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Alternative Pain Management: 6 Non-Conventional Ways To Alleviate Pain

14 March 2023
Group of people meditating outdoors
Group of middle aged people doing yoga sitting on grass. Three people practicing meditation and yoga at park on a bright morning. Mature woman and two mid men meditating together in a lotus position.

Key Points:

  • Pain management is a complex topic. There are many different types of pain, and each situation is unique. People suffering from this unpleasant sensation will try anything to alleviate it, including taking medications that may have dangerous side effects.
  • While medication-based pain management can be effective in some cases, it is not always the best option. Many traditional options can have serious side effects that are not suited for long-term usage. 
  • There are many non-conventional ways (e.g., acupuncture, meditation, chiropractic massages) to manage pain. These methods may provide relief with few or no side effects, which makes them good alternatives for those who want to avoid conventional treatments such as surgery or prescription medications.
  • Cannabis-based pain therapy is a well-researched and documented method of pain management, with increasing research coming out every year. It has been shown to be effective in treating a wide range of conditions and symptoms, including chronic pain and neuropathic pain. Cannabis is also an anti-inflammatory and has been used to treat inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.

Introduction

Pain management is one of the most important aspects of healthcare. Unfortunately, managing pain symptoms is also one of the greatest challenges faced by medical professionals. There are many different types of pain, and each requires a specific treatment plan.

Both chronic and acute pain can be caused by a number of different conditions and illnesses. As such, it is important to seek a professional opinion before starting any treatment plan.

Doctors may prescribe an analgesic to reduce inflammation or lower a patient’s sensitivity to pain, but there are also many non-traditional methods for managing symptoms. These alternative treatments may be used in conjunction with traditional treatments to help alleviate pain and improve quality of life.

In this blog post, we’ll look at six different alternative ways to manage pain – from cannabis, to meditation, to acupuncture. We will also explore the pros and cons of each treatment so that the reader can make an informed decision about which option is best.

1. Medical cannabis therapy for pain

Medical cannabis therapy for pain has become an effective treatment option for many people looking for pain management. Cannabis can provide pain relief because it activates cannabinoid receptors in the brain and spinal cord to relieve inflammation, decrease pain signals and improve mood.

Cannabis contains over 100 different cannabinoids (active components), the most well-known of which include THC and CBD. These compounds interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain and throughout the body.

How does medical cannabis therapy work?

The endocannabinoid system is a network of cell receptors that plays a role in many processes, such as eating, sleeping, reproduction and memory retention. The endocannabinoid system is thought to be particularly important in regulating pain, inflammation and immune function. The body produces its own cannabinoids (called endocannabinoids) that are similar in structure to those found in cannabis.

THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, binds to CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain and throughout the body to modulate responses. In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, researchers found that administering THC reduced pain by acting as a natural analgesic. The researchers also discovered that the compound activated specific nerve cells associated with pain relief.

CBD does not directly bind to the receptors. Instead, it indirectly stimulates the endocannabinoid system by increasing the production of endocannabinoids, which then bind to receptors. A 2020 review published in Current Pain and Headache Reports suggests that CBD can augment the pain-relieving effects of THC.

In addition to its analgesic (pain-relieving) effects, medical cannabis is used to reduce nausea and spasticity – two common side effects of many medications used to treat chronic pain conditions. Patients with chronic pain conditions often face mental and emotional challenges as well, and some research has also shown that medical cannabis may also help with these.

How to get started with cannabis-based alternative pain relief?

If you are wondering if you may be eligible for cannabis for pain relief, first check if you have the following:

  • A specialist doctor’s prescription or recommendation
  • A written certification from a doctor stating that the patient has a condition that qualifies them for medical cannabis.

Lyphe Clinic is the UK’s largest clinic specialising in medical cannabis treatments. We operate everywhere in the UK, and in Jersey and Guernsey. Head to our homepage www.lyphe.com if you’re interested in learning more about how cannabis can help you with pain management, or how medical cannabis prescriptions work, or if you’d like to make an appointment with one of our doctors or apply online today.

2. Meditation, mindfulness and yoga

Meditation, mindfulness and yoga are all ways of controlling pain. Studies show that meditation reduces stress and anxiety—which are both contributors to chronic pain—as well as increases positive emotions like happiness and optimism.

Yoga

Yoga may also help people with many different kinds of chronic pain conditions. In a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers found that weekly yoga practice improved chronic low back pain in its 313 participants. They also noted that compared to standard medical treatment, the yoga participants had significantly less pain and better physical mobility.

