At least 40 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. Pain relief pills can help to a certain extent but primary care providers in the U.S. are wary of prescribing large doses of painkillers as it may lead to addiction.
A study found that yoga, acupuncture, massage therapy and other complementary healthcare approaches can help in managing serious and chronic pain. Americans spend more than $14 billion on such complementary healthcare approaches to manage such painful conditions.
The study published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings focused on five common pain conditions: back pain, osteoarthritis, neck pain, severe headaches and migraine, and fibromyalgia.
Researchers from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) at the National Institutes of Health examined 105 U.S.-based randomized controlled trials from 1966 to March 2016 and were relevant to patients in the U.S.
None of the trials reported any significant side effects as a result of employing complementary approaches in dealing with chronic pain.
The study showed promise in treating back pain with acupuncture and yoga, osteoarthritis of the knee with acupuncture and tai chi, neck pain with massage therapy and suggested the use of relaxation techniques in alleviating severe headaches and migraines.
“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,” Richard L Nahin, lead author of the study and NCCIH’s lead epidemiologist said in a statement.
“Our goal for this study was to provide relevant, high-quality information for primary care providers and for patients who suffer from chronic pain,” he added.
The researchers also found that massage therapy, spinal manipulation and osteopathic manipulation can provide some relief for patients suffering from back pain. Relaxation techniques and tai chi can help patients with fibromyalgia. However, evidence for these findings were weaker.
“These data can equip providers and patients with the information they need to have informed conversations regarding non-drug approaches for treatment of specific pain conditions,” deputy director of NCCIH David Shurtleff said. “It’s important that continued research explore how these approaches actually work and whether these findings apply broadly in diverse clinical settings and patient populations.”