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Pain management is often synonymous with pharmaceutical drugs (see medications). However, for many people who wish to be proactive in their own healthcare and well-being, there complimentary medical approaches (acupuncture, TENS machines, massage therapy, osteopathy, cranial Osteopathy, etc) and other things (e.g. relaxation and yoga) which you can try, and may to help manage your symptoms.
Even if you are in a lot of pain, or suffer from a chronic condition, you can sometimes help manage your pain by other strategies (see below) in addition to your medication. This may also perhaps help you to wean yourself off your medication faster if this is your goal, and ONLY if this is appropriate in your case — but please ALWAYS consult your GP when planning this. Sometimes medication over time seems to work less effectively (tolerance effect) and you may perhaps wish to avoid increasing the dosage or taking stronger pain-killers, and perhaps investigate additional strategies.
If you are pregnant of course it is probably a good idea to avoid all unnecessary medication whenever possible — please consult with your GP and midwife about this.
Of course, any physical therapy such as massage, acupuncture and osteopathy may be helpful in the treatment of pain. And cranial osteopathy could perhaps help for headaches, although admittedly strictly speaking there is no evidence-base for this, as there is lack of research into the benefits of cranial osteopathy. By contrast there is some evidence-base of the effectiveness of traditional osteopathy and manipulation to the spine to help with back pain (see: UK Back pain Exercise and Manipulation Trial: UK BEAM)
In this clinic, in addition to Osteopathy and Cranial Osteopathy, I can also offer acupuncture. Acupuncture can be helpful to relieve pain, and can do far more than just palliate symptoms and may actually promote soft-tissue healing and reduce inflammation. There is good evidence-base for Acupuncture according to the World Health Organisation (for this please see Disorders and Diseases that can be treated with Acupuncture) and there is a great deal of research showing the effectiveness of Acupuncture, particularly to treat pain. For more on this you could look at: Acupuncture Effectiveness.
As a physical therapy, Osteopathy by addressing the body's bio-mechanics, may help correct, or at least alleviate the causes of mechanical pain due to poor posture and muscle imbalance, reducing muscle fatigue and inflammation. Cranial Osteopathy may be helpful in the treatment of headaches and migraines, in addition to (sometimes) more diffuse symptoms, which may include e.g.stress related illness, e.g. irritable bowel — although admittedly there is little, if any, evidence-base for this (please see osteopathy as evidenced-based medicine).
Anecdotally, many people find Osteopathy helpful for a great many conditions. My caution here in writing this text, is that I do not want to imply any claim for the effectiveness of Osteopathy, or Cranial Osteopathy (or even Acupuncture) if there is no strong evidence-base to support it, so to be 'politically correct' my hands are tied as it were. Some (sceptics) would say that the benefits of Osteopathy or Acupuncture for that matter, can be explained by the Placebo effect which occurs to some extent, as even the most ardent sceptic would also have to admit, in all medicine, and in any medical intervention. If you want to think more about this, please see: Surgery, the ultimate placebo.
Of course, surgery for musculoskeletal conditions is sometimes indicated and necessary (e.g. for a torn meniscus, or severe hip or knee arthritis) so please talk to your GP and/or orthopaedic surgeon about this, if this is your own condition. Your osteopath will also be able to advise you when physical therapy will not achieve more than palliative results. Here I am talking about muscle and joint pain (musculo-skeletal conditions) and when surgery may be required. For all other medical conditions (internal medicine) please see your GP and the appropriate medical specialist.
Having said all this however, even the Placebo effect can help people feel better, and on very little reflection, one would have to admit that any benefit, placebo or otherwise, would be far better from a more minimal, conservative, and less invasive medical intervention, such as physical therapy, e.g. Osteopathy and/or Acupuncture. After all, most people, where possible, would rather keep surgery for (musculo-skeletal conditions that is) as a last resort, when other options (physiotherapy, acupuncture, osteopathy) have been tried and exhausted. Yet there are times when even back surgery may be required (e.g. surgical decompression, where there is motor weakness and loss of power, from severe disc herniation, etc.)
Although there is definitely more to Osteopathy and Acupuncture than just a placebo effect, and research-design takes placebo effect into account, and shows improvement or gain beyond this, to be statistically significant. For more on this, and examples of research into Osteopathy, you could look at osteopathy as evidenced-based medicine.
Show video: The Strange Powers of the Placebo Effect
However, for practical purposes (which is what most people care about — especially when they themselves or their loved-ones are suffering from pain and distress) pain can also be a cause of, and then appear amplified by stress, emotional distress, anxiety, depression, etc. Also poor quality or insufficient sleep (either due to pain or anxiety and mental restlessness) will cause low-grade inflammation and increased neurotoxins — all resulting in increased pain perception. Sound sleep is essential in promoting optimal tissue repair and recovery from injury.
A lack of general fitness and poor muscle tone will increase muscle fatigue and lead to additional mechanical pain and tissue overstrain and also poor cardiovascular fitness. Even though you may be very limited in what you can presently do, there is always something that can be done, even if this is only water-walking (hydrotherapy) or swimming as non-weight bearing exercise.
I also run mindfulness-based pain-management courses at the Risingholme Community centre, in Christchurch. Mindfulness based approaches have been shown to help people live better with chronic pain.
If you want to check the research you could see:
For details about mindfulness courses here in Christchurch, please see the Courses page or phone the Risingholme office on 03 332 7359.
christchurch osteopathy acupuncture
mike inman osteopath