By Barby Ingle, Columnist
I hear more than ever from others living with chronic pain that they “have tried everything” and nothing helps. But there are always new pain therapies being developed or improved; some real, some placebo, and some researched more than others.
I personally don’t believe that there is any one treatment that cures or fixes anyone, but there are many that can help take the edge off the pain we are feeling. I also recognize that some options are not right for some people or contraindicated for certain conditions. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for chronic pain.
Last month we looked at four alternative therapies that start with the letter “A” (acupressure, acupuncture, aromatherapy and art therapy). This month the spotlight is on four therapies that start with “C” – Calmare, Chinese medicine, chiropractic, and craniosacral therapy.
Calmare is a relatively new treatment that is becoming more popular. I have tried it myself, and while it was not a long-term useful tool for me, I do know others who have received major benefit and relief from it.
Calmare Therapy, also known as scrambler therapy, is a non-invasive, drug-free solution for neuropathy and other conditions that cause nerve damage. I think of it as TENS unit on steroids.
Duringtreatment, small electrodes are placed on the skin, which are connected by wires to a box-like device. Electrical pulses are transmitted to the body, like little electric shocks. This can help block pain signals in some people with certain types of chronic pain.
The provider I hear about the most having success with this form of treatment is Dr. Michael Cooney, a chiropractor practicing in New Jersey who sees patients from all over country.
Cooney wrote a guest column about Calmare for PNN a few months ago, where you can learn more about the treatment and how it works.
When people think about Chinese Medicine (CM), many just think of acupuncture, but CM is more than just one modality. It involves a broad range of traditional medicine practices which were developed in China over 2,000 years ago, including various forms of herbal medicine, massage, exercise and dietary therapy.
One of the basic tenets of CM is that the body's vital energy (chi or qi) circulates through channels called meridians, which have branches connected to bodily organs and functions.
CM is being used more and more in American pain treatment as an alternative to Western medical practices. Only six states (Alabama, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Wyoming) do not have legislation regulating the professional practice of CM.
Be sure to tell all your healthcare providers about any complementary health approaches you use, as it is important to give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care, which is important with more than a million Americans using forms of CM.
The prices of traditional CM vary, depending on the practitioner and the region. Usually an initial herbal consultation ranges from $30 to $60, and follow-up consultation costs around $30. A month's supply of herbs may cost $30 to $50, but it’s a good value if it helps lower your pain levels, stress and helps regulate your neuro-inflammation.
Chiropractic care is a harder subject for me. I have had positives and negatives with this treatment and with different practitioners. For the most part, my insurance has covered this type of care, but for many insurance policies it is not covered at all or it only pays for a few appointments a year.
Chirporactic sessions can range from $34 to $106, depending on where you live, how many areas of the spine the chiropractor services, and whether more extensive exams are required.
This form of alternative care typically treats mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system with an emphasis on the spine, although I have had chiropractors adjust my hips, feet and shoulders.
Chiropractic care is somewhat controversial with mainstream practitioners, including some who believe it is sustained by pseudo-scientific ideas such as subluxation and "innate intelligence" that are not based on sound research. In my own reviews of studies on chiropractic manipulation, I have not found evidence that it is effective long term for chronic pain, except for treatment of back pain.
However, chiropractic care is well established in the U.S. and Canada as a form of alternative treatment. It is often combined with other manual-therapy professions, including massage therapy, osteopathy and physical therapy.
Craniosacral therapy (CST) takes a whole-person approach to healing, and the inter-connections of the mind, body and spirit. Practitioners say it is an effective form of treatment for a wide range of illnesses, and encourages vitality and a sense of well-being. Because it is non-invasive, it is suitable for people of all ages, including babies, children and the elderly.
The intent of CST treatment is to enhance the body's own self-healing and self-regulating capabilities. This is done as the practitioner gently touches areas around the brain and spinal cord, which helps improve respiration and the functioning of the central nervous system.
CST practitioners say it can help temporarily relieve a vast number of issues, including migraines and headaches, chronic neck and back pain, stress and tension-related disorders, brain and spinal cord injuries, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, TMJ syndrome, scoliosis, central nervous system disorders, post-traumatic stress, orthopedic problems, depression, anxiety and grief.
Treatment costs range between $100 and $200 per session, and patients typically attend multiple times when chronic pain issues are being addressed. Some health insurance policies will cover CST.
Do I believe that CST will take pain away? No. But do I think it is a mindfulness tool that can help temporarily. Did it work for me? No, but it was worth a try since it is non-invasive.
Again, I am spotlighting alternative therapy ideas that can help lower or reduce chronic pain.. Typical pain patients, including myself, find that it takes a variety of treatments to get pain levels low enough to consider it significant relief. The fact that they are treatments and lifestyle changes – and not cures -- is important to remember.
I'd like to know if you've tried these methods and if they worked or didn’t work. The more we share our ideas and experiences, the better off others in pain will be in understanding different treatment options.
Over the next few months I will spotlight more than 70 alternative treatments. Please only try what you are comfortable with and don’t put down others who are willing to try what they are interested in.
Barby Ingle lives with reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), migralepsy and endometriosis. Barby is a chronic pain educator, patient advocate, and president of the International Pain Foundation. She is also a motivational speaker and best-selling author on pain topics. More information about Barby can be found at her website.
The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.