Chronic pain is an all-too-common ailment. It is estimated that around 20% of the population suffers from chronic pain on a daily or weekly basis. When pain lingers it causes needless suffering and interferes with quality of life.

For many, the answer to the pain that overstays its welcome is medication. Medication usually offers only temporary pain relief, and it does not address what causes pain. Over time, people also can develop tolerances to many of the medications prescribed for pain. This means stronger doses of medication and the risk of becoming addicted.

The key to safely managing chronic pain is to find a treatment plan that is appropriate for each patient. By being careful and intentional, a plan can lower the risk of addiction and incorporate non-pharmacological interventions that not only relieve pain but improve it. 

Non-pharmacological pain management utilizes ways to alter thoughts and focus concentration to better manage and reduce pain. Some methods of non-pharmacological pain management include…

Heat and Cold
Heat therapy boosts blood flow to areas of the body in pain due to inflammation and allows muscles to relax. Try applying a heating pad, a heat wrap, or relax in a hot bath for pain management.

Cold therapy is also useful for pain management. Cold slows the blood flow to a painful area, reducing swelling and quieting nerves that send pain messages. Try applying ice, a cold wrap, or a cold pack to the painful area.

Physical activity plays a big part in interrupting the cycle of pain and reducing mobility found in chronic conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia. Gentle aerobic activities such as walking, swimming, or cycling can make a big impact.

Mind-body Techniques
These techniques include meditation, mindfulness, breathing exercises, and many more that may help you restore a sense of control over your body and calm the “fight or flight” response, which can worsen chronic pain.

Integrative Medicine Techniques
Yoga, tai chi, and acupuncture fall into this category as they tap into the mind-body connection. These integrative techniques combine the power of breath, movement, and mindfulness to relieve pain by calming unhealthy activity in the mind. 

Non-pharmacological techniques are a great alternative to pain management. Using them on their own or in conjunction with a thoughtful medication management plan can greatly improve their quality of life. Incorporating ketamine therapy is also an option, especially if there is a risk for opioid addiction. Ketamine is a powerful, safe, non-addictive treatment that has helped many patients get relief from their chronic pain.

About the Author

Kimberly Sandberg Aloha Integrative Health
Kim Sandberg is the owner and founder of Aloha Integrative Health and a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. She has two advanced degrees: a Masters of Science in Nursing as a Nurse Anesthetist and a Doctor of Nursing Practice. She has worked in a variety of settings, though the biggest impact on Kim and her work came from her 28 years of service in the Navy Reserve.

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