Alternative And Complementary Treatments
By alternative, we simply mean that these treatments may not be backed by as much medical science as other treatments as explained in this study. This can sometimes mean that they can be harder to access through your doctor. You may need to access them privately.
During acupuncture, fine needles are inserted into specific points in the body. The treatment works by inducing the body’s natural pain-relieving chemicals. Acupuncture is typically carried out in a calming environment, while you are lying down. It can help to reduce stress levels and promote relaxation.
A chiropractor will manually move your body in specific ways to try and reduce stiffness and improve flexibility. Typically, their focus will be on the back and spine.
Osteopaths utilize physical manipulation, as well as massage and stretching of specific areas of your body to increase your range of motion. Osteopathy also aims to increase blood supply and promote healing within the body.
- Art therapy
Art therapy can be done in groups or in individual person-to-person sessions. It can also be done in your own home. Creative expression through art is thought to relax pain patients, promoting lower stress levels and providing an outlet for a lot of the difficult emotions that come from living with chronic pain. The idea of art therapy is being used as part of other therapies more and more. This study concluded that “there could be a broad field for the use of art therapy in pain management programs.”
- Music therapy
Listening to music can be relaxing and provide a distraction from pain symptoms. Music therapy focuses on using music that really resonates personally with the patient, providing a creative and fun opportunity. Music therapy may involve singing, writing music, listening to music, and playing instruments.
This study found that “In patients, whose perception of disease and treatment expectation is determined by the idea that their pain results from physical causes alone, compliance in music therapy is usually better than direct psychotherapeutic approaches.”
An occupational therapist may come to your home or workplace and talk through your daily routine. Their aim is to help you increase your level of functioning and enable you to live a fuller life. They’ll help you identify tasks that you struggle with and aid you in performing them in a safer way which is less likely to evoke a flare. They may provide adjustments to your environment or provide mobility aids to help you increase your level of functioning. They can offer guidance on how to reduce your pain and improve your quality of life.
Hypnosis is typically done by a therapist in their office in a relaxing atmosphere. Before your session starts the therapist will talk to you about what your goals are from hypnotherapy so that they can plan what they will address during sessions going forward.
The therapist will usually ask you to close or relax your eyes and either lie or sit back in a comfortable position. They will guide you through becoming completely relaxed, also known as a hypotonic state. When you’re in this state you are less inhibited, and more likely to deal with problems openly. You are also more open to suggestions, so hypnotherapy can be used to alter behaviors.
The hypnotherapist will address what you have discussed previously in a calm, quiet voice. They may ask you to visualize certain situations or to talk about specific things. At no point during hypnotherapy are you out of control of your own body and mind. You can stop at any time.
Hypnotherapy can help you change negative behaviors and replace them with positive ones which are going to help you proactively manage your pain. Hypnosis can help you to be in a more positive and accepting mindset about your pain. Hypnosis can also reduce stress levels and aid in relaxation, which in turn contributes to reducing pain. This article found that “hypnosis interventions consistently produce significant decreases in pain associated with a variety of chronic-pain problems.”
When we have days when our pain is low and we feel able to function, we are often inclined to ‘make the most of these days. We try to fit everything in that we haven’t been able to do while we were flaring. This can result in us making ourselves flare again and making our symptoms worse! This is known as the boom-and-bust cycle.
To combat this, we can pace activity to bring optimum results. This means that we gradually increase our levels of activity so that our bodies can build up a tolerance. We also actively plan rests, even if we feel that we don’t need them, in order to minimize the risk of flares.
Using Heat and Cold
Heat pads, hot water bottles, or rice packs that you heat in the microwave can provide some relief from pain. The heat tends to ease pain and encourage muscles to relax. Cold packs and ice packs (not directly onto your skin) can help to ease inflammation and bring some relief from pain. You can alternate between the two which sometimes helps to bring more relief from symptoms.
TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) uses a machine with small pads which you attach to your skin at specific points where you experience pain. Low electrical signals are sent out via these pads which work by interrupting pain signals to bring relief from chronic pain.
You can buy a TENS machine yourself, or you may be offered one through your doctor. Often during pain clinics or through physical therapy TENS is utilized, and you will be given the machine to take home once you know how to use it.
Pain Management Clinics
Your doctor or specialist may refer you to a pain management clinic or program. These tend to be outpatient programs that you will attend regularly for several weeks. Within the clinic, you will see a variety of specialists we have previously mentioned, and a lot of the treatments we’ve talked about are available.
The aim of a pain management clinic is to give you the tools to manage your pain effectively at home and to increase your level of functioning and your quality of life.
There is a wide range of mobility devices available, from wheelchairs and mobility scooters to walking sticks, shower chairs, and other adaptations around the house. An occupational therapist or physical therapist will be able to advise you in more detail on what aids may be useful for your specific situation.
The key to using mobility aids is to ensure that you are using them to increase your level of functioning. It’s important to keep being as active as you can to tackle your chronic pain. If a mobility device can help you with adaptive behaviors and enable you to live a fuller life, then they are a highly positive thing.
It’s important that we implement healthy coping behaviors to tackle and reduce our chronic pain. There are many ways to self-manage your pain; a few of the main ones are listed below.
- Relaxation and stress relief
We know that stress contributes to chronic pain, so it’s important to keep stress levels as low as possible. Talking through your problems with someone you trust can be helpful, rather than keeping things bottled up.
Practicing mindfulness in your day-to-day life can help you to stay relaxed and in control of your emotions. Identifying aspects of your life, aside from your chronic pain that contributes to stress levels and doing your best to deal with them head-on can help you to reduce the levels of stress in your life.
- Eating well
A healthy, balanced diet has so many benefits for general health as well as for tackling chronic pain. With the right nutrients, you can ensure your body has the energy it needs to function and fight fatigue. With a healthy diet, you provide your body with the right tools to tackle inflammation and increase your immune system.
- Regular exercise
Doing low-impact exercise on a regular basis actively reduces chronic pain and contributes to good general health. Exercise is proven to reduce inflammation, tackle deconditioning, improve general fitness, and so much more. It’s also amazing for your mental health!
- A good sleep routine
Sleep can be a hard task to master when you live with chronic pain but doing your best to have a good regular sleep routine is really setting yourself up for success. Being active during the day can really help to make your body tired enough to sleep, and of course, reducing your pain symptoms tackles painsomnia (a colloquial term for insomnia caused by pain)
- Seeking support
Reaching out for help is hard but so important. Whether it helps to carry out practical tasks or emotional support from someone that you love, reaching out for help can make a big difference.
Chronic pain can be managed effectively without medication; it can even be reduced and overcome! There’s no shame in taking medication if it helps you to manage your symptoms, but knowing there are other options out there can help you to make an informed choice about what is best for you.
Precision Pain Care and Rehabilitation has two convenient locations in Richmond Hill – Queens and New Hyde Park – Long Island. Call the Queens office at (718) 215-1888, or (516) 419-4480 for the Long Island office, to arrange an appointment with our Interventional Pain Management Specialist, Dr. Jeffrey Chacko.