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Guide to Non-Opioid Pain Relief

The medical community’s approach to pain relief is changing drastically.  The new recommendation of the American College of Physicians’ (ACP) clinical practice guideline reads, “ For patients with chronic low back pain, clinicians and patients should initially select non-pharmacologic treatment with exercise, multidisciplinary rehabilitation, acupuncture, mindfulness-based stress reduction, tai chi, yoga, motor control exercise, progressive relaxation, electromyography biofeedback, low-level laser therapy, operant therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or spinal manipulation."

A Flawed Method of Treatment

Prescription pain medication has been a hot topic recently due to the opioid epidemic sweeping the nation.  Drug overdose is now the number one cause of accidental death in the United States, with over 20,000 prescription pain medication overdose deaths in 2015 alone.  80% of new heroin users start out by abusing prescription pain pills.  The vast majority turned to heroin due to the inability to continue to buy high priced opioid pills on the street once they were addicted. 

Unfortunately, the prevailing medical guideline in the United States over the last 20 years has recommended performing invasive surgery on a patient and/or prescribing them opioid-based pain medication.  Major surgery can come with a lengthy recovery time, risks during the operation, and strong opioids to deal with the pain that results from the surgery.  Opioid pain medications offer temporary relief from chronic pain, but unlike natural medicine, they do not treat the root cause of a condition and bring with them a number of negative side effects including high risk of abuse and addiction.  The ACP’s new guideline is a major step forward in shifting away from the ineffective overuse of pain medications and moving towards better, less harmful methods.  

There is a Better Solution: How to Relieve Pain the Naturopathic Way

Many doctors are now recommending alternative treatments such as acupuncture, massage/chiropractic therapy and yoga to deal with pain.  Dr. Nitin Damle, the president of the board of regents for the American College of Physicians has stated pills should not be the first choice in pain relief for back issues. Dr. Damle told the New York Times, “We need to look at therapies that are non-pharmacological first.”

Here are just some of the natural pain relief treatments recommended by the ACP:

  • Acupuncture: A Traditional Chinese Medicine therapy in which thin needles are inserted into different areas of the body to relieve pain and reduce stress.
  • Physical Medicine: Physical medicine encompasses numerous treatments that relieve pain by creating movement in the body. Physical medicine has many uses, from bringing fluid towards or away from a body part, correcting spinal or joint subluxations, or kneading out fascial adhesions and muscle “knots.”
  • Injection Therapy: Injecting health-promoting substances into the body bypasses the gastrointestinal tract, which provides a direct route to the blood stream and damaged or inflamed tissues. There are many different types of injection therapies, and they are generally administered either intravenously or by targeting the musculoskeletal system.
  • Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction: Practicing mindfulness works to improve biological, psychological, and social health issues and prevent disease. By addressing each of these factors with behavioral treatments, health is created from within, thereby reversing and preventing conditions.
  • Tai chi and Yoga: Ancient disciplines that focus on movement, flexibility, and inner peace. Individuals of all ages and strengths can practice tai chi and yoga. 
  • Electromyography Biofeedback (EMG): Electromyography biofeedback utilizes electrodes to detect a change in skeletal muscle activity, which is then fed back to the user through a visual or auditory signal. This treatment can be used to either increase activity in weak/paretic muscles or facilitate a reduction in tone in spastic muscles.
  • Low-level Laser Therapy: A treatment that utilizes specific wavelengths of light to interact with tissue in order to accelerate the healing process and reduce inflammation.

Healthcare is about finding solutions without creating new problems.  Naturopathic forms of healing are gaining a lot of traction because they provide patients quality solutions to their conditions without the numerous issues that come with narcotic pain medication and/or invasive surgery.  As interest in naturopathic pain relief rapidly grows, more advanced research is being conducted to expand the use of these methods.  Those who are suffering with chronic pain should strongly consider natural treatments before opting for surgery or opioid pain medication. 

About the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (SCNM)

SCNM is a school of medicine and health sciences grounded in naturopathic principles. Dedicated to the ideal that everyone deserves high-quality healthcare, we engage students in rigorous, innovative academic programs, discover and expand knowledge, and empower individuals and communities to achieve optimal health.

The SCNM Pain Relief Center utilizes natural, non-invasive methods to alleviate pain. Physical treatment approaches include acupuncture, low-level laser therapy, cryotherapy, electromyography biofeedback, physical manipulation, and various injection treatments.  We have numerous physicians, chiropractors, and acupuncturists on staff in our beautiful new building that includes 13 exam rooms and a variety of state of the art equipment. Click here to contact us and learn more.