If you’ve ever wondered about the advantages of treating chronic pain with alternative methods such as physical therapy or acupuncture, consider the following.
A recent article in the Boston Globe, “Finding drug-free techniques to treat chronic pain,” highlights several important facts about the prevalence of chronic pain in the U.S. and typical treatment approaches:
- An estimated 100 million people in the U.S. suffer from chronic pain, resulting in roughly $600 billion per year spent on direct medical treatment and lost productivity costs.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that since 1990, overdose death rates in the U.S. have more than tripled while prescriptions for opiates have grown significantly. Opiates are typically prescribed when pain does not resolve with over-the-counter medications.
- Getting patients to stop taking opiates has been problematic for a number of doctors. Weaning patients off of these medications can be “complex and difficult for some primary care physicians to achieve especially if patients are convinced that their pain is being well managed,” says Dr. Daniel Alford, an internist at Boston Medical Center.
The article references a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “Weighing In on Opioids for Chronic Pain: The Barriers to Change.” According to the study, patients taking opiates “have likely had moderate to severe pain for years and have tried and failed numerous other therapies prior to being prescribed opioids.” This is something our therapists are very familiar with, as most of the chronic pain patients they see have been unable to find relief through a number of other treatment approaches. By the time they arrive at our clinics, they are typically at the end of a quest for relief that has lasted months or years.
With the pain epidemic on the rise, it is refreshing to see the Boston Globe article’s call for the need to place stronger emphasis on “…nonmedical ways to relieve pain, such as massage therapy, acupuncture, physical therapy, and yoga therapies.” Dr. Oz echoed this point in his article “7 Alternative Treatments For Chronic Pain,” in which he recommends physical therapy, acupuncture, osteopathic manual treatment (OMT) and other alternative therapies to chronic pain sufferers.