Yoga is a physical activity that can have many benefits for people with chronic pain conditions. Aside from its pain-relieving effects, yoga offers the following benefits:

  • Improves flexibility by stretching the muscles
  • Strengthens core muscles
  • Builds endurance through repetitive movements
  • Teaches how to breathe more efficiently so that people function better when doing activities such as walking or running.

Mindfulness and meditation

Mind-body therapies are meant to improve the mind’s ability to affect bodily functions. Mindfulness, guided meditations and even hypnosis are used to help people manage pain, anxiety and stress. Mindfulness-based therapies have been found to be useful for chronic pain patients because they promote awareness of the body and its many sensations.

A 2017 study published in Annals of Behavioral Medicine suggests that mindfulness meditation is associated with a decrease in pain. Furthermore, the researchers of the study highlighted its role in improving the overall quality of life of patients afflicted with chronic pain conditions.

To get the best results, those with chronic pain can combine standard treatment with mind-body therapy. For example, sufferers could take advantage of a yoga class or meditation session to help manage their pain, anxiety and stress levels. The goal is to develop a daily habit for keeping the body healthy.

3. Dietary changes

Woman cuts broccoli and makes healthy green smoothie.

A common symptom of chronic pain is constant inflammation. This inflammation can be caused by a number of factors, including diet. In fact, many people with chronic pain have reported that they’ve been able to reduce their pain levels by making dietary changes – and science backs this up.

One’s diet is closely linked to the individual’s immune response. Some studies suggest that the immune system flares from an unhealthy diet the same way it would from a bacterial infection. Though the mechanism behind this is not fully understood, some evidence points out that deficiencies in micronutrients (e.g., selenium, folic acid, zinc, vitamin A) can trigger an inflammatory response.

A holistic approach to pain management involves introducing variety to one’s diet while also cutting out processed and unhealthy meals. Food rich in polyphenols can also be beneficial as they have anti-inflammatory properties. These foods include dark leafy greens, berries, nuts and whole grains.

In addition, a more balanced diet that includes protein-rich foods can help reduce pain by promoting muscle growth and repair. Some research also suggests that fish oils that contain high amounts of Omega-3 can significantly reduce inflammation.

Those with conditions that cause chronic pain should minimise their intake of salt, alcohol, and caffeine. These three substances are known to exacerbate inflammation and pain. This is because they trigger the release of stress hormones, which can have a negative impact on one’s health.

4. Osteopathic manipulation therapy

Osteopathic manipulation therapy (OMT) is a process that involves applying pressure to certain points in your body to relieve pain and restore normal circulation. It’s different from chiropractic in that it doesn’t rely on spinal adjustment but rather focuses on using the muscles and bones to correct misalignments in the body.

A 2020 review published in the Journal of Pain Research suggests that OMT alleviates pain by improving physiologic function and supporting homeostasis. It’s one of the more effective ways to address pain that leads to a restricted range of motion.

Osteopathic manipulation may be used to treat a wide variety of conditions, including back pain, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, joint issues and more. During an appointment with an osteopath (who typically has a degree in both osteopathy and medicine), they’ll ask the patient questions about any medical issues or injuries they have to determine what type of treatment is appropriate for the patient’s unique situation.

5. Acupuncture

Woman receiving acupuncture on forehead

Acupuncture is the practice of inserting thin needles into specific points in the body. It’s been practised for centuries and is thought to stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities. Acupuncture has been shown to relieve pain, reduce inflammation and improve overall health in many people with a wide range of health conditions.

Acupuncture works by stimulating specific points in the body to improve overall health. These points are called meridians, and there are twelve major ones that run throughout your body. Each meridian has a specific purpose, such as regulating blood flow or balancing energy levels in your organs. When needles are inserted into these points, they can unblock any channels of energy that may be blocked or imbalanced.

A 2018 meta-analysis published in The Journal of Pain suggests that acupuncture is effective for treating chronic pain, and its effects can last over time. In the study, the researchers noted that the group that received acupuncture treatment for chronic pain experienced a significant decrease in pain levels as opposed to the group that did not.

6. Massage

Physical therapist giving massage and stretching to athlete male patient

Massage is another form of alternative medicine that helps manage pain. Massage therapy involves applying pressure to specific points on the body, which helps decrease muscle tension and ease soreness. A 2018 study published in Pain Medicine found that massage therapy was effective in reducing pain levels associated with fibromyalgia and other chronic illnesses.

There are different kinds of massages, and choosing one that works is an important part of managing pain. One of the more well-studied kinds is chiropractic massage.

In chiropractic therapy, a doctor of chiropractic uses their hands to manipulate the spine and other joints. This helps relieve pressure on nerves and muscles, which can help manage pain. Chiropractic treatments may benefit people with headaches, neck pain, certain arm and leg conditions (such as carpal tunnel syndrome) and whiplash.

