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Kent Probst, BS, MEd
Kent Probst is the owner of Long Healthy Life Blog
What is Holistic Pain Management?
Holistic Pain Management is the practice of the treatment of the whole person, using alternative modalities, taking into account mental and social factors.
Chronic pain, which is defined as lasting more than three months, can lead to anxiety, depression and insomnia, interfering with your activities of daily living.
Chronic pain can make your life miserable.
A reason holistic pain management appeals to people is they can avoid pain medications that can be addictive and have serious side effects.
Some of the most addictive pain medications include opioids such as OxyContin, Vicodin, Dilaudid and Demerol.
Long term use (more than 30 days) can lead to opioid tolerance which results in withdrawal symptoms when the medication is stopped.
Side effects of prescription pain medication can include headaches, dizziness, nausea, weakness and constipation.
Overuse of over-the-counter medication such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can have serious side effects.
Fortunately, holistic pain management can be more effective at treating pain than pain medication.
The benefits of holistic pain management also include fewer side effects, less resistance to prescription drugs, and less chance of dependence.
Modalities of Holistic Pain Management
Getting some exercise like swimming, walking or dancing can alleviate some pain by blocking pain signals to the brain.
People who experience musculoskeletal pain can often benefit from static stretching to loosen up tight joints, muscles and tendons.
Consult your physician for a physical therapy referral to get a customized exercise program based on your pain diagnosis.
Mind-Body therapy has expanded beyond holistic practitioners as a useful tool for addressing pain management, as well as opioid use reduction.
In a systematic review and meta-analysis, meditation, hypnosis, relaxation, guided imagery, therapeutic suggestion and cognitive behavioral therapy were shown to provide modest pain reduction.
Mind-Body Therapy also contributed to small reductions in opioid use.
You can locate a psychologist who practices mind-body therapy through the American Psychological Association.
An integral part of traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture is frequently used for the treatment of pain.
Fine needles are inserted along pathways known as meridians, which is believed to rebalance the flow of energy, also known as chi or qi.
Western medicine believes that during acupuncture, the body releases natural chemicals to fight the ongoing illness or symptoms.
When seeking an acupuncturist, make sure the person is certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
If possible, get a referral from a friend.
Check with your insurance to see if it’s covered.
The number of treatments will depend on your injury or illness and severity. 6 to 8 treatment sessions is not uncommon.
Chiropractic Treatment and Massage
Chiropractic is often used as a complementary treatment for reduction of neck, back, headache and muscle pain.
Here are a few conditions chiropractors treat that may be causing pain:
- Low back injuries
- Chronic headaches
Some patients choose chiropractic as a way to avoid prescription medication.
Your chiropractor should be a licensed professional.
The effectiveness of massage on pain reduction has been studied in an acute care hospital setting.
The patients from three different units in the hospital reported significant reductions in pain following massage.
The study participants also reported improved “emotional well-being, relaxation and ability to sleep.”
If you decide to use massage, try to find a therapist who has experience treating your condition.
Originating in Japan, Reiki is a hands-on technique that uses energy healing to improve the balance and flow of energy to support healing.
The reiki practitioner places her hands on the body, or just above it.
In addition to being used for pain relief, it may also help with:
- Immune system stimulation
- Tissue and bone healing
- Assisting with meditation
- Parkinson’s disease
Reiki isn’t meant to replace other forms of treatment, but to complement them.
You can find a reiki practitioner at The International Center for Reiki Training.
Possibly the best diet to follow if you’re dealing with pain is an anti-inflammatory diet or the Mediterranean diet.
Simple carbohydrates increase inflammation, while vegetables shut it down. This is one reason the Mediterranean diet works.
Chronic inflammation can lead to diseases commonly associated with aging, such as diabetes, stroke and Alzheimer’s.
A holistic approach which combines exercise, stress reduction and an anti-inflammatory diet can be very effective at controlling pain.
One of the secrets of pain relief is to eat like people who live in the Blue Zones.
Eating like people in the Blue Zones is essentially following the Mediterranean diet.
For personalized one-on-one nutritional counseling consult the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Herbal and Nutritional Supplements
When it comes to herbal and nutritional supplements, combining them has been shown to be effective against pain.
Among herbal and nutritional supplements, turmeric extract, black sesame seed oil and boswellia serrata extract are showing promise when it comes to providing pain relief.
In a 2020 human study, the combination of turmeric extract, black sesame seed oil and boswellia serrata extract were just as effective as acetaminophen.
The natural treatment was 8 times more effective at relieving the unpleasantness and emotional aspects of acute pain.
Customizing Your Approach
Now that you’ve decided to pursue holistic pain management, you merely need to determine which combination of treatments will work best for you.
Your healthcare provider can assist you with finding the right combination of treatments.
You’ll feel better and be healthier following a holistic approach to pain management.
That’s the beauty of holistic pain management.
Are you already using holistic treatments for pain management?
We’d like to know which ones, and how they’re working.
Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. Please note that I’ve linked to these products purely because I recommend them and they are from companies I trust. There is no additional cost to you.