Alternative Therapies for Chronic Pain Management
Acupuncture is the therapeutic use of skinny, hair-width needles to stimulate specific points on the body to reduce pain or disease and promote well-being. After trying it myself, I have realized that it is a valuable tool in my chronic pain treatment toolbox.
The National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health explains that "Results from a number of studies suggest acupuncture may help ... types of pain that are often chronic," including fibromyalgia, headache, low-back pain, neck pain, and osteoarthritis.
Put simply, exercise is one of the best treatments for relieving chronic pain. When I got diagnosed with my chronic condition all the information about exercise seemed so out of touch with the reality of my life.
I thought, "If I’m already sore and fatigued then I’m not going to be able to go to the gym!" I knew that I should exercise but I felt like I couldn’t.
If you haven't been able to move very much, it's best to start with flexibility or range of motion exercises because “limited flexibility can cause pain, lead to injury, and make muscles work harder and tire more quickly." This is what I did and it has enabled me to begin moving more despite my pain.
Stretching, yoga, tai chi, and qi gong are all range-of-motion/flexibility exercises. Research is clearly on the side of trying these practices to manage your chronic pain.
For fibromyalgia alone, studies have found that qigong, tai chi, and yoga all reduce pain levels.
I was inspired to begin stretching by a physiotherapist (physical therapist). Every morning, I spend about half an hour stretching every major muscle group. Once I started doing this daily, I began to notice improvements in my physical abilities.
Now I can get up and down comfortably from the floor, easily bend forward, and do more activities without tiring as quickly.
Aerobic or Endurance Exercise
Endurance exercise includes walking and aquatic activities, has been found to significantly relieve pain levels in people living with chronic pain.
Aerobic fitness refers to the efficiency of your heart and lungs to send oxygen-rich blood to your muscles (cardiovascular fitness) and the fitness of your muscles to use that oxygen for continuous activity.
Aquatic activity can greatly benefit people living with pain. Exercising in water is low-impact but provides gentle resistance, a win-win for chronic pain sufferers. It's important to only sign up for low impact classes like "Aqua Arthritis" or "Range of Motion Aquafit".
Aerobic activity doesn't need to be intensive to be effective.
One study looked at the impact of increasing "lifestyle physical activity" in patients with fibromyalgia. This included activities like gentle housework, doing short errands, or just walking around a room periodically.
The study found that "Accumulating 30 minutes of Lifestyle Physical Activity throughout the day produces clinically relevant changes in physical function and pain in previously minimally active adults with FM."