Complementary alternative medicine encompasses a range of disciplines that can be used as adjuncts in the management of chronic pain conditions. Some examples of complementary alternative medicine include acupuncture, yoga, tai chi, meditation. Several of these disciplines have been around for thousands of years yet their role in chronic pain management continues to evolve. While modern pain medicine focuses on specific, targeted therapeutics for various pain conditions, complementary alternative medicine offers a holistic approach, aimed at healing the body, mind, and spirit.
There is a growing body of scientific literature proving the efficacy of these alternative therapies as part of an overall pain management regimen. Before beginning a complementary alternative medicine regimen, it is important for you to be evaluated by a pain management specialist to ensure that your pain is not a symptom of a more serious underlying medical condition.
Many people concerned about the safety of traditional pain relievers and possible addictions have been turning to alternative methods for controlling pain naturally without the use of drugs. According to the Mayo Clinic, nearly 40 percent of the adults in the country use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), and doctors often combine them with traditional medical therapies. Most CAM practitioners treat the whole person, not just one specific problem, which makes the treatment more effective. Some CAM therapies have the support of scientific evidence, but others still await confirmation because experts have not performed extensive studies on them yet.
The practice began about six thousand years ago in India, and ancient texts record its spiritual, emotional and physical benefits. Traditionally considered a lifestyle providing a way to spiritual enlightenment, the practice is now popular as an exercise form.
Yoga techniques can help people minimize their awareness of pain with improved will power and concentration. Contemplation, relaxation and special breathing play an important part in the discipline and in managing pain.
Ninety percent of the clinical trials determining the effects of the practice on the pain of migraines, pregnancy symptoms, lower back problems and arthritis reveal that it can help relieve pain. In addition, 20 years of studies at Duke University found that the practice is effective in treating chronic pain.
The discipline was originally a martial art in China developed around 1540. With its health benefits first acknowledged in the early 1900s, the discipline unites deliberate, fluid movements with a meditative mindset and focused breathing to improve strength, coordination, flexibility, balance, alignment, posture, digestion, breathing and emotional balance.
A 1997 study showed a significant reduction in the risk of falling for seniors who practiced tai chi, and other studies revealed increased abdominal muscle strength and better balance. Most major health organizations recommend the discipline for seniors because of its effectiveness in balancing the body and mind.
The ancient practice originated in China long before people began recording history, but a book written around 2700 B.C. mentions the procedure. Acupunture is a powerful remedy that can help control pain, strengthen the immune system and prevent disease. Correctly placing needles in the body helps energy to freely flow and influence the nervous system, releasing endorphins that are effective in controlling pain.
Evidence indicates that acupuncture may help alleviate the pain of osteoarthritis, low back pain and headaches. Extensive research results reported in 2012 found that people who received the treatment had about 30 percent less pain from various sources than did those who used standard pain treatments.
The oldest records of the discipline date back about 5000 years and come from India. Emptying the mind and allowing it to unite with a greater reality is the emphasis of the traditional pain-management technique. The discipline promotes deep relaxation, good posture and correct breathing, which help people alleviate tension, stress and anger as they arrive at a balance of body and mind. Thoughts control feelings and actions in a meditative state, making pain management faster and easier.
A 2010 University of North Carolina study of mindfulness meditation suggested that the practice altered low-level brain processing to alleviate pain. In addition, researchers at Wake Forest report that the discipline may be more effective than morphine in relieving pain.