Popular complementary health approaches like yoga, tai chi and acupuncture are effective tools for helping manage chronic pain, say a group of scientists from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) at the National Institutes of Health who published their findings in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
The new findings give primary care providers evidence-based data to guide recommendations on complimentary approaches to help manage pain.
“For many Americans who suffer from chronic pain, medications may not completely relieve pain and can produce unwanted side effects. As a result, many people may turn to nondrug approaches to help manage their pain,” said Richard L. Nahin, Ph.D., NCCIH’s lead epidemiologist and lead author of the analysis. “Our goal for this study was to provide relevant, high-quality information for primary care providers and for patients who suffer from chronic pain.”
The scientists culled over randomized clinical trial data from the past 50 years that were relevant to pain patients and met inclusion criteria. The review included seven approaches used for one or more painful conditions, including, back pain, osteoarthritis, neck pain, fibromyalgia, and severe headaches and migraine. A total of 105 trials were included in the review.
The researchers found promise in the following for safety and effectiveness in treating pain:
- Acupuncture and yoga for back pain
- Acupuncture and tai chi for osteoarthritis of the knee
- Massage therapy for neck pain with adequate doses and for short-term benefit
- Relaxation techniques for severe headaches and migraine.
“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,” said David Shurtleff, Ph.D., deputy director of NCCIH. “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.”