What are some ways to help heal chronic pain?
How many people suffer from chronic pain in US?
28% of the adult population has chronic pain that lasts for more than 3 months.
Chronic pain is prevalent in the US adult population. According to the CDC in 2016, an estimated 20.4% of U.S. adults had chronic pain and 8.0% of U.S. adults had high-impact chronic pain.
What is chronic pain?
Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts for over three months. The pain can be there all the time, or it may come and go. It can happen anywhere in your body.
How does chronic pain effect people's life?
Chronic pain effects moods, activity and productivity levels, social life and ability to take care of oneself. It can lead to depression, anxiety and trouble sleeping, which can make your pain worse.
This response creates a cycle that’s difficult to break.
What are the different forms of chronic pain?
Chronic pain can come in many different forms and appear across your body. Common types of chronic pain include:
As an acupuncturist I have been treating chronic pain since I started practicing 17 years ago.
- Arthritis, or joint pain.
- Back pain.
- Neck pain.
- Headaches, including migraines.
- Muscle pain all over (such as with fibromyalgia).
- Neurogenic pain, from damage to the nerves or other parts of the nervous system
What are the common ways to treat chronic pain?
Your healthcare provider may recommend certain medications to relieve chronic pain, including:
- Anticonvulsants (medications that prevent seizures) for nerve pain.
- Antidepressants such as tricyclic antidepressants.
- Muscle relaxers.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or acetaminophen.
- Topical products (applied to the skin) that contain pain relievers or ingredients that create soothing heat or cold.
- Opioids (narcotics). Opioids can be addictive, and you can build up a tolerance to them over time. Because of this, healthcare providers usually try other pain treatment options before prescribing opioids.
- Sedatives to help with anxiety or insomnia.
- Medical marijuana.
Other medical treatments your healthcare provider may have you try include:
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): This procedure delivers small shocks through patches on your skin. The electrical impulses can relieve pain.
- Nerve blocks: For this treatment, your healthcare provider injects an anesthetic near the site of your pain to reduce feeling in the area. Nerve blocks can also sometimes provide diagnostic information and locate the source of your pain.
- Epidural steroid injections: This procedure is an injection of anti-inflammatory medicine — a steroid or corticosteroid — into the space around your spinal nerves known as the epidural space to treat chronic pain caused by irritation and inflammation of spinal nerve roots.
- Are there side effects or complications of medical treatment for chronic pain? Medications used in moderation can have beneficial effects but it is not a best option for chronic use since it can have serious side effects.
- Every medication has a potential for side effects — some are more serious than others.
What are the possible side effects of treating chronic pain with just meds?
Complications from medical treatments for chronic pain can include:
- Acute liver failure from acetaminophen treatment.
- Opioid addiction and/or overdose.
- Mood changes, confusion and respiratory issues from nerve pain medications.
- Spinal cord damage or infection from spinal cord stimulators.
What are the four major lifestyle factors that can affect your chronic pain and help minimize it?
Healthcare providers sometimes call them the four pillars of chronic pain. They include:
Stress: Stress can play a major role in chronic pain, so it’s important to try to reduce your stress as much as possible. Everyone has different techniques for managing their stress, but some techniques include meditation, mindfulness and deep breathing. Try different options until you find what works best for you.
Exercise: Participating in low-intensity exercises, such as walking or light swimming, for 30 minutes every day may help reduce your pain. Exercise can also be a stress reliever for some people, which is important to manage when you have chronic pain.
Diet: It’s important to eat a healthy diet to boost your overall health. Your healthcare provider may suggest trying an anti-inflammatory diet by eliminating foods that cause inflammation, such as red meat and refined carbohydrates.
Sleep: Getting enough quality sleep is important for your overall health. A lack of sleep can cause you to gain weight, which could make your chronic pain worse. Getting quality sleep is also important for stress management.
Why should you consider acupuncture as a effective treatment for chronic pain?
Acupuncture is an alternative to treating chronic pain worth considering, here are just a few benefits:
- No side effects
- It is safe
- No potential for addiction and side effects
- Supports overall health and make you feel relaxed
- Clinically and time tested
- It has a long history of use and effectiveness
Can acupuncture make chronic pain worse?
Generally no, acupuncture is not going to make your back pain worse. However, sometimes there are cases where if the practitioner is too aggressive or the positioning on the acupuncture table may be uncomfortable, it can cause some pain when you get off the table.