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Pain Management Health Center

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When Your Pain Medication Isn't Working

What your next steps might be in treating your chronic pain.

Seeking Other Alternatives

Unconventional treatments may also succeed when medication doesn't provide the answer.

Lawrence Taw, MD, of the UCLA Center for East-West Medicine, often sees people with autoimmune diseases, some of which can cause chronic pain, such as lupus and MS.

Some people look to complementary medical approaches because medicines haven't worked. Others just want natural solutions. "I'd rather not think of this as a medical option of last resort. I think it's important to consider using these therapies earlier in the course of treatment, or in conjunction with mainstream medicine," Taw tells WebMD.

These providers tend to develop specific approaches for each person's needs, Taw says. Options may include:

  • Herbs and supplements. The herbs ginger and turmeric can reduce inflammation, for example. Always tell your doctor about any supplements you're taking, even if they're "natural," so that your doctor can watch for any problems and has a complete record of what you've tried.
  • Acupuncture and acupressure. Surveys have found that painful conditions -- including back and neck pain and headaches -- are some of the most common reasons why people use acupuncture. Acupressure is a related treatment that uses focused pressure to stimulate certain spots on the body instead of the thin needles used in acupuncture.
  • Topical treatments. These include menthol rubs, capsaicin cream (for joint pain), and arnica cream.

These days, Carla Ulbrich works as a speaker, author, and musician who encourages audiences to approach their health problems with a sense of humor.

She says her pain-relieving strategies have left her "pretty happy and not having much pain. I have medication if I need it -- I'm not against them. But I want to control this without medication if I can."

Fine reports having received consultant fees from a number of pharmaceutical companies in the past year.

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Reviewed on June 06, 2012

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