Chronic Pain: Yoga, Acupuncture, And Tai Chi Effective In Pain Management, Study Finds


About 126 million Americans suffer from one kind of pain each year. Within this number, 40 million people experience severe chronic pain. Many American’s have found it difficult to obtain complete relief from prescribed drugs and have turned to more unconventional methods of pain relief including techniques like yoga, acupuncture, massage therapy, and tai chi. Americans spend over $ 14 billion of their own money on additional treatment to successfully manage their pain, NBC News reports.

“Back pain, joint pain, neck pain, and headaches are among the most common types of pain experienced by U.S. Adults.”

These complementary health treatments have been found to be effective in managing pain conditions, according to researchers from the NIH National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

Richard L. Nahin, PhD, MPH, is the lead epidemiologist at the NIH and NCCIH. Nahin and his colleagues wrote in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

“The most recent national estimate suggests that 126 million adults experience some pain in a given year, with about one-third (40 million adults) having severe pain.”

chronic pain
[Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images]

However, there has been no true evidence to show these approaches are reliable. To remedy this, researchers conducted an online review of 105 random and controlled trials from the last 50 years. The study conducted has provided clear insight that these practices provide very relevant info to health care providers who wish to assist chronic pain patients with drug-free treatments, Tech Times reports.

“National surveys going back more than 25 years have consistently found that these complementary approaches are used by about 30 percent to 40 percent of the U.S. public in a given year.”

“… Among the many pharmacological and non-pharmacological approaches that have been incorporated into pain management strategies are complementary health approaches…. In 2007, for example, about 14.3 million adults used a complementary health approach for their back pain, about 5 million used these approaches for their neck pain, and 3.1 million for their arthritis.”

The U.S.-based review focused on seven techniques to minimize pain. These approaches included acupuncture, spinal and osteopathic manipulation, massage therapy, relaxation techniques, selected natural product supplements, tai chi, and yoga.

These approaches are used for one or more of five common pain conditions including back pain, osteoarthritis, neck pain, fibromyalgia, and severe headaches and migraine.

In a press release, David Shurtleff, PhD, NCCIH deputy director stated the following.

“These data can equip providers and patients with the information they need to have informed conversations regarding non drug approaches for treatment of specific pain conditions… It’s important that continued research explore how these approaches actually work and whether these findings apply broadly in diverse clinical settings and patient populations.”

Where significant improvements in pain severity are found compared to the control group, positive trials were defined. Negative trials were defined as no difference reported between the comparative groups.

Researchers noted, “The randomized, controlled clinical trial is considered the strongest study design for investigating the efficacy and safety of pharmacological, behavioral, and physical interventions.”

Evidence found the following treatments can help patients manage pain.

  • Yoga and acupuncture can help reduce back pain
  • Tai Chi and acupuncture are effective in helping osteoarthritis of the knee
  • Short-term relief of neck pain is helped by massage therapy
  • Other relaxation techniques can significantly ease severe headaches and migraines

The researchers noted, “Compared with usual care, two studies found that yoga provided improvements in pain and function, but the results were mixed when compared with exercise/stretching.”

None of these trials reported side effects.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people with several types of pain should try these complementary approaches. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even suggests the traditional technique of using ice to numb pain and reduce swelling, before turning to drugs, especially in the case of strong drugs such as opioids.

[Photo by Matt Cardy/Stringer/Getty Images]

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