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The use of alternative medicine in recent years is more prevalent than it was decades ago. According to a recent study, about a third of Americans use alternative medicines in conjunction with more mainstream treatments. Only about five percent of Americans use alternative treatment alone. When most people refer to alternative medicine or treatment for pain management, they are referring to medicine of treatment that is not mainstream or conventional. This may be anything from supplements in pill form to physical treatments by practitioners.
There are different treatments that can be used, especially for pain management, that have been more popular than others. Chiropractic, acupuncture, or even the use of marijuana have been said to be effective for pain relief, some in cases where conventional treatments have not been as effective. Alternative treatments are also often cheaper than conventional medicine. When people use these or other alternative treatments with conventional medicine, it is referred to as complementary medicine.
Alternative medicine differs from conventional medicine in that this may use a more natural approach than conventional medicines, focusing on using the mind to relief pain throughout the body. This is important for patients who are leery of conventional treatments that often rely heavily on chemical compounds for pain relief. Acupuncture, for example, is said to tap into the brain and spinal cord to release a patient’s pain threshold, release hormones, increase blood flow, and raise body temperature within the patient’s body all with the effect of pain relief. The ability to achieve these effects using the body’s natural chemicals appeals to some because it is effective without the risk of side effects or risk of addiction posed by conventional medicine. While there is no definitive study proving alternative medicines to be effective for specific drugs, acupuncture has been shown in studies to be effective in greatly reducing chronic pain.
Prolonged use of pain medication does not always prove to be more effective than the long term use of alternative treatments, due in part to the fact that once some people develop a tolerance to the pain relief effects of the drug, they may need larger doses to receive the same levels of pain relief . Spinal manipulation for back injuries has been cited as particularly effective for long term treatment even in cases where opiates may no longer be effective.
Some insurance companies cover the use of alternative medicine under their policies. This could be due to recognition that some of these treatments are effective. It is best to check with your particular insurance provider for covered treatments.
Before deciding on an alternative treatment plan for chronic pain resulting from brain or spinal injuries, it is important to consult your physician to ensure that your chosen alternative treatment will not pose a risk to your health. While most alternative medicines may be used for a variety of conditions, different people with different physical conditions may react differently to both alternative and conventional medicines. For patients considering the use of a combination of the two types of treatment for a complementary approach, they may benefit from developing their plan in conjunction with a physician who is familiar with their medical background.