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Can Alternative Medicine Help to Manage Pain?

Updated on September 15, 2010

Managing chronic pain through prescription medication or over-the-counter painkillers won't always be the best option as some drugs aren't safe to take over long periods of time. For example, medications containing Ibuprofen can cause stomach problems if they are taken over a period of weeks or months. Alternative medicine may be the least dangerous method of chronic pain management in this type of situation, but can it actually work?

Acupuncture

Having extremely fine needles inserted into various points on the body is often put forward as a more natural approach to pain management. As an alternative medicine, acupuncture is said to change the flow of "chi" (energy) in the body by unblocking energy imbalances to relieve pain. Studies have indicated that acupuncture can encourage the body to be more tolerant of pain by releasing natural painkillers in the form of endorphins (known as the "feel good" hormones), which are believed to prevent pain messages being delivered to the brain. Research has suggested that if acupuncture is going to be effective for pain relief, the needles need to be manipulated rather than merely left in place. It has been suggested that acupuncture may not work for everyone, as some individuals can negate the effects of endorphins and render them ineffective. 

Acupressure

This works in much the same way as acupuncture, minus the needles. Pressure is applied to pressure points via the fingers with the intention of unblocking negative energy to improve general health. Pressure points can be uncomfortable after the treatment has been performed. 

Massage Therapy

Deep tissue massage can be beneficial for treating chronic muscle tension and posture problems. As the name suggests, this form of massage therapy can target tissue that is located further beneath the surface of the skin. This can mean that the experience is more uncomfortable in comparison to the more commonly performed Swedish massage, especially in the days following on from the treatment. 

Meditation

Some studies have indicated that the act of meditation can be used in pain management, especially for chronic pain. While experts are not fully certain why this might be the case, it is thought that meditation can reduce sensitivity to pain. 

Reflexology

This treatment is based on the concept that applying pressure to various reflex points on the hands and feet will improve overall health, especially in relation to the vital organs. An effective reflexology session should induce relaxation and aid pain relief.

Using Alternative Medicine As a Pain Management Technique 

While alternative medicine can go some way towards aiding pain management, it shouldn't be used as the sole form of treatment. If you plan to use any form of alternative medicine (for pain relief or any other purpose), it's advisable to consult a medical professional before embarking on the treatment in case it isn't suitable. 

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