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What Does Holistic Pain Management Look Like?

December 13, 2022
What Does Holistic Pain Management Look Like

A while back, we put together a blog post discussing the benefits of a holistic approach to pain management for surgical patients. That post has generated a number of questions about holistic pain management and what it looks like. Let's dig into that here.

For starters, a holistic approach in any medical specialty is one that seeks to treat the whole patient in body, mind, and spirit. It is the complete opposite of traditional Western medicine the prefers to zero-in on certain symptoms and deal with them exclusively.

Pain Has Many Causes

GPs have been known to struggle to help certain patients manage pain effectively. Why? Because pain has so many causes. Furthermore, patient perceptions play a huge role in determining how debilitating pain is.

This is primarily why taking a holistic approach is better. Treating pain holistically goes beyond the mere symptom to delve into its root causes and how said causes are affecting the patient. Pain doctors look at the whole picture rather than just one tiny aspect of it.

Medications May Be Appropriate

At this point, we do not want you to confuse holistic pain management with a medication-free treatment. Doctors and patients may agree together to forgo pain medication in favor of other treatments. But that's not necessarily a given.

Medications are appropriate in many cases. Sometimes they are utilized exclusive of all other treatments, other times they are combined with things like physical therapy, exercise, dietary changes, etc.

Alternative Treatment Options

Pain medications aside, one of the hallmarks of a holistic approach is utilizing alternative treatments in addition to pain medication or as a replacement for it. Alternative treatments are offered in a variety of forms. Here are some of the most common options pain management doctors tend to recommend:

  • Chiropractic – Chiropractic is an ancient form of medicine that concentrates on spinal column manipulation. It used to be considered quackery in Western medicine. But over the last 30 years or so, it has gained widespread acceptance.
  • Acupuncture – Acupuncture is another ancient procedure based in the belief that energy within the body can be managed to improve health. Acupuncture involves the use of tiny needles inserted into the skin to channel energy where the practitioner directs.
  • Therapeutic Massage – Therapeutic and integrative massage are alternative treatments that focus on relaxing muscles and other soft body tissues. As the thinking goes, general relaxation can help relieve pain both locally and throughout the entire body.
  • Mindfulness Therapy – Mindfulness therapy is a therapy that seeks to manage pain by simultaneously managing thoughts and emotions. Some patients find that mindfulness helps them focus less on their pain, thereby reducing the actual sensations they feel.
  • Physical Therapy – Physical therapy is an alternative treatment that relies on soft tissue manipulation to restore function, increase strength, etc. It is almost always practiced through exercises done both in the office and at home.

The one thing all these treatments have in common is the goal of offering them as an alternative to pain medications. In Western medicine, prescription medications rule the day. So it can sometimes be difficult to convince GPs to try alternative treatments. That's where pain management clinics prove most beneficial.

Digging Deeper

As a specialty, pain management looks to dig deeper than symptoms alone. Digging deeper often leads pain management physicians to the realization that medication is not always the best avenue.

The holistic approach to pain management can include pain medications. But it is also likely to include alternative treatments as well. The idea is to treat the whole person, not just the pain.

By KindlyMD
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