Pain might not always require a pill


A lot of us have pain.  A lot of us pop a pill to deal with it.  And those pills don’t always do the best job of easing chronic pain.

Now, a review of U.S.-based clinical trials published today in Mayo Clinic Proceedings suggests that other approaches to deal with that pain might be useful.

You might want to try yoga, tai chai, acupuncture and other alternative approaches for dealing with pain.  “For many Americans who suffer from chronic pain, medications may not completely relieve pain and can produce unwanted side effects. As a result, many people may turn to nondrug approaches to help manage their pain,” says Richard L. Nahin, Ph.D., at the National Institute of Health. “Our goal for this study was to provide relevant, high-quality information for primary care providers and for patients who suffer from chronic pain.”

Alternatives do work

The researchers reviewed 105 U.S.-based trials that dealt with pain, going back 50 years.  They focused on five painful conditions — back pain, osteoarthritis, neck pain, fibromyalgia, and severe headaches and migraine — and on seven ways of treating them without using drugs.  The research showed that four of those pain treatments proved safe and effective:

  • Acupuncture and yoga for back pain
  • Acupuncture and tai chi for osteoarthritis of the knee
  • Massage therapy for neck pain with adequate doses and for short-term benefit
  • Relaxation techniques for severe headaches and migraine.

Though the evidence was weaker, the researchers also found that massage therapy, spinal manipulation, and osteopathic manipulation may provide some help for back pain, and that relaxation approaches and tai chi might help people with fibromyalgia.

The report suggests that people with chronic pain use this information to speak with their health care providers about whether there are treatments without drugs that can be used to ease their specific pain.

Big bucks spent to ease pain

Pain is the most common reasons why American adults use complementary health approaches, according to an NIH news release. About 40 million American adults experience severe pain in any given year, and they spend more than $14 billion out-of-pocket on those non-drug approaches to manage their pain.




About the Author

Ed Tobias
Ed Tobias brings more than four decades of reporting and news management experience to his work at Rx411. Tobias managed news coverage for Associated Press Radio for over twenty years. This included coverage of the 9/11 attacks, the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, the death of Princess Diana, the Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters and national election primaries, conventions and campaigns. He was part of the team that built AP’s on-line video operation. Prior to joining AP, Tobias was News Director at all-news WTOP in Washington, D.C.