Chronic pain and illness are terrible; as a person who has suffered chronic back pain over many years, I know how simple acts like brushing your teeth or combing your hair can be agonising. And I am always one to avoid resorting to pain medication if I can help it – after all, the long term effects of synthetic drugs on the body are only just beginning to be really understood. I am always on the lookout for effective pain-relief alternatives, and I have found a lot of useful as well as misleading information.
In my search, I discovered that there are many wonderful alternative methods that are well-known and documented for dealing with pain and illness – here is what to look for when considering complementary systems for management of pain and illness.
- Look for therapies that can show studies proving efficacy – The best alternative therapies will have the backing of open-minded medical organisations. While opinion may be divided on certain healing methods such as acupuncture, this ancient needle therapy enjoys the support of the World Health Organization that states acupuncture may help reduce pain and alleviate some conditions.
- Look for therapies that do no harm – Always ensure that the therapy you’re thinking of trying cannot do you any harm in the way of adverse side effects. Some “traditional” medicines based on herbs can actually contain poisons such as lead or mercury. Before taking any substance, do your research on the contents; don’t just blindly take whatever is given to you. Wherever possible, seek out organic substances whose origins are bio-certified.
- Do not only look at literature praising your chosen alternative method of pain relief – Always have a look at criticism; this is where one can find out if something is a legitimate method of chronic pain management. Degrees of criticism are very important here; there is a huge difference between small complaints such as “this didn’t work for me very well” and “most followers of this method have died or have lost their life savings”. Again, diligent research is key and the point is not to dive into anything that sounds too good to be true.
- Focus on therapies that promote emotional well-being – Science has proven that Grandma’s advice about “healthy mind, healthy body” is no drivel. If you find a certain therapy is making you feel emotionally depressed, change it. An alternative pain-relief method that lists emotional well-being as one of its goals will work much better than one that makes no mention of it; inner stability will further give you the strength of character to not fall apart if things go wrong.
- Look for therapies that are advertised as complementary – The best alternative therapists will always work in conjunction with medical doctors and view the healing process as teamwork of sorts. The alternative therapist that’s reputable will ask you what sort of medication you’ve been prescribed and will work with you.
- Look for therapies that do not charge massive amounts of money up-front before treatment begins – Most reputable practitioners offer a pay-as-you-go system or have some sort of system set up with insurance companies. If you feel that you’re being bilked, chances are you ARE being bilked.
- Check a therapist’s credentials – Familiarise yourself with relevant alternative therapies associations and regulators. Check to see if a therapist has legitimate credentials, has studied at a proper institution or is just someone person who decided to set up shop with a very limited skill set.
- Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, don't dismiss non-invasive techniques or calming therapies such as meditation, yoga and other stress-busters – They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure. Many people have been trained to think that if the cure does not come in a pill or a shot, then it can't be effective. As many illnesses, including pain symptoms, begin as a result of too stressful a lifestyle, then it makes sense to begin with eliminating as much stress as possible from your day to day. And techniques such as meditation and yoga are as diverse as they are effective, they are readily available and you can make them a part of your daily health program.
More and more, science agrees that there is a strong mind-body link to pain and illness, and that many alternative therapies can provide effective pain relief. With research, vigilance, and some good old fashioned common sense, an effective complementary treatment can be found that will enhance your quality of life and your happiness.