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Holistic Methods for Managing Chronic Pain

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that approximately 50 million people—or 20 percent of adults in America—struggle with chronic pain, while another 17 million individuals—or nearly 7 percent—experience what’s known as high-impact chronic pain. This means the condition has lasted longer than three months and restricts certain daily activities. If you’re in addiction recovery and eager for some non-pharmaceutical options for pain management, here are some ideas.   

Types of Chronic Pain
For many individuals, chronic pain might occur after a particular injury or surgery recovery, while others develop a condition that lasts for a lifetime. According to Web MD, here are the most common conditions with chronic pain: 

  • Arthritis/rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis
  • Back pain, especially in the low back
  • Headaches
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Nerve damage and neuropathy
  • Shingles

Other conditions that cause chronic pain are AIDS, cancer, gallbladder disease, and stomach ulcers.

“At a fundamental level, chronic pain is a matter of biology: errant nerve impulses keep alerting the brain about tissue damage that no longer exists, if it ever did,” Web MD states. “But complex social and psychological factors are also at play, and they seem to help determine who fares well despite even severe chronic pain—and whose lives quickly unravel.”

The CDC also notes that, if not effectively managed, chronic pain and high-impact chronic pain increase with age and can become especially debilitating for people over 65. Additionally, women are affected by chronic pain conditions more than men, as are individuals in lower income brackets and those who live in rural areas. 

Why Chronic Pain Is So Hard to Manage

There are two primary reasons why pain issues are so challenging for the medical community to resolve: 

  • Each person has a different pain threshold (the point at which you first notice pain) and pain tolerance (the limit of pain you can stand). 
  • Pain, unlike other health issues, is completely subjective. There are few reliable ways for physicians to concretely assess the level of sensation someone feels. 

The CDC reported that during the height of the prescription opioid epidemic, more than 20 percent of U.S. adults suffering with chronic pain relied on medication.   

Non-Invasive Holistic Treatments That Can Help

All of us like to feel a sense of control over our health, especially when certain conditions affect every aspect of our well-being. Different holistic applications and therapies have become more popular as individuals seek to find relief in various ways. Some therapies provide consistent improvement over time, while others might be more effective for daily management. Here are some options to consider.

This is an ancient Chinese medicine therapy administered by a certified acupuncturist. It incorporates the use of medical-grade filament needles inserted into different energetic points in the body to stimulate changes in the nervous system. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) indicates that participants in some studies experienced lasting benefits for more than a year after a series of treatments. 

According to the Cleveland Clinic, “biofeedback is an alternative medicine approach that teaches people to change the way their bodies function. It is a mind-body therapy that may improve your physical and mental health.”

Various massage applications help alleviate chronic pain in various ways. Benefits of regular massage include reduced stress and restrictive body tension, improved immune function, and lessened symptoms of anxiety and depression—all of which are beneficial to managing pain more effectively. 

Myofascial release therapy
Myofascial tissue is like a netting that covers and supports our muscles. Myofascial release is a therapy technique that focuses on myofascial tissues, specifically in areas of stiffness and pain and/or at trigger points. Interestingly, trigger points might not actually be where people feel the pain, which is why a certified myofascial therapist is helpful; they know how trigger points connect and can manipulate the appropriate tissue to relieve pain. 

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator
Also known as a TENS unit, this portable device, according to the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, “sends electrical pulses through the skin to start your body’s own painkillers. The electrical pulses can release endorphins and other substances to stop pain signals in the brain.”

Other non-pharmacological alternatives for chronic pain include: 

  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Spinal manipulation
  • Tai Chi
  • Yoga

Bottom line: you don’t have to suffer with chronic pain if recovery prohibits the use of certain medications. Look for resources in your community that provide options like the ones we’ve outlined. Not every method will work for everyone, but you might be surprised which ones help you. 

Find Relief at Great Oaks
Effective evidence-based addiction treatment and long-lasting holistic recovery techniques are two pillars of Great Oaks’ foundation of care. If you or a loved one has misused alcohol or substances in an attempt to manage chronic pain, we invite you to learn about whole-person wellness at our rehabilitation center outside of Houston.