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Chronic Pain Relief: New Treatments

New advances in drugs and technology mean there are now better solutions for chronic pain relief.

Alternative Approaches to Chronic Pain Relief continued...

A new twist in biofeedback is being developed, Gallagher says. One group of Stanford researchers is working on an experimental technique in which patients retrain the part of brain involved in uncontrolled pain.

The treatment happens while the patient is having a functional MRI scan, he explains. "They learn to control activation of the brain's pain center... so they can turn off the pain. They are, in effect, teaching the brain to unlearn that pain response. This is very exiting for the field of pain management. They're helping the brain rewire and unlearn the bad signal activation -- the pain signal activation."

Relaxation techniques are an important part of pain treatment. Deep breathing, meditation, guided imagery, hypnosis -- all these allow mind to help the body. Through regular practice, they help to reduce stress and promote relaxation, which helps with chronic pain relief.

Acupuncture, a traditional Chinese practice, has gained respect in Western medicine. The National Institutes of Health recognizes acupuncture as an effective pain reliever particularly for headache pain and back pain -- and suggests that the practice may help with other chronic pain conditions, including arthritis, fibromyalgia, and muscle pain.

"Acupuncture is definitely helpful with pain, and increasingly more and more insurance companies are covering acupuncture treatments," says Gallagher.

The bottom line from Chan: If you have an injury that causes pain, get the pain under control right away. "The attitude in this country is you need to suck it up," he tells WebMD. "But you're not doing yourself any favors if you do that. You need to see a doctor right away. If pain is addressed early on, it is much easier to treat -- before it becomes chronic."

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Reviewed on June 14, 2010

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