The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies reports that 100 million adults in the United States alone are suffering from chronic pain. That accounts for almost one-third of our country’s population. Common areas of concern include aches and pains in the lower back, neck and nerves.
Thankfully, though the issue is on the rise, so too are the treatment options. As modern technology continues to sophisticate, scientists are developing innovative treatment options that are serving as cost-effective and improved alternatives to traditional approaches. Pinpointing the issue and mitigating it as much as possible is essential, as chronic pain not only causes discomfort. Left untreated, it can also lead to high blood pressure and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, among other side effects. It has also been linked to emotional concerns, ranging from depression to anxiety.
Today, we’re taking a look at four alternative treatment options for chronic pain that are quickly taking the place of over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatories, prescription opioids and even surgery. These approaches are focused more on finding the root cause of the issue rather than keeping the pain at pay through medication. Let’s explore more.
1. Cold Laser Therapy
Also known as lower-level laser therapy (LLLT), this treatment involves exposing a part of the body to a laser beam set to a low intensity. This is a non-invasive procedure that incorporates a cold laser rather than a hot one. While the latter has been used for years as an instrument to aid surgical precision, the former is a promising healthcare tool in its own right.
How does it work? The cold laser naturally stimulates cells and tissues around the problem area, catalyzing healing and recovery. As it goes deeper, it releases what’s known as photon energy. As the body absorbs it, it transforms it into biochemical energy, which then goes to work increasing blood flow and desensitizing local sensory neurons, helping to mitigate any pain. Conditions ranging from sports injuries to everyday inflammation can be addressed via this painless method.
2. CBD Oil
In our bodies, we have endocannabinoids, which are produced naturally. There are also elements known as phytocannabinoids, which are derived from a plant. One type of phytocannabinoid is THC. This is the part of the marijuana plant that produces the feeling of euphoria. Another is CBD. Derived from the same species as THC, CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning it does not provide the same sense of euphoria, but does mimic naturally-occurring endocannabinoids.
This means that it’s incredibly effective at giving our bodies a supplemental power boost. In the chronic pain realm, it can be applied to help suppress inflammation and neuropathic pain as well as treat nerve pain.
CBD oil can be applied directly, or can also be taken in pill form or used in lotions and salves. If you’re struggling with chronic pain and are looking for an affordable and effective way to treat it, this can be a great first step. It can be helpful to learn more about its applications and uses before getting started. It can also be used in conjunction with other pain management therapies, including those discussed in this article.
3. Acupuncture and Acupressure
Although not necessarily modern, acupuncture and acupressure techniques have come a long way since their origins in ancient Chinese medicine. Now, the rise of technology means that sterilization and treatment tools have advanced significantly. Take, for instance, the Pointoselect Digital. This is an auriculotherapy tool designed specifically to treat pain in and around the ear.
As there are hundreds of points on the human ear, finding the exact one to engage with acupuncture can be a challenge. The complications are only exacerbated when you consider that the ear has both positively charged and negatively charged electrically active points. This innovative and streamlined tool simplifies the process by automatically identifying all of the points and color-coding them so healthcare professionals know exactly which ones are positive and which are negative. From there, they can adjust their treatment plan.
These treatments are often performed in tandem with deep tissue massage, used to treat chronic pain. Even massage techniques have benefitted from the advancement of technology. Today, professionals can use tools such as 3-D rollers to access difficult-to-reach places, such as the upper neck and upper shoulder regions, that a typical massage chair often neglects. Moreover, 3-D massage technology also provides for a deeper and more intensive massage, as well as a customizable approach and improved relaxation.
4. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
This is an approach to pain management that takes an intensive, proactive approach to healing. It starts with a patient working one-on-one with a healthcare professional to try and determine the underlying root cause of chronic pain. These sessions delve into exactly what pain is, what their specific symptoms are, and what can be done to help control the symptoms.
Patients will discuss what role pain plays in their lives and how they can manage it moving forward. This is often done in tandem with physical therapy, in which patients perform certain exercises designed to help improve their endurance and relieve their pain. Another element of cognitive-behavioral therapy is visualization. Often, healthcare providers will also walk patients mentally through calming scenes that can be conjured up when intense pain occurs.
Managing Your Chronic Pain Successfully
If you are dealing with chronic pain, the first step forward is to seek medical attention. No one should have to suffer in silence and taking action can mean the difference between pain that is debilitating and pain that is manageable. Speak to your family doctor or a trusted healthcare provider about what you’re experiencing. You may be surprised to find that you’re not immediately handed a prescription. Rather, approaches today are more holistic and intentional in nature, designed to pinpoint precisely where you’re hurting and give you a way to control it effectively.