In addition to these benefits, massage therapy has been shown to increase serotonin levels in the brain (which leads us directly to our next method), making it a powerful tool for those dealing with anxiety or depression caused by their chronic pain condition.

How pain works: The science behind pain and pain management

Most are aware that pain is a common problem, but many probably don’t know exactly how it works. Pain management can be complicated, but here’s a quick overview of the science behind it.

The nervous system is a complex network of nerves that send information to and from our brains. Nerves carry pain signals through the body, which are then processed by the brain. This process can be broken down into three main stages.

When injured or experiencing painful stimuli (such as an extreme heat burn), the body responds with an inflammatory response. The inflammation helps protect against infection, but it also makes it hard for pain medications to work properly.

The inflammation can also make the body more sensitive to pain. This is why patients might be in pain even after receiving a shot of Novocaine at the dentist’s office. The brain then processes these signals and decides whether they’re important enough to alert you—or whether they’re just background noise.

When traditional medication-based painkillers fail

Though pharmacological treatments for pain often work, they’re not without fault. In addition to being slow-acting, many of these medications can cause significant side effects, such as nausea, dizziness and drowsiness. Some patients also develop a tolerance to painkillers over time, which means they need higher doses in order to achieve the same effect.

When the side effects of prescription medications are too much to handle, and the pain is still there, it’s time to look for alternative methods of pain management. There are many non-traditional ways to deal with pain that may be a better fit for a patient’s lifestyle. 

As with any therapy or medication a doctor prescribes, there are some risks involved in using alternative treatments for chronic pain relief, especially in conjunction with other treatments. When considering these options, pain sufferers should always discuss them with their physicians first to help determine if the alternative works for their unique circumstances.

Is it time to try alternative pain relief for chronic pain?

Chronic pain is a difficult condition to live with, and those who suffer can often feel trapped by the limitations it imposes on their life. Those looking for ways to reduce chronic pain can consider trying alternative forms of treatment, such as acupuncture and massage therapy.

These therapies have proven benefits for many people in reducing pain levels, increasing mobility and improving overall well-being. Other benefits of alternative pain relief include:

  • Often more accessible and affordable
  • A gentler, more natural approach
  • Side effects tend to be fewer and less severe
  • Can be used in conjunction with medication-based treatment to improve outcomes further

However, as with any therapy or medication a doctor prescribes, there are some risks involved in using alternative treatments for chronic pain relief. When considering these options, pain sufferers should always discuss them with their physicians first to help determine if the alternative works for their unique circumstances.

Conclusion

Chronic pain can be debilitating and extremely difficult to manage. It takes a lot of time, patience and dedication to find the right treatments for chronic pain. However, there are many options available that don’t involve using medications or traditional methods of treatment. Sufferers from chronic pain shouldn’t just settle on one option without exploring other options first.

And with alternative treatments, there’s no guarantee they will work. We encourage people to always talk to their doctors before trying any new treatment. They will provide guidance on what is safe and effective for a particular condition.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you get rid of pain without medications or doctors?

Alternative methods that don’t rely on prescription medications show promise in relieving pain symptoms. However, patients should always consult their doctor before trying any alternative treatment, as some may not be safe for certain conditions or patients.

How do you deal with pain without medication?

There are many ways to treat pain without medication. These include exercise, diet changes and other alternative therapies. As with any therapy or medication a doctor prescribes, there are some risks involved in using alternative treatments for chronic pain relief, especially in conjunction with other treatments. When considering these options, pain sufferers should always discuss them with their physicians first to help determine if the alternative works for their unique circumstances.

What alternative treatments could be effective in treating pain?

Mind-body therapy, acupuncture and even medical cannabis therapy are all potentially effective. Choosing which alternative treatment works best is a matter of trial and error, but it can be worth the time and effort.

References

https://www.health.harvard.edu/alternative-and-integrative-health/yoga-for-pain-relief

https://www.aafp.org/news/health-of-the-public/20180521acupuncture.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5368208/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/can-diet-heal-chronic-pain

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7854390/

https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/can.2017.0017

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11916-020-0835-4

Author: Bojan
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Bojan Ambrus, Head of Marketing & Digital Product at Lyphe Group, is a data-driven growth marketing professional with over 15 years of rich experience. His background includes roles such as Head of Marketing at Vaping.com and growth marketing roles in various enterprises, startups, and scale-ups. His expertise in building and positioning businesses is particularly valuable in the cannabis sector, where he navigates its complexities and regulatory challenges. His strategic marketing insights make Bojan a key player in shaping Lyphe Group's marketing and digital product strategies.

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