Chronic pain is a chronic issue in the United States according to Jack Miletic.
About 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience some form of chronic pain, defined as any pain lasting at least three months. Globally it’s the top cause of disease burden and disability. Chronic pain can be the result of everything from cancer and scar tissue, to back and muscle strain.
The numbers are staggering. Around 15 million adults say they endure debilitating joint pain due to arthritis. Another 4 million experience migraines every day.
Various forms of pain medication are commonly prescribed or sold over the counter to help people cope with chronic pain. It’s often a double-edged sword. While many medications are effective each day for pain, many, especially opioids, carry a high risk of dependency. The United States is currently experiencing an opioid epidemic.
That has led many to seek alternative, drug-free forms of treatment for their pain.
Occupational and Physical Therapy
These common approaches to pain and mobility management are among the most effective. Occupational therapists work with individuals to craft new ways to perform daily activities that do not lead to one’s usual pain.
Physical therapists rely on sets of exercises tailored to individuals to improve mobility and strength, often for those recovering from a painful event, such as broken bones or falls.
Used in pain treatment since around 100 B.C., this form of traditional Chinese medicine targets certain points on the body using needles, heat, electrical stimulation, or pressure. Modern research often backs up the claim that acupuncture may work as a pain reliever.
Studies have suggested acupuncture is particularly effective for pain related to sports injuries, osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia. Some believe acupuncture techniques block the nerves sending pain signals or that it releases chemicals in the body that numb pain.
A blanket technique that commonly uses techniques such as exercise, meditation, massage therapy, and companionship as collective approaches to ease pain. Art and music therapy are examples of comfort therapy. In a hospital, it may take the form of cold/hot therapy, extra pillows, and pet therapy.
Once taboo, medical marijuana rose in popularity in the 1990s as a form of pain treatment and has become even more mainstream recently as more states legalize it. Research has consistently shown marijuana to have positive effects on nerve pain for those with HIV or multiple sclerosis.
Marijuana is often used by cancer patients to ease nausea and other forms of pain associated with chemotherapy. Medical marijuana also comes in prescription medication forms.
A form of stress-reduction therapy, yoga has the potential to help chronic pain issues such as neck and back pain and fibromyalgia, or muscle pain that’s widespread. Yoga is also considered a form of relaxation therapy that aims to reduce tension in the body.
Relaxation therapy includes breathing and focus techniques. Forms of massage are also reportedly beneficial for those experiencing rheumatoid arthritis pain.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Patients in pain speak with psychologists who work together to set goals related to altering physical and emotional responses to stress and pain.