  Another purpose of using them is to eliminate range of motion in one direction or to modify range of motion in one or more directions.

Anytime anyone has pain or weakness on one side of their body making it difficult to walk or balance, a cane or walker may be helpful.  Using these devices gives a person more support, particularly if they have poor balance or feel unsteady on their feet.  Studies have shown that using a cane or even a walker can reduce the load on the knee by 10%.  When knee joint stress is reduced, any pain, swelling, and stiffness is less likely to become debilitating. 

By improving balance this can also help relieve back pain.  When walking, back muscles are involved in maintaining balance.  When the work load on these stabilizing muscles is reduced through the use of a cane or walker, then pain is usually reduced as well.