Mar 16, 2011 12:17 AM
If you have chronic pain and are looking for alternatives to medication and surgery, you have a lot of options. Alternative pain treatments that doctors once scoffed at are now standard at many pain centers.
"That phrase 'alternative pain treatments' doesn't mean much to me," says Seddon R. Savage, MD, incoming president of the American Pain Society. "I think the line between them and mainstream treatment is pretty blurry now."
However, not all alternative pain treatments work. Some can even be risky. Some alternative treatments may help with pain from bad backs, osteoarthritis, and headaches, but have no effect on chronic pain from fibromyalgia or diabetic nerve damage.
"You have to do your homework when you're considering alternative treatments for pain," warnsAnne Louise Oaklander, MD, PhD, an associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and director of the Nerve Injury Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston."Make sure that you're trying a treatment that is likely to work in your case." And always discuss any alternative pain treatments you want to try with your regular doctor.
Here's a rundown of the most commonly used alternative treatments for chronic pain.
Obviously, you need to be skeptical of any unproven or risky alternative pain treatments. What else should you be wary of?
Experts say you should keep your expectations for alternative pain treatments modest -- especially when it comes to "miracle cures." Controlling chronic pain is not simple. A single supplement, device, or treatment is not going to make your chronic pain disappear. Good chronic pain management usually requires time and the collaboration of experts, says Savage.
Savage says you also need to be suspicious of anyone pushing a treatment when the financial motive is blatant. That doesn't only apply to pain treatments advertised on dubious web sites asking for your credit card number.
"I think people should be careful whenever a person is making a living off of an untested pain remedy," says Savage. "So I'm concerned whenever I see providers selling their own expensive and unproven remedies. You need to be very careful."
If you're living with chronic pain, considering alternative treatments makes a lot of sense. But remember that even if a treatment is alternative, it has to be integrated with your overall pain management plan.
Don't try out these techniques on your own without your doctor's knowledge. Instead, you and your doctor should talk over the pros and cons of different approaches. What's most likely to help in your case? What will complement your other treatments?
Experts say that you should try to keep up to date with research into alternative treatments for chronic pain. The options for people with chronic pain are always growing -- and some of the odder treatments of today might become the mainstream treatments of tomorrow.