Alternative treatments for lowering chronic pain
Dear Mayo Clinic: What are the best alternative treatments for chronic back and neck pain? I am not able to take pain medication. Are there any supplements that are safe and known to work?
A: Alternatives to medication for chronic pain exist. Research shows that, when they're included in a comprehensive treatment plan, those techniques can be quite effective in lowering pain. Together, these approaches to pain management often are referred to as integrative medicine. Talk with your primary health care provider about possibilities for pain control beyond medication. If he or she is not familiar with integrative medicine, ask for a referral to a health care provider who specializes in pain management.
Chronic pain is a common problem. According to the National Institutes of Health, chronic pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined. Chronic pain is the most common cause of disability in the U.S.
Traditionally, the first step in treating chronic pain has been medication, including strong painkillers such as opioids. But these drugs can be problematic. Not only are opioids powerful drugs, they can have serious side effects and pose a significant risk for addiction when used long term. The problems associated with using opioids for pain relief make it crucial that other strategies be considered when managing chronic pain.
In some situations when medication wasn't a good option, surgery was recommended as the next step. Fortunately, there now are a wide range of choices available beyond medication and surgery that have been shown to be useful in easing chronic pain.