Integrative medicine hold great potential for alleviating pain better than opioids

Integrative medicine approaches, such as acupuncture and yoga, have great potential in treating pain. A review published in the journal Anesthesia & Analgesia reported that acupuncture, yoga, and other integrative medicine approaches have shown at least preliminary evidence of effectiveness in pain management.

For the review, a team of researchers led by Yuan-Chi Lin, M.D., MPH, a researcher at Harvard Medical School, evaluated existing evidence on integrative medicine therapies for pain management. The review included 32 studies that examined seven various types of integrative medicine therapies for pain.

Among all of the integrative medicine therapies evaluated, acupuncture showed the strongest evidence for effectiveness in alleviating pain. Acupuncture is a traditional therapy that involves thin needles being inserted into the skin. It has been used in Asia for centuries to treat various health conditions and manage pain. Today, it is being used in the U.S. and other Western countries to low back pain, nerve pain, headaches, fibromyalgia, menstrual cramps, and more.

In the review, acupuncture was revealed to have a “strong positive evidence” on effectively treating chronic pain. A number of studies have also shown that acupuncture reduced the need of opioids to control pain after surgery. It also reduced opioid-related side effects.

Yoga, relaxation techniques such as mindfulness meditation, tai chi, massage therapy, and spinal manipulation showed “positive preliminary evidence” of effectiveness in pain treatment. Several studies also addressed the effects of the use of prescription drugs, including opioids. Studies on the effectiveness of the supplements glucosamine and chondroitin for relieving knee pain showed mixed results.

Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that integrative medicine approaches, such as acupuncture, yoga, relaxation techniques, and spinal manipulation, can be used to help relieve pain and reduce the use of opioids.

The opioid epidemic in America

The use of integrative medicine for pain treatment helps address the opioid epidemic in the U.S. This national health crisis kills more and more people each year. The truth is that pain management does not have to begin with prescription drugs.

Opioids are a class of drugs that are often used to relieve pain. These include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and many others.

As millions of Americans suffer from pain, they are often prescribed opioids to treat their conditions. The rise in the prescription of opioid medications has resulted in widespread misuse of both prescription and non-prescription opioids before it became clear that these medications could indeed be highly addictive.

The amount of opioids prescribed to patients started to grow during the 1990s. Since then, the number of overdoses and deaths from prescription opioids has also increased. As of 2016, more than 200,000 people have died in the U.S. from overdoses related to prescription opioids. This is five times higher than opioid overdose deaths in 1999.

The numbers of people in the U.S. dying from the escalating opioid epidemic are skyrocketing so quickly that local medical examiners cannot keep up with the body count. As the opioid crisis persists across the U.S., it is becoming increasingly important to evaluate other ways of preventing and treating pain.

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