Feel Better Naturally
By Michael Castleman
Chew gum, listen to music, or try hypnosis for real pain
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
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
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.