7 Drug-Free Ways to Combat Pain

Most of the patients we see here at GO Imaging have one symptom in common – pain. Pain can be one of the most debilitating symptoms that wreaks havoc on daily life. September has been declared Pain Awareness Month, and this month, we want to help raise public awareness of a serious issue related to pain management. Unfortunately, the most prevalent problem that people are dealing with in regards to pain management is the misuse and overprescribing of painkillers. 

According to the National Safety Council, “Drug poisoning is now the No. 1 cause of unintentional death in the United States.” They went onto say that “Many adults prescribed opioids by doctors subsequently become addicted or move from pills to heroin.” 

The question remains, is there a way that people suffering from pain can get relief without drugs? Luckily, the answer is a resounding YES! In fact, below we have listed seven drug-free ways to combat pain. While we understand that some cases are severe and require painkillers, it is our hope that the ideas below can help you find relief without a prescription. Without further ado, let’s dive right in.

Drug-Free Options for Pain Relief

The seven best ways to combat pain without a prescription, or in some cases without even needing over the counter drugs such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, are:

  1. Working with a chiropractor
  2. Sunlight/Vitamin D therapy
  3. Massage therapy
  4. Mindful meditation
  5. Yoga
  6. Acupuncture
  7. TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation)

Now that you have some alternative options for pain relief, let’s break them down further so you can determine which drug-free choice is right for you.

1. Working with a chiropractor

There are a lot of misconceptions about chiropractic care. Some people believe chiropractors are simply masseuses. Others think they are just people who crack your back or bones. The truth is, that chiropractic care is a sophisticated health care profession that focuses on disorders related to the nervous system and musculoskeletal system. 

Doctors that practice chiropractic care provide a drug-free approach to healthcare that is centered around spinal manipulation. Most of their work involves making adjustments to the spine to help with things like neck pain, lower and upper back pain, headaches, and whiplash related injuries. However, they also care for patients suffering from muscle, ligament, and joint injuries and disorders. 

According to the American Chiropractic Foundation, chiropractic care is “one of the safest drug-free, non-invasive therapies available for the treatment of neuromusculoskeletal complaints.” Though most adjustments in chiropractic care are made to the spine, some doctors will also make adjustments to other joints such as the wrist, knee, ankle, elbow, or shoulder. 

They do this to improve joint function or to restore the patient’s structural alignment. These adjustments can help resolve inflammation and reduce a patient’s pain, depending on their injuries. A patient’s spine or other joints may require several adjustments over the course of multiple appointments for optimal results. 

2. Sunlight/Vitamin D Therapy

According to the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, “In observational studies, low vitamin D levels have been associated with increased pain and higher opioid doses.” Vitamin D can help maintain bone health by improving the body’s calcium absorption. Proper levels of vitamin D in the body have also been found to reduce pain in the lower back and bones. 

3. Massage

Unlike chiropractic care which focuses on bone and muscle manipulation, massage focuses on muscle relaxation. Massage has been found to improve blood and lymph circulation and relax tissues, both of which have been attributed to a reduction in feelings of pain. According to Harvard Medical School, “Multiple studies have found massage therapy helps reduce specific pain and soreness…Massage also can help with recovery from injury or surgery, and its relaxing qualities are a surefire way to reduce stress and tension.”

4. Mindful Meditation

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), “mindfulness meditation achieves its pain relief-effect without engaging the opioid receptors in the brain.” By using mindfulness meditation, the attention becomes focused on your breathing and reduces your brain’s awareness of “external sensations and consequent thoughts” such as pain. 

One study by the NCCIH “found that mindfulness meditation does help to control pain and doesn’t use the brain’s naturally occurring opiates to do so.” Another study by the same group found that patients with chronic lower back pain responded positively to mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) training and/or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). While meditation may not be a cure for pain, it can certainly help in the reduction of symptoms of pain. 

5. Yoga

Yoga helps the body’s overall health through stretching and deep breathing. The NCCIH said, “Research has been done on yoga for several conditions that involve pain. Studies of yoga for low-back pain and neck pain have had promising results, and yoga is among the options that the American College of Physicians recommends for first-line treatment of chronic low-back pain.”

Psychology Today reported that “the effectiveness of non-pharmacological interventions such as yoga and meditation have been shown to have potent pain-relieving effects on the brain. In the long run, alternative treatments for pain, such as yoga, could be more effective than pharmaceutical treatments for relieving chronic pain.”

Finally, Harvard Medical School reported, “Yoga can help people with arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraine, low back pain, and many other types of chronic pain conditions.” As a bonus, practicing yoga also improved mood as well as psychosocial well-being.

6. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is the practice of inserting tiny needles into your skin at strategic points, or applying pressure or heat to certain areas on the body, in an effort to relieve pain by releasing endorphins and activating the body’s own ability to self-heal. The American Academy of Family Physicians reported, “acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain, the effects of acupuncture persist over time, and that the benefits of acupuncture cannot be explained away solely by the placebo effect.” However, they went onto say that though the research is promising and there seem to be no harmful effects with acupuncture, many physicians are uncomfortable prescribing it for pain, and they acknowledge that acupuncture is not often covered by insurance. 

7. TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation)

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a nonpharmacologic treatment that involves the application of electrical current through electrodes placed on the skin for pain control. Unfortunately, reports and studies indicate it is a short term fix for pain, and that the effectiveness of the procedure is not guaranteed for patients. Still, it is reassuring that health professionals are seeking alternatives to strong prescription painkillers to alleviate pain. Only time and additional studies will tell if TENS will be a viable option for patients suffering from chronic pain. 

Are There Other Drug-Free Options to Combat Pain?

Some medical journals and health media outlets have indicated that one thing that would help those suffering from chronic pain would be to exercise and maintain a healthy weight. Their reasoning is that patients suffering from obesity or being overweight have more pain than an otherwise healthy individual would have. There are also articles indicating that your diet and the supplements you consume can have an impact on your pain. 

Instead of going down the conjecture rabbit hole, we suggest discussing all of your options with your doctor. There may be additional drug-free options available to you that we haven’t mentioned here. Whatever it may be, we hope that you find the best form of therapy for your own pain management.

If you have any diagnostic imaging needs, schedule your appointment at one of our convenient locations!

Posted in: Health & Wellness

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