Next time you’re powering through an insufferable migraine or lying on your living room floor trying to relieve some of your lower back pain, don’t reach for the medicine cabinet as a first resort. There are certain holistic disciplines, modalities, and treatments that can curb your lingering aches and there’s 50 years worth of research to back it up, according to a review from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health at the National Institutes of Health.
Researchers combed through U.S.-based clinical trials published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings from 1986 through March 2016, reviewing 105 trials involving over 16,000 people in pain, to find evidence on the efficacy, effectiveness, and safety of widely used complementary health approaches. In short, researchers found seven that can relieve discomfort from five common pain conditions: back pain, osteoarthritis, neck pain, severe headaches and migraine, and fibromyalgia (a disorder that causes muscle pain and fatigue).
An approach was deemed positive and effective if it led to statistically significant improvements in “pain severity, pain-related disability, and/or function.” None of the clinical trials reported significant side effects due to the interventions. And, since 40 million American adults experience severe pain in any given year—pain that may not be fully relieved by medications—why not put a different pain plan into effect, sans the scary consequences?
“Our goal for this study was to provide relevant, high-quality information for primary care providers and for patients who suffer from chronic pain,” Richard L. Nahin, Ph.D., NCCIH’s lead author of the analysis said in a press release. Before, we lacked a robust evidence base to guide recommendations on complementary approaches as practiced and available in the United States, he adds.
Now primary care providers—who frequently see patients with chronic pain—have tools to inform decision-making on how to help manage that pain; it also gives you non-drug options.
The following complementary approaches had more positive than negative results. See what painful health conditions they can help and speak to your doctor about how to best incorporate them in your daily routine.
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