From alternatives to opioids to the newest advances in chronic pain research, we covered a wealth of pain information this month on the Holistic Pain blog!

Alternatives to opioids, and more

If you’re looking for alternatives to opioids for treating your chronic pain, this month we recommended that you look first to your doctor. As we discussed in our post “Talk To Your Doctor About Alternative Therapies“:

“As always, before making any changes to your treatment plan, including incorporating alternative therapies, talk with your doctor. Recent research has shown that although most pain patients routinely utilize chiropractic care, massage, and acupuncture, many of them do not discuss this with their doctors. This lack of communication is not a helpful way to approach your chronic pain treatment. Take some time to discuss your ideas with your doctor and get some feedback before utilizing any alternative therapies.”

It’s important that this key piece of information–talking to your doctor–is always considered before beginning any new or alternative treatment options to opioids. Your doctor may be able to suggest some therapies and alternatives to opioids that would be a best fit for your pain condition and lifestyle.

One of the newest alternatives to opioids is the float tank. While a tub of water doesn’t sound revolutionary, many chronic pain patients have experienced profound benefits from its use. As we noted in our post, those benefits include:

  • Relaxation: The full support of a floater’s body and the lack of sensory input allows the floater to go deeply inside their mind. Endorphins flood the body during the session. The relaxation is so complete that some floaters fall asleep inside the float tank.
  • Biologic changes: Heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension all decrease while floating.
  • Transdermal magnesium intake: Magnesium is essential to over 300 functions in the body, but people in the U.S. are chronically lacking in this important mineral. Transdermal supplementation of magnesium is the most effective delivery system. Float tanks offer an easy way to supplement this crucial mineral.
  • Pain relief: The zero-gravity environment of the tank allows the spine to fully extend, relieving back pain due to compression. This is a temporary type of pain relief, but for someone struggling with chronic back pain it can be a welcome, relaxing respite.

Once you’ve tackled some of the alternatives to opioids and found one that works for you, you can begin to reduce some of the unwanted side effects of opioid use. As we noted in our post on the topic, one of the newer findings in opioid research is that “long-term use of opioids is now linked to an increased risk of depression and anxiety, largely due to the way in which opioids interact with and change the brain.” Since depression and pain are often already linked, it’s of utmost importance that patients can reduce the risk factors for this however possible.

Another concern we noted on the blog this month about opioid use was its danger when patients (and prescribers) were confused about the risks of abuse, dependence, and overuse. Recent research has cautioned against using opioids as a knee-jerk reaction to treating pain, especially when other alternative treatments do exist. The research authors suggested that better monitoring programs and prescribing standards could ultimately protect patients and provide overall greater levels of care.

In thinking about this issue, another team of researchers has suggested that the pharmacy is the key to better monitoring and management of opioids. Pharmacists can help reduce opioid issues by refusing prescriptions if concerns of doctor shopping are present, provide the patient resources for overcoming addiction, and provide emergency prescriptions for opioid overdoses.

Holistic treatments for chronic conditions

While chronic conditions like cancer and heart disease do require the active assistance and intervention from a team of dedicated medical professionals, there are some holistic treatment options for managing the symptoms associated with both of these.

This year on World Cancer Day, we discussed some of the main holistic treatments for managing cancer pain, including:

  • Acupuncture
  • Massage
  • Hypnotherapy

Since February was also Heart Month, we covered “14 Complementary And Alternative Treatments For Heart Health.” These include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Positive-emotion refocusing
  • T’ai chi
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Qigong
  • Ayurveda
  • Music therapy
  • Chiropractic care
  • Dietary changes
  • Hawthorn extract
  • Red yeast rice
  • Reiki
  • Regular checkups

As always, we noted in this post:

“Before trying any of these treatments, it is crucial to talk to your doctor, especially if you are already being treated for a cardiovascular condition (or any other illness). These alternative therapies may help boost heart health, but it is important to work with your regular health care provider to design a comprehensive, holistic treatment plan.”

Chronic pain news and research 

Finally this month, we also tackled some of the newest developments in chronic pain news and research. Advancements are always happening in the realm of chronic pain research–our jobs as healthcare professionals is to make sure patients have access to these new studies and a dedicated area to learn more about them. This month we discussed the following topics:

  • Fractures may be a red flag for future chronic pain
  • Vitamin D supplementation may actually reduce falls
  • High frequency electrical stimulation could lead to changes in pain treatment
  • High frequency stimulation might also improve sensory performance
  • A new drug duo could help kick chronic pain
  • A painkiller may actually help cure cancer
  • Even more evidence has been released that opioids shouldn’t be the first line of defense against pain

If you’re interested in learning more about any of these topics, make sure to head on over to that post.

What was your favorite post on the Holistic Pain blog this month? What alternatives to opioids have you tried to help manage your chronic pain condition? 



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