Pain is a perception by the brain that signals a person that damage has taken place in the tissues or is taking place. The processes involved in this perception of pain in the body are called nociception. Pain can be acute or chronic: acute pain lasts only a short period; chronic pain lasts longer and may be experienced for months. There are various methods used in pain management and whose efficacy has been established.
As noted from Borins (2005), acupuncture is a form of complementary medicine that has been there for ages in the world. It involves insertion of needles at different anatomical points and aims at restoring and maintaining health by stimulating specific anatomical parts of the body using a variety of techniques. It has been established that acupuncture can be used to treat a number of medical conditions. The use of acupuncture is safe and relatively few complications have been reported when administered by a well-trained practitioner.
According to traditional complementary medicine, health is attained by maintaining the body in a balanced state. The imbalance in the body is what causes pain. Acupuncture works by relieving pressure, redirecting energy and promoting healing thereby balancing the negative and positive forces in the body. It has been established that acupuncture has been used to reduce pain and is being widely practiced by health practitioners to relieve or prevent pain in various conditions (Borins, 2005).
Mind- Body Medicine
The second article written by Gabriel et al. (2007) argues that the proposition underpinning this therapy is that the effects of meditation bring about changes in pain behaviors awareness. This creates flexible attention that enables an individual to understand their normal cognitive and emotional reactions to pain and allows them to adjust to more adaptive reactions. This change in cognitive and emotional processing away from habitual distress is related to better coping mechanisms, improved self efficacy and general alienation from stress. The relaxation that accompanies meditation is also another mechanism for treating pain and is often the aim of concentrative meditation techniques.
Hypnotherapy- Hypnosis provides another form of pain management. Hypnosis is a trance like state of mind where one is calmer, more focused relaxed and open to suggestions. Pain sensations and the disturbance of pain are decreased by the type of information passed on to the brain.
Massage therapy- Three theories explain the analgesic effects of massage as a pain therapy: restorative sleep hypothesis, gate theory and the serotonin hypothesis. The restorative sleep hypothesis proposes that because the neurotransmitter associated with pain is not transmitted in deep sleep, promoting sleep through massage inhibits the release of that substance and pain. Gate theory suggests that since pressure receptors are more myelinated and longer than pain receptors, massage will stimulate pressure signals that will be transmitted faster and close the gate for pain signals. The serotonin hypothesis maintains that massage increases serotonin levels, which is believed to modulate the pain control system (Gabriel et al, 2007).
Spinal manipulation and mobilization- this involves moving and placing a joint within or beyond the normal position. Spinal manipulation allows improved spinal movement that is supports intervertebral disks and joint cartilage.
Movement therapy-Other forms of systematic body movement of the body such as exercises have also been used for centuries to promote mental and physical balances.
According to ProQuest Central (2010), a key premise in homeopathy is that every individual has an inherent energy or a self healing mechanism. Health problems such as pain may develop when the energy is imbalanced. The goal of homeopathy is the use of remedies that stimulate a person’s healing response. The basis of this therapy is the law of “like cures like” principle. The theory proposes that if a certain substance in large doses can stimulate a response in a healthy person, smaller doses of the same substance can treat symptoms in a sick person. The homeopathy practitioner will therefore provide a smaller amount of the same substance that caused the symptoms to stimulate the healing response.
Indigenous Medical Systems
Many forms of traditional medicine have also been used in the management of pain. Traditional medical systems have been used as a source of health care around the globe for many centuries. Nature’s substances especially plants have been used by all indigenous cultures around the world to promote healing or alleviate pain. It is however important to understand the effects of combining traditional remedies with conventional remedies (ProQuest Central, 2010).
These can involve a change in diet or using dietary supplements such as vitamins, minerals and other substances. These approaches prevent pain or act by promoting pain relief and inflammation as a form of pain management strategy. Manipulating a diet may influence pain perception and inflammation. Essential fatty acids play different roles in the body including regulating the immune and inflammatory responses. Vitamins and minerals have therapeutic uses while enzymes influence chemical reactions some of which are pain inhibiting (Borins, 2005).
Energy therapies involve the use of electromagnetic fields such as magnetic fields, pulsed fields, and biofield therapies that are intended to influence the energy fields the surround and penetrate the human body (Gabriel et al, 2007).
Magnetic therapy- this form of therapy uses magnets and is based on the premise that magnets may influence pain transmission.
Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation- this therapy involves delivering low-level current through skin surface electrodes. This current engages electrical and neuro-chemical mechanisms that affect brain systems activity and mediate pain and pain modulation (Borins, 2005).