When someone hears the term chronic pain, they often immediately think of pain medication. Prescription pain medications, also known as opiates, are one of the most controversial healthcare topics affecting society. Large amounts of opiates are prescribed each year, leaving society with little to no answers regarding how to avoid addiction. Now more than ever, individuals need effective treatments for their chronic pain aside from prescriptions. By learning new treatment methods, you may find relief from pain. A good way to start is by exploring these 4 unfamiliar methods for treating chronic pain and asking questions.
Biofeedback is a treatment method that takes information from the two places chronic pain comes from, the mind and the body. It is different from many other treatments because it is not quite a treatment but a tool for monitoring. Biofeedback uses a machine to closely monitor vital signs, such as skin sweating, blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, brain waves, skin temperature, and muscle tension. This information is then analyzed by a trained healthcare professional who assists you in developing methods to calm these bodily processes.
Decreasing muscle tension, lowering blood pressure, slowing heart rate, and calming brain waves are just some of the ways biofeedback assists with managing pain. The idea behind biofeedback is not to have a constant reading of your body’s vital signs. Rather, it acts as a way to train the body to use calming methods when you are feeling pain levels and bodily responses heighten.
Biofeedback has proven helpful for those with chronic pain due to its focus on the mind as a source of pain. Theories and research indicate chronic pain arises due to faulty connections in the brain which continue to tell the body there is something wrong. These signals cause muscle tension, poor posture, increased sensitivity, and constant pain. This whole-body approach makes biofeedback a unique method for combating chronic pain.
Acupuncture initially gained popularity due to claims it could assist with quitting smoking and managing stress. While there is little evidence supporting the use of acupuncture for these purposes, this treatment method does have other benefits. Studies have shown that acupuncture is effective in reducing pain levels in those individuals with chronic migraines, osteoarthritis, and generalized muscle pains.
Acupuncture is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine which uses tiny needles to readjust the flow of energy within the body at points called meridians. Traditional Chinese Medicine states that blockages in energy at these points cause a variety of issues, including chronic pain and disability. The application of these needles at very specific points on the body balances the flow of energy and relieves pain.
Despite acupuncture’s proven effectiveness, much is still unknown about the underlying mechanisms of this treatment method. Educated guesses have been made regarding the body’s difficulty in forming a high pain response in more than one area. This causes the body to focus its attention on where the needle is being inserted, rather than where their pain is. This may point to why pain relief is short in duration and requires several sessions to have a larger impact on pain levels. Some individuals have reported feelings of relaxation during acupuncture sessions, which indirectly assist with lowering pain levels. Acupuncture is not suitable for use with everyone, so ask your doctor if this treatment is right for you.
Meditation and the concept of mindfulness are two other methods which use the mind to assist with chronic pain relief. By calming the mind and keeping the body still, this increases your relaxation which serves to decrease in the moment pain levels. Some research has shown meditation is effective at decreasing pain levels, but research shows meditation is more effective at improving symptoms of depression and increasing quality-of-life.
An important practice to combine with meditation is the idea of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the act of being entirely in the present moment. Some may think this is not helpful in distracting from chronic pain. However, with training, mindfulness greatly helps individuals to be simply aware of their pain but not give it attention. This is mastered with great practice. A good start is to be aware of each sensation in your body but not focus on any of them. This keeps your attention in the present and holds your thoughts in one place. When both the body and the mind are relaxed, you will begin to feel your pain decreasing.
There are a number of online meditation sessions and resources available to allow you to practice meditation at home. Furthermore, there are ample resources in the form of videos and scripts to assist with enhancing your meditation practice. Meditation is safe for all individuals so you do not need a doctor’s approval or referral to practice.
4) Cognitive-behavioral therapy
Another treatment method which focuses on the mind’s role in chronic pain is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This type of therapy uses talking and analysis of thoughts to change negative patterns of thinking into positive patterns of thinking. Some people may wonder how this relates to pain, but there are several earlier mentions of the mind’s role in pain. This treatment can be used for a variety of other reasons such as changing negative self-talk and changing negative behaviors which result from negative thoughts.
CBT can also be used to change thoughts and beliefs regarding your ability to recover from your pain. If you consistently believe you will not find relief from pain, it becomes a vicious cycle. By changing your beliefs to those which encourage recovery and wellness, you will set a new tone for your treatment.
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Many of these treatments focus on several aspects of a person’s life to gain a fuller and more well-rounded perspective for addressing chronic pain. Each of these treatments takes into consideration the physical wellness (a person’s body), emotional wellness (a person’s mind, stress levels, internal responses to pain), and social wellness (beliefs, support systems). All of these factors can have a huge impact on recovery from any injury or condition, especially chronic pain.
These are just some of the treatments which emphasize both mind and body in the treatment of health conditions. By being informed and inquisitive, you can advocate for yourself to receive any of these treatments when speaking to your doctor. All of these treatment methods have the potential to relieve your chronic pain, taking your recovery to the next level.
What questions do you have on untraditional treatments for chronic pain? Ask them in the comments below or schedule an appointment with a local holistic pain professional.
- Del Pozo, J. (2019). Biofeedback. Retrieved from http://www.instituteforchronicpain.org/treating-common-pain/what-is-pain-management/biofeedback
- Hilton, L., Hempel, S., Ewing, B.A., Apaydin, E., Xenakis, L., … & Maglione, M.A. (2017). Mindfulness Meditation for Chronic Pain: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 51(2), 199-213. doi: 10.1007/s12160-016-9844-2
- Vickers, A.J., Phil, D., & Linde, K. (2014). Acupuncture for Chronic Pain. Journal of American Medical Association, 311(9), 955-956. doi: 10.1001/jama.2013.285478