Pain can impact nearly every aspect of your daily life from cleaning the house to going to work or playing with your kids. In fact, according to the Institute of Medicine, 100 million Americans, or more than 30 percent of the population of the United States, suffer from chronic pain, which is pain lasting 3-6 months or longer.
Most often, chronic pain is treated using prescription opioids. However, the National Institutes of Health estimates 2 million people in the U.S. suffer from substance use disorders related to prescription pain relievers, while 60 people die every day as a result of opioid overdoses, according to the National Safety Council.
“The country is facing intertwined crises of opioid misuse and chronic pain management. Non-opioid, non-pharmacological treatments such as acupuncture and other similar interventions can be essential in handling patients’ pain management as a complement to lessen dependency on opioid prescriptions and serve as a more effective holistic therapy for chronic pain,” said Dr. Kory Ward-Cook, chief executive officer of the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). “The care provided by NCCAOM National Board-Certified Acupuncturists is essential in continuing the movement toward greater integrative and complementary pain care, especially as a non-pharmaceutical alternative to harmful opioid prescriptions.”
To help treat your pain with a non-opioid solution, consider these tips:
Set Goals for Yourself
Setting realistic, measurable goals that focus on functional health and quality of life is essential to managing chronic pain. Outline specific, measurable goals you hope to achieve, such as exercising for 30 minutes three days a week or cleaning at least one room in the house twice a week and track your progress toward reaching them.
Use Relaxation Techniques
There are a variety of techniques, including meditation and deep breathing, that can help your body relax by slowing breathing, lowering blood pressure and instilling feelings of well-being. Giving your muscles a chance to relax can release tension, which may ease pain. Practicing yoga or tai chi, which involve a series of physical postures in addition to breathing and relaxation techniques, may also help reduce pain.
Consider Non-Pharmaceutical Treatment Options
With concerns mounting about the prevalence of opioid use and abuse in the U.S., complementary, natural treatments such as acupuncture can help alleviate pain and reduce the number of opioids prescribed. Using practices derived from traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncturists stimulate specific points on the body, most often by inserting thin needles through the skin. For example, National Board-Certified Acupuncturists, whose credentials can be verified through the NCCAOM, are affirmed to have the education and training necessary to competently deliver acupuncture services. To learn more about how acupuncture can help with pain management or addiction, or to find a practitioner in your area, visit nccaom.org.
Focus on Nutrition
A well-balanced diet is vital to overall health and well-being and can also influence chronic pain. As food choices can increase or decrease inflammation, which leads to many chronic diseases, consider a diet low in sugar and carbohydrates that includes fresh, organic fruits and vegetables; lean, grass-fed meats; legumes; nuts; whole grains; and organic dairy products.
Keep Track of Progress
To effectively manage and treat your pain, consider keeping a journal to note your pain level on a scale of 1-10 each day. Also track your activity during the day – including time on your feet, exercise and even sitting at your desk – so you can identify patterns based on what you do and how you feel afterward. Then use the connections you’ve made to modify your environment and schedule as necessary.