Tips On How To Treat Chronic Pain Without Medication

For too long western medicine has portrayed medications as the pinnacle remedy in treating diseases and conditions. Medications are more than likely present in every pain management case that we see. Unfortunately, many pain medications have unwanted side effects not to mention the high probability of pain medications being addicting. As pain management physicians, we encourage patients struggling with pain to consider all of their alternatives before resigning themselves to long-term drug use; nonetheless, please consult your doctor first as to what alternatives are best for you.

Diet & Exercise

If you are familiar with any of our past blogs, you will note just how important diet and exercise can be in influencing chronic pain. With that being said, with the support of your physician, we encourage you to take a look at your overall level of activity and the types of food you frequently eat and see what changes can be made to reduce symptoms of chronic pain without having to rely on pain-relief medications. For example, an anti-inflammatory diet involves eating a lot of low-starch vegetables, fish, some fruit, limited amounts of dairy & whole grains, moderate amounts of red meat, and almost no flour or sugar. This sort of diet may seem foreign based of the typical foods you eat; yet small and simple changes over time can offer immense benefits. For more information on this topic, please see our blog post, “Tips On How Your Diet Can Reduce Chronic Inflammation”. Again, making changes to your diet can be a challenge, but it is well worth it. One clinical trial concluded that some patients started to have substantial pain relief and overall feel better in as little as two weeks. Participants also reported lower blood pressure, lipids, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. Concerning exercise, numerous studies have found that even minimal amounts of physical activity has been shown to reduce pain symptoms. Pick a couple of your favorite activities: walking, cycling, swimming; anything that you feel comfortable doing may have a tremendous benefit on reducing your dependence on medication. Yet before you go signing up for the next yoga, talk to your doctor and get their approval beforehand.

Manipulative Techniques

Research has shown that manipulation therapy and physical therapy may be effective methods in relieving pain throughout the body (back, neck, shoulder, knees, chest, etc.). During a manipulation therapy session, the physician delivers uses their hands to manipulate patients’ bodies into proper alignment as a way to ease the pain. During a physical therapy session, a healthcare provider will guide the patient through various exercises and stretches meant to alleviate pain. Another well-researched alternative to medication for treating pain is acupuncture. Acupuncture is the practice of strategically placing thin needles on the epidermis throughout the body to stimulate nerves and relieve pain. A meta-analysis completed in 2012 found acupuncture to be useful for the treatment of chronic pain. They found significant differences between true and sham acupuncture indicating that acupuncture is more than a placebo. However, we must note that these differences were relatively modest, suggesting that factors in addition to the specific effects of acupuncture may be important contributors to its overall therapeutic effects.

It is possible to overcome disabling pain and resume an active life without medications. If you think you might benefit from these steps, talk to your talk about implementing one of these alternatives to your pain management regimen. Besides the alternatives we mentioned, what alternatives have you found to be effective? Please let us know!

Tags: chronic pain, diet, exercise, medications, meta-analysis, acupuncture

References:

  1. Andresen TCB, Cristian CR. Efficacy of osteopathy and other manual treatment approaches for malocclusion – A systematic review of evidence. Int J Osteopath Med. 2013;16(2):99–113.
  2. Estruch R, Ros E, Salas-Salvadó J, et al.; PREDIMED Study Investigators. Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet. N Engl J Med 2013;368:1279–1290
  3. Itoh K, Katsumi Y, Kitakoji H. Trigger point acupuncture treatment of chronic low back pain in elderly patients–a blinded RCT. Acupunct Med. 2004 Dec;22(4):170–177
  4. Mensink RP, Zock PL, Kester ADM, Katan MB. Effects of dietary fatty acids and carbohydrate on the ratio of serum total to HDL cholesterol and on serum lipids and apolipoproteins: a meta-analysis of 60 con- trolled trials. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;77:1146–55.
  5. Ng MM, Leung MC, Poon DM. The effects of electro-acupuncture and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation on patients with painful osteoarthritic knees: a randomized controlled trial with follow-up evaluation. J Altern Complement Med. 2003 Oct;9(5):641–649.
  6. Posadzki P, Ernst E. Osteopathy for musculoskeletal pain patients: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Clin Rheumatol. 2011;30(2):285–91.

Vickers AJ1, Cronin AM, Acupuncture for chronic pain: individual patient data meta-analysis. Arch Intern Med. 2012 Oct 22;172(19).

