Alternative therapies for pain and injuries

As we enjoy a beautiful Northwest summer full of outdoor activities, many of us will suffer from some form of chronic pain or injury. While exercise and physical activity are extremely beneficial to our health and well-being, living with pain and injuries may be a deterrent to fun and exercise.

There are many medical and lifestyle choices for treating pain and injuries. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories and analgesics are abundant in pharmacies. Physical therapies, stretching and the use of hot and cold packs are also effective.

People also will choose to utilize medications and surgery to improve their physical health. There are also many alternative or complementary therapies and treatments that have been shown very effective in treating chronic pain and helping injury recovery. Acupuncture, chiropractic medicine, massage therapy and nutritional/herbal supplementation for pain have all been researched and show positive results.

In 2002, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics conducted a national survey, interviewing 31,044 adults age 18 years and older for their use of alternative and complementary therapies (CAM). Thirty-six percent of adults used some form of CAM therapy during the last 12 months of the study.

The 10 most commonly used CAM therapies were use of prayer specifically for one's own health (43 percent), prayer by others for one's own health (24.4 percent), natural products (18.9 percent), deep breathing exercises (11.6 percent), participation in prayer group for one's own health (9.6 percent), meditation (7.6 percent), chiropractic care (7.5 percent), yoga (5.1 percent), massage (5.0 percent) and diet-based therapies (3.5 percent).

CAM was most often used to treat back pain or back problems, head or chest colds, neck pain or neck problems, joint pain or stiffness and anxiety or depression.

In another study, partially performed in Seattle, subjects with chronic low back pain were interviewed on their treatment choices. Chiropractic and massage had been used by the largest fractions of respondents (54 and 38 percents, respectively), mostly for back pain (45 and 24 percents, respectively).

Among prior users of specific CAM therapies for back pain, massage was rated most helpful.

Most respondents indicated they would be "very likely" to try acupuncture, massage or chiropractic for their back pain if they did not have to pay out-of-pocket and their physician thought it was a reasonable treatment option.

An additional study was undertaken to investigate the effects of acupuncture in low back and pelvic pain during pregnancy under real-life conditions, as compared with patients undergoing conventional treatment alone.

Twenty-seven patients formed the study group and 34 the control group. Women were followed up for eight weeks and interviewed five times, at two-week intervals.

In the study group, the average pain during the acupuncture period showed a larger reduction (4.8 points) than the control group (-0.3 points). Average pain scores decreased by at least 50 percent over time in 21 patients (78 percent) in the acupuncture group and in five patients (15 percent) in the control group.

Maximum pain and pain at the moment of interview were also less in the acupuncture group compared with the control group.

These results indicate that acupuncture seems to alleviate low back and pelvic pain during pregnancy, as well as to increase the capacity for some physical activities and to diminish the need for drugs, which is a great advantage during this period.

Finally, a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study was to examine the efficacy and safety of an intramuscular vitamin B12 injection in the treatment of low back pain. Sixty patients age 18 to 65, with pain or sciatic neuritis of mechanical origin without need for surgical procedures, were enrolled.

The efficacy and safety of vitamin B12 in alleviating low back pain and related disability and in decreasing the consumption of paracetamol (an analgesic) was confirmed in patients with no signs of nutritional deficiency.

The best way to treat pain and injuries is by prevention. Therefore, using proper body mechanics during exercise and activities, adequate stretching, proper hydration and knowing your limits are extremely important.

Dr. Jennifer Lush, a naturopathic physician, is the founder of Glow Natural Health Center, which recently moved to 2719 E. Madison St., Suite 203.

For more information, call 568-7545 or visit

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