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30 Jun 2016
alternative pain management treatments

An Alternative to Pain: Alternative Atlanta Pain Management Therapies and Techniques

Many pain management physicians – including Atlanta pain management doctors – are beginning to acknowledge alternatives to traditional medications and interventions in relieving chronic pain.

When these alternative pain management options are combined with traditional medicine, this is called complementary medicine.

As pain management doctors, our future efficacy many depend on our ability to at least consider – if not embrace – the role of alternative medicine for pain treatment in our practice. As patients, you deserve to have access to and support for anything that can help reduce – if not erase – your ongoing pain.

Let’s look at some of the most common alternative pain management therapies available today:

Mind-Body Therapies for Pain

It is fairly widely accepted now that manipulating and/or controlling the mind can increase or reduce the sensation of pain.

There are a few different mind-body pain management or pain reduction therapy treatments. These include hypnosis, biofeedback, visualization, guided imagery, and meditation.

One of the most promising is meditation for pain management – either self-induced or guided meditation. The biggest reason is because it is essentially free (or very low cost) and widely accessible. Patients can buy or rent low-cost guided meditation tapes or CD’s for guided meditation. Or they can just begin to sit quietly, breathe deeply, and simply – relax – on their own. For those who choose, prayer can be considered a form of meditation and science has documented the physical benefits of prayer on pain and overall health.

Acupuncture for Pain Management

The World Health Organization now acknowledges over 30 ailments and conditions that can benefit from acupuncture. However, even Western physicians are now agreeing that the biggest benefits of acupuncture can be seen in pain relief.

Sixteenth-century Chinese medicine doctors believed illness was due to energy blocks in the body. In acupuncture, needles are injected into – or along – the body’s 14 main energy meridians. These are thought to be the pathways by which energy flows through the body. The needles stimulate these pathways – depending on where they are injected – in order to let the energy flow freely and heal illness or release pain.

Many of the points stimulated by needles in acupuncture are near nerves. When the needle is injected, the nerves cause the nearby muscles to feel “full” or ache in a dull manner. This “message” is then sent to the central nervous system and endorphins (our body’s ‘feel good’ chemicals) are released. Endorphins act as the body’s ‘natural morphine’ to relieve pain.

Today, even most Western or traditional medicine doctors allow and even embrace the idea of their patients adding acupuncture in to their pain management treatment.

Chiropractic & Massage for Pain Management

Chiropractic adjustment for back pain and neck pain / headache pain due to alignment issues and/or compression shows great promise. Some say it works similar to acupuncture by opening up energy channels and others say it releases tension in areas of the body where impact / pressure is causing pain due to the alignment / compression problems.  Few serious side effects have been seen from chiropractic treatment and are rare.

Pain is often increased or exacerbated by muscle tightness and/or stiffness. This is one reason massage may be beneficial in pain management. Additionally, massage is relaxing. And since we release tension and generate endorphins when we relax, this is another way it can help to reduce pain.

Therapeutic Touch / Reiki for Pain Management

Therapeutic touch and Reiki are a little more unorthodox but still gaining popularity –even among traditional pain management doctors. These two forms of alternative pain therapy are said to activate an individual’s own healing power within their body. They are energy-based methodologies and recent studies have shown some effectiveness in treating both pain and anxiety. However, more studies are definitely needed to say definitively whether it is the therapy or belief in the effectiveness of the therapy that produces results.

Nutrition, Dietary, and Herbal Approaches to Pain Management

It is known widely that a lot of pain or pain sensation can be traced directly to inflammation. Therefore, it is no stretch that foods and herbs that reduce this inflammation also assist with pain management. Additionally, some studies have shown that dietary changes – such as increasing good oils and decreasing fats and the quantity of red meat and processed foods eaten – can reduce pain too.

Herbal medicine for pain treatment is also becoming increasingly popular and accepted. That being said, it is very important for you to discuss any herbs or herbal compounds you want or plan to take with your pain management doctor. Some herbs can have a dramatic impact on other prescription medications you might be taking. In several cases, adding certain herbs will necessitate a dosage change and/or may not be able to be taken with your medications at all.

Just remember – even alternative medical theories and therapies can have side effects and dramatically impact your pain management plan with your pain management physician or Atlanta pain management doctor.

Therefore, always discuss any ideas or plans you may have for introducing these alternative treatments into your pain management. Yes, complementary medicine is gaining traction. But the way to make it most effective – and safe for you to consider – is when it is done with a pain management physician you trust who can coordinate the efforts.

30 Jul 2014

Chronic Back Pain: 6 Uncommon Causes

Dealing with Chronic Back Pain?

While your pain management doctor will help you cope with chronic pain, a little prevention can go a long way…

But first… you need to know some surprising causes of back pain that you can potentially eliminate for good.

