Complementary and integrative medicine, otherwise known as CIM, encompasses both Western medicine and complementary health approaches as a new combined strategy to treat many clinical conditions.
Chronic pain is, in fact, the leading indication for the use of CIM. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), about 33% of adults and 12% of children in the US have used CIM in this context.
“All of us that are thinking about the management of chronic pain are aware that, alongside the use of pharmaceuticals, we need other approaches,” said Josephine Briggs, the head of NCCIH.
Pain has both physical and mental components, which is why most types of chronic pain could be managed through approaches that are medication-free and have very few negative side effects.
Some of the strategies that seem to offer the best results for those with chronic pain include mindful meditation, CBT, acupuncture, deep breathing exercises, use of CBD oil, and so on. Continue reading to learn more about the said practices for treating chronic pain.
Mind over Matter
Mindfulness is a modern complementary health approach for pain originated from ancient Eastern philosophy.
“It’s a practice designed to cultivate the cognitive state of mindfulness that is premised on nonjudgmental awareness of the present situation,” said Fadel Zeidan, a mindfulness and pain researcher at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, US.
Over the past few decades, thousands of studies have investigated the effects of mindfulness on both mental and physical health. A 1985 study showed that about a 10-week of mindfulness training gave significant benefits to patients with chronic pain, including lowering the amount of medication they took.
However, a recent analysis of studies showed evidence that mindfulness treatments can improve pain in people with a variety of conditions.
Mindful meditation focuses mainly on the present and emphasizes acceptance instead of focusing on the past or future. When it comes to meditating, a person will usually focus on a particular word, object, or breathing pattern.
Mindful medication doesn’t eliminate pain. But it has shown to improve the quality of life for those with chronic pain. The medication has also been found to release tension and reduce stress hormones.
Long practiced in traditional Eastern medicine as a treatment; acupuncture is an alternative therapy which involves using needles to stimulate specific points on the body.
These points are said to connect with meridians – certain pathways that carry vital energy (or “chi”) throughout the body.
Blockages in the flow of chi disrupt well-being, which leads to illness. By stimulating acupuncture points, acupuncturists aim to clear up those blockages and restore the patient’s health and vitality.
Here are some of the pain conditions that showed to improve with the use of acupuncture:
- Headaches and Migraines: A study suggests that acupuncture is more effective than medication in protecting against migraines. It’s also beneficial for those with frequent episodic or chronic tension headaches.
- Low Back Pain: As already mentioned, acupuncture tends to focus on certain channels, some of which correspond to specific points on the body. There are a few acupuncture points — back of the knees, foot, lower back, hip, hand, and stomach — that can help you recover from lower back pain.
- Arthritis: People with osteoarthritis can benefit from acupuncture. An intensive two- to four-week treatment regimen can offer significant short-term relief of osteoarthritis-related knee pain.
Acupuncture releases opioid-like chemicals in your body, which causes the body to release neurotransmitters that shut off your receptors to pain. It also triggers the electromagnetic impulses with the body, helping to speed up the release of endorphins. This allows your body to manage pain more easily.
Biofeedback is another complementary health approach for chronic pain, such as low back pain. It involves becoming aware of physiological processes in the body and learning how to control a portion of them.
There are two common forms of biofeedback:
- Neuromuscular biofeedback: This practice can be used to treat a variety of musculoskeletal conditions. It uses electromyography (EMG), which translates muscles contracting and relaxing on a graph or into numbers, or real-time ultrasound imaging (RTUS), which works similarly and muscles are displayed on a screen contracting and relaxing in real time.
- Cardiovascular biofeedback: This technique involves tracking blood pressure, heart rate, and other cardiovascular functions. A therapist may often use an electrocardiogram to monitor HRV (heart rate variability), which measures the time between heartbeats. This practice usually focuses on learning to control breathing.
Biofeedback is often done in conjunction with CBT and relaxation exercises.
CBT – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
The goal of CBT is to recognize negative thoughts and redirect them towards coping thoughts. This can ultimately make chronic pain a livable part of daily life. Generally, cognitive behavioral therapy is provided by a mind-body therapist or psychologist.
“CBT is a useful and empirically based method of treatment for pain disorders which can decrease reliance on the excessive use of opiates,” said Donna M. Sudak of Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, and Muhammad Hassan Majeed of Natchaug Hospital, Mansfield Center, Connecticut.
According to them, the use of CBT can avoid or reduce the use of opioids of chronic pain. It helps patients understand that pain is a stressor, and similar to other stressors, it is something they can adapt to and easily cope with.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This practice involves tensing and relaxing certain muscle groups followed by a release of muscle tension. If practiced regularly, it can teach you to be more aware of where the pain is coming from as well as help you relieve muscle tension.
Deep Breathing Exercises
Chronic pain often leads to strained breathing, including taking shallow breaths. This can cause dizziness and chest pain. By taking deep breaths over a period of time, your body will consume more oxygen, improve lung function, and ultimately enhance the overall energy levels.
This one is a rather simple yet effective method. During pain flare-ups, consider focusing on a pleasant scene or soothing image. This will help distract attention from the discomfort.
There are different compound levels found in the natural hemp. How people breed hemp affects CBD levels. CBD oil that comes from industrial hemp usually has a higher CBD content than cannabis.
Different methods are used to extract the compound, which is then added to a carrier oil called Cannabidiol or CBD oil. It comes in many different strengths and is used in various ways.
People have been using CBD traditionally for hundreds of years to treat various types of pain. One report found that short-term use of CBD oil can reduce the levels of spasticity a person feels. The same report studied the use of CBD oil for pain, especially chronic pain.
Researchers compiled the results of several systematic reviews covering dozens of studies and trials. Their research concluded that there’s substantial evidence of cannabis being an effective treatment for chronic pain in adults.
Another study in the Journal of Experimental Medicine suggests that using CBD oil can reduce pain and inflammation, supporting the above-mentioned results.
When it comes to chronic pain, some of us reach for a pain remedy — something that is quick and easy. Well, of course, popping a pill may offer you fast relief, but other options may actually offer you long-term better health. Consider the complementary health approaches mentioned in this article to help treat your chronic pain naturally.