A Guest Post by Gabriel Patel of www.healthwise.com
Identifying and treating the underlying issues that cause chronic pain with alternatives to pharmacological treatments
People who have been diagnosed with a chronic pain condition often have limited options for treatment. Pharmacological treatments, though temporarily relieving, are today understood to be dangerously addictive when prescribed too freely.
There is a growing body of knowledge about psychological alternatives and treatments that make effective use of physical therapies. Although these can’t offer permanent solutions to chronic pain, many are quite useful at helping patients manage their pain and lead active lives. Much of the progress made in this area stems from a greater understanding of stress triggers, bodily reactions that set in motion the stress/pain cycle which dominates the lives of so many.
Trigger points are essentially knotted muscles caused by contractions that set in motion a pain reaction. They can occur anywhere in the body and are often activated by emotional or physical stress. The resultant pain may be deep and constant or periodic and sharp, with symptoms that can be debilitating and disorienting. Dizziness, restricted joint mobility, and referred pain from one part of the body to another often result.
In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines for the prescription of painkillers including Vicodin and morphine which, it recommended, should no longer be the first option for treating chronic pain. Instead, exercise, physical therapy, and non-addictive substances were recommended as alternatives to a practice, long-favored by the nation’s doctors, which has produced an opioid addiction crisis throughout the US.
Trigger Point Treatments
Physical therapy has gained considerable attention in recent years as a means of eliminating pain triggers at home for people with a chronic condition. A combination of hands-on treatment, such as massage, and gentle muscle stretching can be helpful to those who are sensitive to touch. Low-impact exercises, prescribed by a physical therapist, can also be done at home and help restore pain sufferers to an active lifestyle. Electric nerve stimulation is employed in extreme cases, in which electrical signals pass through an implement into the affected area.
Mind and Body
As the limitations of prescriptive treatments have become well known, the link between mind and body has shown considerable promise as a way of mitigating chronic pain. Yoga, a popular and well-known mind-body discipline, which stretches muscles with meditative and deliberate motion, has been proven effective at controlling pain associated with conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, and lower back pain.
Recent research has found that yoga counteracts the effects that chronic pain has on brain function. Specifically, yoga can reduce stress levels that activate pain. Though not specifically a therapeutic/medical discipline, yoga can be an important part of a lifestyle change that helps chronic pain sufferers cope with their condition.
Diet and Exercise Regimens
A nutritious diet emphasizing foods with anti-inflammatory properties is also an important lifestyle change for many with chronic pain. Foods rich in fiber, like fruits and vegetables, comprise a diet that can help mitigate inflammation and the symptoms of pain. Fruits and vegetables, as well as other foods that are rich in probiotics, can also help foster a healthy gut biome, lessening inflammation and helping prevent mood swings and digestive issues. The anti-inflammatory diet is particularly effective when combined with exercise activities like walking on a daily basis, an effective way to increase blood flow and maintain a healthy weight.
The need for effective new alternatives to prescription painkillers has opened a broad new field of exploration into the mind-body connection, and ways in which it can be used to control pain. Today, new forms of physical therapy and alternative approaches including cannabis have become very popular for symptom management. Smoking the flower, vaporizing the oil, or consuming it in the form of edibles has been shown to reduce pain, improve sleep, and lessen anxiety, even when pharmaceutical treatments have failed to have an effect.
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