By Amy Ahlberg for Prevention.com
If you suffer from chronic pain, you probably think you have two options: pop pills or tough it out. But medical doctors are increasingly turning to natural alternatives—like acupuncture, yoga, and even hypnosis—to help their patients feel better.
In fact, pain is now among the most common reasons Americans turn to complementary and alternative medicine in the first place. To find out what works, we polled a handful of our top experts, including the grandfather of integrative medicine Andrew Weil, MD, founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center.
Whether you have lower-back pain, neck aches, arthritis, or fibromyalgia, to name only a few, we have the scoop on what therapies can offer you relief—without drugs.
What it’s good for: Back pain, osteoarthritis, tension headaches, fibromyalgia, neck pain, and surgery-related discomfort.
What the experts say: Sure, massages feel great, but they provide much more than a few “ahhhs” for people with back pain. “Massage therapy has been shown to boost levels of endorphins and serotonin—the body’s natural painkillers and mood regulators—and to reduce stress hormone levels,” says Dr. Weil. Massage therapy may also work at a molecular level, helping to turn on and off genes associated with inflammation, according to a recent study in Science Translational Medicine.
It’s showing promise for post-operation patients, as well. “We’ve conducted a number of studies on massage as a treatment for pain following surgery,” says Brent Bauer, MD, director of the Mayo Clinic’s Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program. “In each of these studies we have been able to demonstrate statistically significant reductions in pain, along with significant reductions in anxiety.” The results have been so compelling, he says, that massage therapy is now routinely available to all patients undergoing surgery at the Mayo Clinic.
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