Controlling pain with alternative remedies

Meditation, Alexander Technique exercises and video games are some of the complementary therapies being practiced to keep pain in check.

Beyond drugs, beyond exercise, beyond simply getting better are other ways to control pain. Typically referred to as complementary alternative medicine, many people consider their use to be common sense.

  • At the top of the list is the ancient practice of meditation. A number of studies suggest it can help people feel less pain. In one study, published in May in the journal Pain, people who had some experience with mindful meditation were subjected to bouts of pain. Those who had more experience with meditating showed less activity in certain parts of their brain as they anticipated pain.
  • The Alexander Technique, which emphasizes body coordination and awareness, was shown to reduce pain in people with chronic or recurring low back pain. In that study, published in the British Journal of Medicine in 2008, 579 patients with lower back pain were randomly assigned to receive normal care, massage, six Alexander Technique lessons or 24 Alexander Technique lessons. Half of each group were also randomly assigned to an exercise program. Those who combined exercise with Alexander Technique lessons had less pain than those in other groups.
  • Video games presented in a virtual reality format have potential as well, helping children feel less pain while being stuck with an intravenous needle. In that research, some children wore a helmet that covered their head and showed an engaging game while a control group of kids went through standard care. All children were blocked from seeing their arms. The control group had a fourfold increase in pain intensity compared with the children who watched the video games.

Jeffrey Gold, director of the Pediatric Pain Management Clinic at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, presented the study at the American Pain Society’s annual scientific conference last year and says there may be more at work than a significant distraction. Gold is now conducting a study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, that uses functional MRIs to test the effects of virtual reality on the brain.

“Virtual reality is not a panacea — you’re going to have to practice this and create new patterns in the brain,” Gold says. “If you’re able to train a person over several sessions, you may change the neurochemistry, and that’s going to have a more permanent effect on the brain’s ability to modulate pain.”

[Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times]
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4 Comments. Leave new

  • Exercise has been one of the best ways for me to deal with my back pain. Yoga especially has been very helpful. Maybe this is because it combines meditation and exercise, as well as increasing strength and flexibility.

  • Exercise helps me, yoga stretches, too (no backbends, tho’). Best of all has been hubby Jack Elias’ hypnotherapy technique. His blog about helping me w/ my back pain: May it be of benefit!

  • Mark Josefsberg
    July 5, 2010 6:35 am

    If you have pain, definitely try the Alexander Technique. There are teachers all over the world, and it’s a logical, proven method. Very often we’re causing our own stress and tension, leading to pain. The solution lies within us; doing everyday activities in an easier way.

  • I agree that you can manage pain through meditation and other alternative techniques. I use stretching and meditation along with Tai Chi to control my back pain. Check this article on Meditation ( which gives some background to meditation and exercise.



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