Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Pain Management Health Center

Select An Article
Font Size

Pain Management: Alternative Therapy

The term ''alternative therapy'' generally is used to describe any medical treatment or intervention that  is used in place of conventional medicine. When alternative therapies are used in conjunction with conventional medicine, it is called complementary medicine. Alternative therapy encompasses a variety of disciplines, including acupuncture, guided imagery, chiropractic treatment, yoga, hypnosis, biofeedback, aromatherapy, relaxation, herbal remedies, massage and many others.

In the past decade, strong evidence has been accumulated regarding the benefits of mind-body therapies, acupuncture, and some nutritional supplements for treating pain. Other alternative therapies such as massage, chiropractic therapies, therapeutic touch, certain herbal therapies, and dietary approaches have the potential to alleviate pain in some cases. More research is needed to see how these therapies compare to conventional treatments.

Recommended Related to Pain Management

Acetaminophen Safety: FAQ

An FDA advisory committee recently recommended that the FDA set certain limits on acetaminophen, a drug that is used in many prescription and nonprescription medicines to relieve pain and reduce fever. Those limits could include taking off the market some prescription drugs, such as the painkillers Percocet and Vicodin, which combine acetaminophen with other active ingredients.  The reason for the proposed limits is the risk of liver damage from taking too much acetaminophen. That...

Read the Acetaminophen Safety: FAQ article > >

 

Mind-Body Therapies

Mind-body therapies are treatments that are meant to help the mind’s ability to affect the functions and symptoms of the body. Mind-body therapies use various approaches, including relaxation techniques, meditation, guided imagery, biofeedback, and hypnosis. Relaxation techniques can help alleviate discomfort related to chronic pain.

Acupuncture

Although the World Health Organization currently recognizes more than 30 diseases or conditions that can be helped by acupuncture treatment, one of the main uses of acupuncture is for pain relief.

Sixteenth Century Chinese doctors believed that illness was due to an imbalance of energy in the body. In acupuncture, disposable, stainless steel needles are used to stimulate the body's 14 major meridians, or energy-carrying channels, to resist or overcome illnesses and conditions by correcting these imbalances.

Acupuncture is also thought to decrease pain by increasing the release of chemicals that block pain, called endorphins. Many acu-points are near nerves. When stimulated, these nerves cause a dull ache or feeling of fullness in the muscle. The stimulated muscle sends a message to the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord), causing the release of endorphins (morphine-like chemicals produced in our own bodies during times of pain or stress). Endorphins, along with other neurotransmitters (body chemicals that modify nerve impulses), block the message of pain from being delivered up to the brain.

Acupuncture may be useful as an accompanying treatment for many pain-related conditions, including: headache, low back pain, menstrual cramps, carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and myofascial pain. Acupuncture also may be an acceptable alternative to or may be included as part of a comprehensive pain management program.

Chiropractic Treatment and Massage

Chiropractic treatment is the most common non-surgical treatment for back pain. Improvements in people undergoing chiropractic manipulations were noted in some trials. However, the treatment's effectiveness in treating back and neck pain has not been supported by compelling evidence from the majority of clinical trials. Further studies are currently assessing the effectiveness of chiropractic care for pain management.

Massage is being increasingly used by people suffering from pain, mostly to manage chronic back and neck problems. Massage can reduce stress and relieve tension by enhancing blood flow. This treatment also can reduce the presence of substances that may generate and sustain pain. Available data suggest that massage therapy, like chiropractic manipulations, holds considerable promise for managing back pain.

WebMD Medical Reference

Next Article:

Today on WebMD

pain in brain and nerves
Top causes and how to find relief.
knee exercise
8 exercises for less knee pain.
 
acupuncture needles in woman's back
How it helps arthritis, migraines, and dental pain.
chronic pain
Get personalized tips to reduce discomfort.
 
foot conditions inherited
Video
lumbar spine
Slideshow
 
Woman opening window
Slideshow
Knee exercises
Slideshow
 
Woman shopping for vegetables
Slideshow
Sore feet with high heel shoes
Slideshow
 
acupuncture needles in woman's back
Slideshow
Hand on back
Slideshow