Pain Management: Treatment Overview
There is solid evidence indicating that glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate relieve pain due to knee osteoarthritis. These natural compounds were found to decrease pain and increase mobility of the knee and were well-tolerated and safe.
Other dietary supplements, such as fish oils and SAMe, also show some evidence of benefit, although more research is needed.
It has been difficult to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of herbs, though there are a few, such as white willow bark, devil’s claw, cat’s claw, ginger, and turmeric, that have some evidence supporting their use. If you decide to use herbal preparations to better manage your pain, tell your doctor: Some herbs may interact with drugs you are receiving for pain or other conditions and may harm your health.
Dietary Approaches to Treating Pain
Some people believe that changing dietary fat intake and/or eating plant foods that contain anti-inflammatory agents can help ease pain by limiting inflammation.
A mostly raw vegetarian diet was found helpful for some people with fibromyalgia, but this study was not methodologically strong. One study of women with premenstrual symptoms suggested that a low-fat vegetarian diet was associated with decreased pain intensity and duration. Weight loss achieved by a combination of dietary changes and increased physical activity has been shown to be helpful for people suffering from osteoarthritis.
Still, further research is needed to determine the effectiveness of dietary modifications as a pain treatment.
Things to Consider
Alternative therapies are not always benign. As mentioned, some herbal therapies can interact with other medications you may be taking. Always talk to your doctor before trying an alternative approach and be sure to tell all your doctors what alternative treatments you are using.
Other Options: Pain Clinics
Many people suffering from chronic pain are able to gain some measure of control over it by trying many of the above treatments on their own. But for some, no matter what treatment approach they try, they still suffer from debilitating pain. For them, pain clinics -- special care centers devoted exclusively to dealing with intractable pain -- may be the answer. Some pain clinics are associated with hospitals and others are private; in either case, both inpatient and outpatient treatment are usually available.