If you’ve ever had a bout of back pain, you’re not alone: According to the National Institutes of Health, eight out of 10 people will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. Most of the time, back pain is set off by something totally minor, says Venu Akuthota, MD, director of the Spine Center at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, Colorado.

Besides obvious causes (constantly lugging a too-heavy purse, for instance), experts say that everyday habits like hunching over your smartphone can strain your spine and the surrounding muscles over time, causing pain and making you more vulnerable to serious injury. To stop back pain now—and avoid future agony—try targeting these unexpected culprits.

Culprit No. 1: Your Fancy Office Chair

Even an expensive, ergonomic chair can be bad for your back if you sit in it all day without a break. Sitting not only lessens blood flow to the discs that cushion your spine (wearing them out and stressing your back), but it puts 30 percent more pressure on the spine than standing or walking, says New York City chiropractor Todd Sinett, author of The Truth About Back Pain.

Be sure to stretch at your desk and get up every hour to walk around. Don’t assume that built-in lumbar support makes your chair back-friendly—in fact, for many people, lumbar supports don’t make a bit of difference, especially if they aren’t positioned properly (at the base of your spine), says Heidi Prather, a physical-medicine and rehabilitation specialist and associate professor of orthopedic surgery and neurology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

No matter what type of chair you sit in, make sure your head is straight (not tilted down) when you’re typing or reading. Avoid slouching and adjust your seat so it tilts back slightly to help alleviate some of the load on your back, Sinett says. And keep your feet planted firmly on the floor.

Culprit No. 2: The Wrong Shoes

When you strut in stilettos, your foot strikes the ground in a toe-forward motion rather than the normal heel-toe gait, stressing your knees, hips, and back, Sinett explains. “Wearing heels also alters the angle of your body so your weight isn’t evenly distributed over the spine,” he says. This instability can set you up for pain and injury radiating from your knees all the way to your back.

Another shoe no-no: the backless kind (even flats and flip-flops), which allow your heel to slide around. Again, the lack of stability distributes your body weight unevenly, putting more pressure on your spine. Your shoe should firmly hold your foot in place to keep you stable and protect your back, says Sinett, who also advises sticking to heels that are less than three inches high.

Culprit No. 3: Your Beloved Smartphone or Tablet

Mobile technology has not been kind to our backs and necks, Prather says. “We’re hovering over laptops, iPads, and smartphones all the time,” she notes. “This head-down position strains the muscles in the neck, and the pain can extend all the way down your spine to your lower back.” Take frequent breaks, and try to look straight ahead—rather than down—while using a laptop, tablet, or phone. You can buy a stand to help hold your laptop or tablet at a more back-friendly height and angle.

Culprit No. 4: Extra Pounds

Carrying even just a few extra inches around your midsection—whether it’s due to belly fat or pregnancy—makes your pelvis tilt forward and out of alignment, as your body works to keep itself balanced. This can cause excessive strain on your lower back, Dr. Akuthota says. He recommends doing this easy stretch several times daily: Tighten your abs (like you’re bracing for a punch in the stomach) to activate core muscles and take a load off the lumbar discs; hold 10 seconds, then release. (Pregnant? Check with your doctor before doing any exercise.)

And if weight gain is your problem, consider making whole grains an essential part of your slim-down plan: A new study from Tufts University found that those who ate three or more servings of whole grains a day had 10 percent less abdominal fat compared with those who ate essentially no whole grains.

Culprit No. 5: The Wrong Bra

Large-breasted women obviously carry significantly more weight in front than those who have smaller breasts. This can lead to hunching and sore neck and back muscles, Sinett says. A bra that offers proper support can actually minimize that forward hunch and relieve pain, while one that doesn’t may exacerbate the problem, as you hunch or strain even more to compensate for uncomfortable straps or a riding-up band.

Research shows that many women wear the wrong size bra, but the right fit can mean the difference between sagging and supported; get fitted by a bra professional. Prather says you may want to try a T-back (a.k.a. racer-back) style. “It gives the body a cue to pull the shoulders back,” she says.

Culprit No. 6: Your Crazy Schedule

Just like the rest of you, your back muscles can tense up when you’re frazzled. Muscles are designed to contract and relax, Sinett explains, but when you’re stressed, they may contract so much that they can eventually start to spasm. Stress also boosts production of the hormone cortisol, which increases inflammation and can lead to achiness, he says.

On top of that, “Chronic stress can affect the way a person perceives pain,” says Alan Hilibrand, MD, spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and professor of orthopaedic and neurological surgery at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. “So those who are stressed will often have a harder time managing back pain than those who aren’t.” Lower-impact aerobic exercise (think walking or working out on an elliptical trainer) may help relieve back pain and ease stress—so you can beat the pain for good.