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Complementary Care Stands Up to Pain

Pain is a state of mind, though not necessarily ALL in your mind, because it is real to everyone who is in pain. Others can’t see your pain, and the best way they can tell you are in pain is the way you react. Some people have high thresholds of pain, or so we are told, because they can take more pain than the rest of us. Others have low thresholds of pain and can’t seem to handle commonplace, everyday pain— if there is such a thing— when the rest of us hunker down and get on with our lives.

Pain, or, more accurately, the relief or avoidance of pain, is usually why we go to doctors, dentists, chiropractors, psychiatrists, hypnotists and physical therapists. It is also chief among the reasons we get addicted to drugs. Physicians prescribe drugs to help us through our pain, but they became the chief drug dealers in three waves of opioid epidemics over almost three decades whose repercussions are still being felt. People want to be healed of painful diseases and conditions, but they would rather be in pain than addicted to potential relievers of that pain.

There is acute pain, which is the immediate reaction to injury and illness, and there is chronic pain, which is always with us, even though there are both healthful and dangerous ways to relieve, if not eradicate, pain.

Complementary Health Care Options

There is definitely a market for pain relief. Especially chronic pain. The CDC proclaims that chronic pain is one of the main reasons adults in this country seek medical care. Then there are those who just bite the bullet and deal with their own pain. It’s hard to get numbers and percentages for that reason alone, and the percentages of those estimated to have chronic pain range from 11 to 40 percent. That’s a difference of almost 9 million people. We know all of us have suffered some kind of pain or other in our lives, but do we really know how many are experiencing chronic pain? There is even a category of high-impact chronic pain, which is estimated by the CDC at eight percent of citizens 18 and older, but, then again, who knows?

Those who are practitioners in complementary health care—those outside mainstream or conventional medicine— provide all kinds of approaches to managing pain. And a lot of us are turning to their mostly noninvasive approaches, including acupuncture, spinal manipulation, relaxation techniques, meditation, Tai Chi, massage therapy, yoga and dietary supplements and natural products.

They also seem to have better handle on whose suffering from chronic pain and why so many are streaming away from conventional medicine to relieve their pain without causing more harm to their bodies or psyches. That doesn’t mean they’ve turned their back on mainstream medicine. Complementary medicine simply means that those who utilize these services also rely on conventional medicine when needed. A much smaller percentage— those who are seekers of alternative medicine— have turned away from conventional medicine altogether.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, overseeing the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has recognized complementary medicine providers for providing numerous approaches for managing pain—and chronic pain in particular. At the same time, conventional medicine is turning to some of these providers and including them in traditional hospitals and medical centers in dealing with this most elusive health care issue.


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