5 Proven & Effective Tips To Reduce Your Head Pain

Let’s face it; we all get headaches. A headache can be a burden to our daily lives, whether it’s a clinically diagnosed primary headache such as a cluster, tension, or migraine headache, a secondary headache, or innocuous head pain that generally goes away in due time. Fortunately, there are many treatments that can ease head pain without a trip to the doctor or drugstore and we’d like to share five of our favorite tips. Nonetheless, if you believe you are experiencing a headache as a result of a disease/condition (i.e. secondary headache) or feel that you may be having one of the three primary headaches, please consult your doctor as soon as possible. He or she will be able to treat your headache in the most effective way. Also, though these tips are more for non-life threatening headaches, please talk to your doctor before implementing any of these tips.

Take Medication in Moderation

Walk into any pharmacy and you will be bombarded with a number of medications offering pain relief. Picking the right one will vary from person to person and each one has its risks. But to get the most benefit from an over-the-counter (OTC) medication that is right for you with the least risk, follow these guidelines:

  • Avoid OTC’s that contain caffeine or multiple ingredients for these may cause ‘rebound’ headaches.
  • Choose liquid over pills. Your body will be able to absorb the active ingredient much more readily.
  • Be prophylactic and take a painkiller as soon as you feel pain. Start with the recommended, even a smaller, dose and see how you respond.
  • Take an OTC only when you are experiencing pain. Taking a drug for too long or too often may actually make your condition worse, not better.

Make Friends With Darkness

For some people bright, flickering, and ambient light have been shown to exacerbate symptoms of a migraine. If you are someone who is sensitive to light, cover your windows with special blackout curtains during the day. Wear sunglasses both indoors and out. You might also add anti-glare screens to your computer and use daylight-spectrum fluorescent bulbs in your light fixtures. Last but certainly not least, try to limit the amount of time you spend on your phone, especially closer to your bedtime.

Liberate the Tension From Your Head

People who were ponytails can vouch for us when we say a tight ponytail may lead to a headache. If your ponytail is too tight, it could cause a headache. So, if you’re prone to getting “external compression headaches”, avoid wearing items such as tight hats, headbands, glasses, sunglasses, and (you guessed it) hair ties to reduce your chances of getting a headache. In fact, one study found that over 50% of participants who loosened their hair experienced their head pain reduce with some noting their headache disappeared all together.

Spit Out Your Gum

Chewing gum can hurt not just your jaw, but your head as well. The same is true for chewing your fingernails, lips, the inside of your cheeks, or objects such as pens. Do your best to limit crunchy and sticky foods making sure you take small bites. If you suffer from a condition known as bruxism (night grinding), talk to your healthcare provider about getting a mouth guard or participating in therapy. Research has shown than individuals who participate in cognitive behavioral therapy were able to reduce clenching their jaw, leading to a reduction in headaches.

Icy Hot: Not Just A Catchy Name

We’re sorry if our title misled you. We are not talking about the pain cream ICYHOT®, but we are referring to alternating between hot and cold packs to ameliorate symptoms of a headache. If you are having a headache, specifically a migraine, compress a cold pack on your forehead for approximately 15-minutes followed by a 15-minute break. Try to repeat this cycle up to three times. If you experience tension headaches, place a heating pad on your neck or the back of your head. If you have a sinus headache, hold a warm cloth to the area that hurts. Allowing warm water to run down your head and back as in a warm shower may also be effective in reducing the headache. What other tips and tricks have helped you reduce head pain? Lets us know!

Tags: headache, primary headache, secondary headache, over-the-counter, migraine, bruxism, pain management

References:

  1. Bader G, Lavigne GJ. Sleep bruxism; an overview of an oromandibular sleep movement disorder. Sleep Medicine Reviews 2000;4:27-43.
  2. Blau, J. N. (2004), Ponytail Headache: A Pure Extracranial Headache. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 44: 411–413. doi:10.1111/j.1526-4610.2004.04092.x
  3. Offenbächer M., Stucki G. Physical therapy in the treatment of fibromyalgia. Scandinavian Journal Of Rheumatology Vol. 29 , Iss. 113,2000
  4. Sheftell, F. Role And Impact Of Over-The-Counter Medications In the Management of Headache. of Neurologic Clinics. W. B. Saunders Company. Elsevier Inc. 1997
  5. Thompson BA, Blount BW, Krumholz TS. Treatment approaches to bruxism. Am Fam Physician 1994;49:1617-22.