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Feel Better Naturally

WebMD Feature from "Health"

By Michael Castleman


Chew gum, listen to music, or try hypnosis for real pain relief.

Thanks to a history of bad reactions, Louanne Weston was willing to do almost anything to avoid anesthesia. So when her doctor advised surgery to remove uterine fibroids that were causing cramps and heavy bleeding during her period, Weston went looking for an anesthesia alternative. She found hypnosis—and her doctor agreed to give it a try.


“Under hypnosis, I visited the moon, a beach, and other beautiful places far away from the operating room, and I felt no pain during the surgery,” says Weston, a sex and relationships therapist in Fair Oaks, California. Even better, she avoided what she feared most: days of nasty side effects caused by anesthesia.


After coming out of her hypnotic state, instead of the usual debilitating nausea, she felt hungry. “I got up, walked out, and went to the cafeteria.”


Going under the knife without drugs sounds far-fetched. But experts say hypnotherapy is just one of a growing number of alternative pain remedies worth trying; other options aim to ease everyday discomforts like heartburn or PMS. “Alternative therapies often help,” says Ronald V. Myers, MD, president of the American Pain Institute. “I think it’s important for both physicians and the public to keep an open mind. I support whatever works.” Here are five of the most promising alternatives.


Gum for heartburn

Heartburn happens when stomach acids splash back into the esophagus and burn it. Treatment often includes antacids that reduce the amount of acid. But British researchers recently confirmed U.S. studies showing that chewing gum after a meal helps fight heartburn. Chewing gum increases saliva, which helps wash the acid back down to the stomach, the researchers say. The type of gum doesn’t matter, but the latest research used sugar-free—and it’s easier on your teeth.


If you try it: Chew for at least 30 minutes after eating.


Music for body aches

Looking for an excuse to invest in an iPod? New research shows that music can help ease neck and back pain. In a study involving 40 Ohio pain-clinic patients, one group listened to their favorite pop songs or nature sounds on headsets for an hour a day, another group listened to jazz or symphony music, and a third heard no music. The music groups said their pain dropped between 12 and 21 percent (based on the pain scale the researchers used). In related studies, music even helped reduce pain after surgery, lessen labor pain, and aid in burn treatment. Music has also been used successfully to boost immune function, treat insomnia and high blood pressure, and enhance quality of life for people with cancer. 

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