As the opioid crisis continues to be an epidemic in the United States and around the world, many people who experience chronic pain are looking for alternatives to prescription medications.
Opioids and similar painkillers can be an effective option for the short-term treatment of acute pain, but they come with a host of serious side effects, including dependence and even death, that make them a risky choice for use over an extended period of time.
But other options do exist, some traditional remedies from ancient cultures and others that are on the cutting edge of medical research. A study from the National Center of Health Statistics reports that 42 percent of adults with a musculoskeletal pain disorder used at least one alternative therapy for pain. If you’re ready to give one a try, the following all have strong scientific evidence that suggests they are effective methods of controlling chronic pain.
Cannabidiol (CBD)- Cannabidiol or CBD is just one of more than 100 natural compounds found in cannabis plants known as cannabinoids. CBD has strong anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving qualities like the most well-known cannabinoid, THC. But unlike THC, CBD does not have psychoactive or mind-altering effects, making it a better option for many who experience chronic pain. CBD is now available in all 50 states in formulations including topical, oral, and vaporizer products.
Acupuncture- Practiced in China for thousands of years, acupuncture is proven to work, says Jamie Starkey, the manager of the Eastern medicine program and lead acupuncturist at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine.
“There is an overwhelming amount of clinical evidence looking at acupuncture for pain relief. It can be especially effective for pain in the low back, knees, neck, and shoulder,” Starkey said, adding that acupuncture releases endorphins that relieve pain and can cause a local reduction in inflammation.
Massage- Therapeutic massage can be an effective remedy for back and neck pain, according to research reviewed by the National Institutes for Health. Massage may also improve hormonal and immune function and elevate mood.
Herbal Remedies- Herbal and plant-based remedies have been used to treat pain and countless other maladies for millennia. Menthol, most commonly found in mint, is commonly used as an analgesic in topical pain remedies. Capsaicin, a compound found in chili peppers, helps block pain sensations from being transferred to the central nervous system. Camphor, a substance found in rosemary and cinnamon, increases blood flow an relieves pain when applied to the skin. Research suggests that other herbs including ginger and turmeric also show promise as natural pain relievers.
Exercise and Yoga- Studies show that exercise can relieve the stiffness and pain caused by arthritis and improve joint flexibility. And if exercise leads to weight loss, additional joint pain relief can also be attained. Yoga, in particular, can help ease back pain, according to researchers.
With so many ways to attain pain relief without pills, many people who endure chronic pain have been able to reduce or even eliminate their need for pharmaceuticals and the side-effects that accompany them. Some therapies can also be combined for more complete relief. For example, CBD can be incorporated into salves with natural herbal pain relievers to provide the benefits of both alternative treatments for pain.