Study finds non-drug therapies could be better in treating chronic pain

Prescription drugs are a common go-to for consumers suffering from chronic pain. However, a new study from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs has found that alternative treatments could provide patients with good health outcomes in the long-term.

Opioid painkillers often have negative side-effects, and health experts have, for many years, expressed concerns about their use. The opioid epidemic claimed 49,000 lives in 2017, and opioid abuse and addiction is continuing to grow.

This study shows that more natural redemidies could be a viable alternative for those in chronic pain.The researchers found them to be effective in treating pain and had far less side-effects, both in terms of physical health and mental health.

For the study, researchers observed 142,000 veterans who had served in Iraq or Afghanistan. They compared those who were given drugs for chronic pain to those who received alternative treatments.

Some of these alternative remedies were:

  • Electrical nerve stimulation
  • Acupuncture
  • Osteopathic spinal manipulation
  • Superficial heat treatment
  • Biofeedback
  • Ultrasonography
  • Traction
  • Chiropractic care
  • Dry needling
  • Exercise therapy
  • Massage
  • Lumbar supports

They discovered that those using alternative treatment plans, rather than drugs, felt less pain and had better mental health outcomes. It helped them avoid the side-effects associated with long-term prescription painkiller use and had better results in terms of drug and alcohol abuse levels, depression, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts.

Researcher Dr. Esther Meerwijk says: “Chronic pain is associated with adverse outcomes, such as substance abuse and suicidal thoughts and behavior. If non-drug treatments make chronic pain more bearable, people may be more likely to have positive experiences in life.”

“That makes them less likely to have thoughts of suicide or turn to drugs.” It made sense that if non-drug treatments are good at managing pain, their effect would go beyond pain relief. However, I was surprised that the results of our analyses held, despite our attempts to prove them wrong.”

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