Options for the treatment of Chronic Pain: Part Four - Alternative Treatments

In this penultimate article in our series of treatments for chronic pain we will be looking at alternative treatments that have been used or are currently being tested..

We will be exploring a number of treatments that are readily available and some that will be available in the near future.

Near Infrared Light Therapy

One such treatment that has recently been tested in clinical trials with great success is near infrared light therapy or photobiomodulation, which is the medical term. This treatment isused to target neuropathic pain.Light therapy is the use of near infra-red light on the skin which targets the specific nerve endings in the skin, which cause the sensation of pain.

These nerve endings can cause the sufferer to experience hyper-sensitivity and stinging of the skin when in contact with wind or water or in some cases tight clothing. Symptoms tend to vary largely from person to person.

Research into light therapy discovered that there is a subpopulation of sensory neurons that produce a receptor called tropomyosin receptor kinase B (TrkB). It is these specific nerve endings that are responsible for transmitting signals that the brain associates with chronic pain. Researchers developed a light-sensitive chemical that attaches to TrkB and can be injected into the skin.

The chemical then attaches itself to these receptors and infra-red light is applied to the skin. Doing this causes the nerve endings to shrink away from the surface of the skin, resulting in reduced pain as the nerve endings are less likely to be triggered by contact with the skin.

Further studies into this are currently ongoing and we may see this treatment being offered as a treatment for chronic pain in the near future.

Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy is a treatment that is extremely common and is regularly used in the treatment of chronic pain. Physiotherapy is the manipulation of the muscles and joints of the body through carefully crafted exercises. Most people that have suffered an injury will be referred to a Physiotherapist at some point during their recovery. The aim of physiotherapy is to focus on the movement of the body and ensure that mobility is maintained in the joints and muscles, thereby keeping people active and stopping the body from locking up due to lack of movement.

You can now self refer for physiotherapy through your GP practice on the NHS, or it is possible to pay for this privately. A physiotherapist will work with you and your doctor to create a treatment plan that is specific to you and to your pain. Visit your GP to discuss this if you think physiotherapy may be helpful to you.

Weighted Blankets/Gravity Blankets

Many sufferers of chronic pain report that difficulty sleeping and reduced quality sleep is one of their most troublesome symptoms. Although not recommended for those suffering from hyper-sensitivity or those who find pressure on a limb or affected area to be painful, weighted blankets have been recommended for improving sleep and sleep quality alongside anxiety.

These blankets are specifically tailored to you and the ideal blanket weight is approximately 10% of your body weight. They are fully breathable and weighted with tiny glass beads sewn into pockets inside the blanket. Many people find that the increased weight of the blanket provides a calming effect which helps to eliminate generalised anxiety.

The increased weight of the blanket on the body is designed to increase production of serotonin in the brain which is a natural painkiller. The blankets can be purchased online and are made specifically to your body weight.

Cannabis Oil “CBD Oil”

A derivative of the addictive but illegal drug cannabis, CBD oil is one of the newest treatments on the scene and has proved to be quite successful according to some sufferers at targeting Chronic Pain. CBD oil is legal in the UK as the hallucinogens that cause the traditional ‘high’ experienced in the use of cannabis have been removed.

There is a range of opinion in regard to the effectiveness. Many believe that as the hallucinogenic properties are removed to make the oil legal in the UK that it isn’t as effective. However on the other hand many chronic pain sufferersswear by the use of CBD oil as a holistic or alternative medicine/ painkiller.

CBD oil can be purchased from pharmacies and health food shops, but we recommend that you should consult with your GP or other medical professional before using this. 

Massage

Chronic pain can be positively affected by treatments such as massage. Massage like physiotherapy is manipulation of the muscles. The benefits of massage include improved mood, reduced anxiety, and increased range of movement. Massage, much like weighted blankets, increases the brain’s production of serotonin which as explored previously, is a natural painkiller.

Massage in the treatment of chronic pain can be extremely effective for sufferers of conditions such as fibromyalgia and arthritis.

Hypnosis

Hypnosis is the teaching of subconscious communication between the brain and the body. It has the benefit of being completely medication free so the risk of addiction isn’t present as with other treatments discussed such as opioid painkillers.

Hypnosis is used to achieve a state of consciousness where the brain is focused and peripheral awareness of sensations like neuropathic pain is reduced. In this state it is possible in some to use “hypnotic suggestions” to train the brain into ignoring the sensations of pain when in a conscious state.

Some sufferers find this very effective, but again there is a range of differing opinion in regard to the effectiveness of such treatments. Like many alternative medicine and therapy techniques, there are limited scientific studies that prove any physical or psychological benefits. Some patients may experience a positive placebo effect and so therein may be a reason to not dismiss such treatments out of hand, a benefit is a benefit whether placebo or not.

Acupuncture

An alternative treatment derived from ancient Chinese medicine. Scientific studies are non-conclusive on the positive effects of this treatment, however many people with chronic pain swear by this form of treatment. Some specialist physiotherapy practices may use this in conjunction with massage and traditional physio techniques.

Acupuncture is becoming more and more common in recent years as a medical treatment for pain relief. Acupuncture is the use of extremely fine needles being tapped into pressure points under the skin in order to stimulate the sensory nerves and reduce pain.

The needles then produce a light tingling sensation in the nerves.   Acupuncture is not readily available on the NHS, and as such it is usually a private treatment. However, we would strongly recommend discussing this with your doctor beforehand.

Acupuncture therapy usually takes place over a number of sessions and lasts anywhere from 40 to 60 minutes. The effectiveness of it is subject to a lot of debate, with some believing the benefits are psychological with a positive placebo effect rather than anything physiological.

If you have any questions or feel that you may be experiencing chronic pain as a result of an accident or injury please do get in touch.

At Goughs, our specialist chronic pain lawyers are highly experienced and can help you understand your condition and will always seek the opinion of top medical experts and leading barristers to reinforce your claim.

This approach allows us to build a strong case, ensuring that you feel safe in the knowledge that we are in the best possible position to try to secure compensation that will assist you for the rest of your life.

We encourage you to take advantage of our free initial consultation and we will come to see you at home, at work or anywhere in England and Wales to discuss your claim on a no win no fee basis.

We take the time to really understand what you are going through and will explain exactly how we can help.

For further information on a wide range of chronic pain conditions please visit our chronic pain section. 

We listen, we advise, we are here for you.