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Alternative medicine - pain relief

Alternative Names

Acupuncture - pain relief; Hypnosis - pain relief; Guided imagery

Information

Alternative medicine refers to treatments that are used instead of conventional (standard) ones. If you use an alternative treatment along with conventional medicine or therapy, it is considered complementary therapy.

There are many forms of alternative medicine.

Acupuncture involves stimulating certain acupoints on the body using fine needles or other methods. How acupuncture works is not entirely clear. It is thought that acupoints lie near nerve fibers. When acupoints are stimulated, the nerve fibers signal the spinal cord and brain to release chemicals that relieve pain.

Acupuncture is an effective means of relieving pain, such as for back pain and headache pain. Acupuncture may also help relieve pain due to:

Hypnosis is a focused state of concentration. With self-hypnosis, you repeat a positive statement over and over.

Hypnosis may help relieve pain for:

Both acupuncture and hypnosis are often offered by pain management centers in the United States. Other non-drug methods used at such centers include:

  • Massage
  • Relaxation training
  • Physical therapy

References

Cassuleth B, Gubilli J. Complementary and alternative medcines. In: Walsh D, Caraceni AT, Fainsinger R, et al, eds. Palliative Medicine. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 182.

Charlson M. Complementary and alternative medicine. In: In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 38.

Horton A, MacPherson H. Acupuncture for chronic pain: is acupuncture more than an effective placebo? A systematic review of pooled data from meta-analyses. Pain Pract. 2010;2:94-102.

White JD. Complementary and alternative medicine. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, et al., eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2013:chap 33.

Updated: 10/29/2013

Joseph V. Campellone, M.D., Department of Neurology, Cooper University Hospital, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


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