Researchers Pinpoint Effective Complementary Therapies for Pain Relief

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Researchers Pinpoint Effective Complementary Therapies for Pain Relief

According to a review of clinical evidence published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings by National Institutes of Health (NIH), research suggests that complementary health techniques can be effective when used as part of a physician’s pain relief approach.

Researchers studied efficacy and safety evidence from 105 random, controlled trials conducted between January 1966-March 2016. The review focused on popular complementary pain approaches.

Rather than using assigned values, researchers conducted a narrative review as they examined the number of negative and positive trials in the United States.

Richard L. Nahin, PhD, MPH, lead epidemiologist at the NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH):

“If there were more negatives, we generally felt the approach had less value.”

Based the prevalence of positive vs negative trials, effective pain approaches may include:

  • Acupuncture and yoga for back pain
  • Acupuncture, relaxation techniques, and tai chi for knee osteoarthritis
  • Massage therapy for neck and back pain
  • Relaxation techniques for severe headaches, migraines, and fibromyalgia
  • Osteopathic and spinal manipulation for back pain
  • Tai chi for fibromyalgia

Popular complementary pain therapies without benefits included the use of glucosamine and chondroitin supplements for knee osteoarthritis.

Statistics And The Epidemic

According to a 2011 Institute of Medicine Report, an estimated 100 million Americans are living which chronic pain – much of which could be prevented or better managed. And pain for many remains mistreated or undertreated. National surveys reveal that most adults who use complementary approaches do so for pain.

According to a NIH report, opioid prescriptions jumped from 76 million in 1991 to 219 million in two decades. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 2 million people abused or were dependent on prescription opioids in 2014.

Commentary

Research like this is one approach set to help curb the nation’s painkiller epidemic. By using evidence-based science, they are determining what alternative therapies are actually working for which types of pain. This can help physicians take the guesswork out of recommending complementary pain treatment not solely based on opioid medication.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology

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