Non-invasive treatments to relieve pain can be very effective. However, it’s important to note that one treatment does not alleviate all pain. A treatment that helps relieve arthritis and joint pain, may have no effect on neck pain and spinal stenosis. Sometimes it is necessary to try several approaches to find the right pain treatment, or combination of treatments, that work for each patient.
Pain Treatment Objectives
The objective of treating chronic pain is to focus on the source of pain, and not just mask the symptoms. However, in cases where the source of the pain cannot be remedied, there are numerous treatment options to help patients.
In all cases of relieving pain, there are three goals:
- Reduction of pain symptoms.
- Remain active.
- Slow the loss of function (maintain the ability to drive, work, and perform daily tasks).
Pain medication is perhaps the most common form of pain management, which includes over-the-counter and prescription pain medication. These are typically used from the initial onset of pain, and often through almost every stage of chronic pain treatment. Some of the most common pain medications include:
- Analgesics (pain killers). These drugs are designed to relieve pain. There are several types of analgesics available without a prescription and a variety of opioid analgesics that are only available with a prescription.
- Antidepressants and anticonvulsants. These can be used to treat neuropathic (nerve) pain.
- Medical marijuana. There is strong evidence that marijuana has a modest effect on certain types of nerve pain. It also relieves nausea and can help patients suffering side effects from chemotherapy. Florida law requires a patient to have an established relationship with a qualified physician for 3 months before the physician can order medical cannabis.
- Muscle relaxants. These medications are commonly used to treat muscle spasms.
- Narcotic (opioid) medications. These medications are used for acute or post-operative pain, but not typically used for chronic conditions. If not properly supervised, there is a risk of addiction.
- Neuromodulating medications. These medications are often used to treat neuropathic and muscular pain.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs). These medications include aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and COX-2 inhibitors. The long-term use of these may cause gastrointestinal ulcers and may slightly raise the risk of a heart attack.
- Supplements and vitamins. Certain dietary supplements and vitamins can help some types of pain. Fish oil may help reduce the pain associated with swelling. Topical capsaicin, derived from chili peppers, can help with arthritis, diabetic nerve pain, and some other conditions.
Non-Invasive, Non-Drug Treatment Options
There are a wide variety of non-invasive, non-drug pain management therapies available for treating chronic pain. However, improper use of these therapies can be damaging, so consult your physician before the use of non-invasive therapies.
Some of the most widely used non-invasive, non-drug pain management therapies include:
- Acupuncture. This ancient Chinese practice is rapidly becoming a mainstream treatment for pain. The placement of very fine needles through the skin at key points of the body is believed to stimulate nerves and tissues, helping to release chemicals that fight pain.
- Biofeedback. This process involves the patient learning relaxation and breathing exercises using a biofeedback device. The data from the machine (such as heart rate and blood pressure) become visual cues to help the patient gain a degree of control over the body’s response to pain.
- Chiropractic manipulation. Chiropractic treatments include adjusting the spine (or other joints) by using controlled force. The goal is to increase the range of motion in a body area that has been injured.
- Compression Therapy. This is a simple and effective means of increasing blood flow in the lower limbs to promote vascular health and treat a variety of venous diseases.
- Diet. Some diets are highly inflammatory, especially those high in trans fats, refined sugars, and processed foods. It is possible that what you eat is contributing to chronic pain. Additionally, maintaining a healthy weight may help lessen chronic pain by reducing pressure on the spine and joints.
- Exercise. Gentle exercise can help strengthen and stretch muscles. Regular physical activity helps with many different painful conditions. Multiple studies have found that physical activity can help relieve chronic pain, as well as boost energy and mood. The exercise doesn’t have to be at a gym. Gentle aerobic activities such as walking, swimming, or cycling can be beneficial.
- Hot/cold treatment. Hot and cold treatments for a maximum of 20 minutes are a cornerstone of relieving pain for certain kinds of injuries. Heat relaxes the muscles, while cold reduces swelling.
- Laser therapy. This treatment decreases nerve sensitivity by decreasing a pain eliciting chemical in the body and releasing endorphins (the body’s natural pain reliever} that produce a pain-relieving effect. It can also help block pain on some nerve fibers.
- Lifestyle modifications. In some cases, it is essential to adapt and accept that the body now has certain limitations. Avoiding activities that worsen pain can help reduce pain and prevent an underlying condition from advancing. For some people, a significant lifestyle change is giving up smoking, because nicotine can increase pain and delay healing.
- Massage. As a treatment, massage can help improve blood flow to the muscles, ligaments, and bones. It also helps increase dopamine, serotonin, and other chemicals the body uses to fight depression and decrease stress hormones.
- Mind-body techniques. These techniques, which include meditation, mindfulness, and breathing exercises, help you restore a sense of control over your body and turn down the “fight or flight” response, which can worsen chronic muscle tension and pain.
- Yoga and tai chi. To manage the irritability, depression, and other psychological aspects of dealing with chronic pain, yoga, tai chi, and other cognitive and relaxation strategies can help keep the patient from focusing on pain. Yoga and tai chi incorporate breath control, meditation, and gentle movements to stretch and strengthen muscles which are helpful in managing pain caused by headaches, arthritis, and lingering injuries.
- Music therapy. Music can help relieve pain after surgery and childbirth. Classical music has been shown to work especially well. However, listening to any kind of music can help provide a distraction from pain or discomfort.
- Patches. Some patches work by being placed directly on the painful area where an active drug, such as lidocaine, is released. Others, such as fentanyl patches, may be positioned on the skin at a location far from the painful area. Some medicated patches are available over-the-counter (OTC) while others may require a prescription.
- Physical therapy and occupational therapy. These are two of the best methods to help reduce pain. A physical therapist guides the patient through a series of exercises designed to preserve or improve strength and mobility. An occupational therapist helps the patient learn to perform daily activities in a way that does not aggravate the pain.
- Psychotherapy. Chronic pain can cause or even worsen depression, which can also lower a person’s tolerance for pain. Seeing a therapist for chronic pain does not imply the pain is not real.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). This treatment uses electrical current to reduce some types of pain. A tiny device sends low-voltage electrical stimulation to patches on the skin near the painful area. The current is often described as a soothing “electric” sensation or a slight muscle twitch.
Novus Spine & Pain Center
The Novus Spine & Pain Center is in Lakeland, Florida, and specializes in treating chronic pain with non- invasive procedures. By using a comprehensive approach and cutting-edge therapies, we work together with patients to restore function and regain an active lifestyle, while minimizing the need for opiates.
Our Mission Statement: To provide the best quality of life to people suffering from pain, by providing state of the art treatments, knowledge and skill, compassion, and respect for all.
Non-Invasive Procedures to Relieve Pain Resources
8 non-invasive pain relief techniques that really work (Harvard Medical School)
Noninvasive Pain Management Techniques (Spine Health)
Non-invasive pain management techniques (National Spine & Pain Centers)
Treatment options for chronic pain (American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine)
7 Ways to Treat Chronic Back Pain Without Surgery (Johns Hopkins)
Alternative Treatments for Chronic Pain (WebMD)
Pain Relief and Healing with Laser Therapy (Spine Universe)