treatment optionsThere are countless treatments available when trying to reduce your pain.  Some of these treatments require the assistance of a licensed professional and others can be done on your own, at home.  NEVER underestimate the importance of the home-care portion of your recovery.  Many people make the mistake of relying solely on their doctors and therapists when trying to get out of pain.  More often than not, it is quality and consistency of the patients home-care activities that make the difference between short-term and long-term pain relief.

Below is an overview of many of the common pain-reducing treatments available.  Our goal is to help you better understand your treatment options so you can make the best decision for your unique situation.

Home Care Options

1. Corrective Stretches and Exercises: Most people underestimate the importance of stretching and corrective exercises.  Many of the aches and pains that we consider “normal” are caused by a long standing body imbalance.  Corrective stretches and exercises are incredibly important if you ever want to see long term pain relief.  The key here is knowing what to stretch and what to exercise.  You don’t want to reinforce an already bad body habit.

2. Ice and Heat:  Both ice and heat can have a tremendous benefit for healing and pain relief.  It’s important to listen to your body when deciding which to use.  Just make sure you don’t do either ice or heat any longer than 20 minutes at a time.  You can and will hurt yourself!

As a general rule, you want to avoid using heat on more recent injuries (wait at least 72 hours after an injury) and areas of the body that are clearly inflamed.  Otherwise, heat is a great option.  It can help the body heal and loosen up tight muscles.  In some cases, alternating ice and heat (15 minutes at a time) is a great option too.  Like I said before, be sure to listen to your body.

3. Spinal Decompression:  Decompressing the spine is incredibly useful when trying to reduce pain.  It has been shown to help a number of pain disorders but is especially useful for those who have disc bulging and arthritis/degenerative changes in the spine.  Spinal decompression has even been shown to have wellness/prevention benefits for those who are NOT currently in pain.  Spinal decompression can be done at home in the form of traction or an inversion table.

4. Topical Creams/Gels:  Obviously it’s always best to get to the root of the problem instead of treating the symptoms.  But there are times that a flare-up of pain or recent injury occurs and treating the symptom of pain is a priority.  There are plenty of pain relief creams and gels that are available on the market, here are a few things to consider.

  • Be Careful: Don’t mistake “feeling better” with “being better.”  Just because you apply a topical and feel better, that doesn’t mean you should go out and do a bunch of stuff you couldn’t do before.  That’s a great way to hurt yourself worse.
  • Less is More: Some topicals are more natural and others are just chocked full of chemicals.  Your skin readily absorbs chemicals.  Take the time to read the labels and always be careful to buy the cleanest/most natural option.

5. Natural Pain Relievers:  Many people run to the medicine cabinet or the prescription desk as soon as they experience pain.  But pain killers, NSAIDs and prescription drugs all have dangerous side-effects.  Even something as common as Aspirin can have devastating side effects in certain people.  Natural pain relievers essentially replace the more traditional prescription and over-the-counter drugs without the harmful side-effects.

  • Be Careful: Like we said with the topical creams/gels, don’t mistake “feeling better” with “being better.”  Just because you take a natural pain reliever and feel better, that doesn’t mean you should go out and do a bunch of stuff you couldn’t do before.  That’s a great way to hurt yourself worse.

Professional Care Options

1. Medical Doctor/Orthopedist:  Many people in pain find themselves going to their general practitioner and in some cases consulting with an orthopedic surgeon.  Although in sever or emergency situations, this might be the best decision, rarely is it the best option in a non-emergency situation.  Medical doctors are trained to treat symptoms with drugs and surgery.  They rarely go beyond the symptoms and address the underlying causes of pain.  Of course, there are some cases where drugs and surgery are the only option left, but if you understand the inherent risk associated with them, you will see why drugs and surgery should only be tried after ALL the more conservative methods (Home-care and Professional-Care) have been exhausted.  Drugs and surgery should be a last option and not a first.

2. Physical Therapy (PT):  Physical therapists are trained to evaluate and treat a variety of pain ailments.  Their goal is to treat specific areas of injury for the purpose of reducing pain, increasing motion and restoring body function.  Physical therapists use a combination of modalities (ultrasound, cold laser, electric stim, etc) and stretches/exercises to accomplish those goals.

The Positives:

  • PT teaches the patient stretches and exercises that can be done at home to aid in their recovery.
  • PT is designed to help the body heal naturally by improving motion and function, instead of using drugs to simply mask the pain.

The Negatives:

  • PT is not open access, which means you have to get a referral from a doctor to see one.
  • PT does not typically address any spinal misalignment issues that may be contributing to your pain.
  • PT is also designed to evaluate and treat specific ailments.  Rarely do PTs get into the underlying body imbalances that are typically the root cause of the pain.

3. Chiropractic: Chiropractors primary objective is to detect and correct vertebral subluxations.  Their goal is to restore the spine into its normal alignment and motion in order to allow the body to heal itself.  Chiropractic adjustments are most commonly done by hand, but some chiropractors choose to use one of the various spinal adjusting instruments as their method of treatment.

The Positives:

  • The chiropractic adjustment (when done correctly) is great for correcting spinal misalignments, one of the root causes of back and neck pain.
  • Chiropractors are open access which means anyone can visit a chiropractor without a referral from their general practitioner.
  • Chiropractic is designed to help the body heal naturally by restoring normal alignment to the spine, instead of using drugs to simply mask the pain.

The Negatives:

  • There is very little consistency with the type of care and quality of care within the chiropractic profession.  Many states have very loose descriptions of what a chiropractor can and can’t do in practice,  so you will find chiropractors doing weight-loss programs, energy work, acupuncture, foot baths, massage, physical therapy modalities, hair analysis, diet and exercise programs, bone density scans, detoxes, etc, etc, etc.  The patient never knows what they are going to get.
  • Chiropractic adjustments do not address muscle imbalances that are also a major cause of back and neck pain.
  • Many chiropractors get caught up only evaluating and treating the area of pain,  ignoring primary spinal misalignments and body imbalances that are the root cause of the pain/flare up.

4. Acupuncture: Acupuncture is a component of traditional Chinese Medicine that  uses needles and electrical stimulation to stimulate energy points of the body.  The goal of acupuncture is to balance the body’s energy by stimulating specific points.  And although acupuncture has been shown to help certain types of neck and back pain, it does NOT address the spinal misalignments and body imbalances that are typically the underlying cause of neck pain and back pain.

 5. Others:  There are a variety of non-traditional treatments that can potentially help those in pain find relief.  Energy work (ie. Tong Ren, Qi Gong, Reik), Tapping (Emotional Freedom Technique) and hypnosis have all been shown to help certain people manage their pain.  But it’s important to note, these treatments do NOT address the spinal misalignments and body imbalances that are typically the underlying cause of neck pain and back pain.