Talking About Pain: Alternative Therapy Options

Oct 28, 2018 by

You can have me read this article to you instead of reading it yourself…



Or you can read it the old-fashioned way below…



In my previous articles on pain, we covered the OTC and prescription medication options that are available, as well as the natural products that can be considered.

Now we are going to jump in to the topic of alternative therapies!

Alternative Therapies

When I refer to alternative therapies, I am referring to a wide range of non-substance treatment options, including yoga, meditation, acupuncture, and more.

Just as with natural products, it is important to recognize that we don’t know as much about the effectiveness of these treatment options as we would like to. Although some of them may have been widely used for thousands of years, the research to show that they really do work is simply not there yet.

But the good news with these treatment options is that they are generally quite safe. This means that even if we aren’t certain they will help, we don’t have to be worried that they will make things worse. If any of these treatments have safety concerns associated with them (very few), I will be sure to point them out.


Acupressure is a common treatment in traditional Chinese medicine which involves applying pressure to certain points in the body. These points are thought to be connected to other parts of the body by meridians. Applying pressure in a seemingly unrelated place is intended to relieve a symptom in another part of the body.

There seems to be some decent evidence showing that acupressure can work to treat back pain. But it has not been studied for treating any type of GI pain. Because acupressure is typically conducted in a spa-like setting, some of the benefits from acupressure may be relaxation-based. And because GI pain can often have a psychological component, there is nothing wrong with seeking that out! Acupressure should be very safe, so it might be an option worth trying for many people.


Acupuncture is another common treatment in traditional Chinese medicine. It is similar to acupressure, except that needles are applied to certain points on the body instead of applying pressure. Some acupuncture practitioners also use heat or electric currents in place of needles.

Some studies seem to show that acupuncture can treat different types of pain, including back pain, knee pain, migraine, and more. When acupuncture is compared to fake acupuncture, it doesn’t always seem to be better than the fake acupuncture. But there is still a significant amount of benefit even when a person is receiving fake acupuncture, which is impressive! Unfortunately, there haven’t been any good studies conducted to see if it works for GI conditions or GI pain specifically.

Just as with acupressure, acupuncture is typically conducted in a spa-like setting, so some of the benefits may be relaxation-based. But again, that’s probably a great thing! Addressing anxiety and stress can work wonders on GI pain, making acupuncture an attractive option for many people.

Safety Note

The main risks that come with acupuncture come from the needles themselves. Infections have been spread from these needles in the past. Ensure that your acupuncturist is using only new needles in a sterilized, unopened package. Also, don’t allow placement of any needles into your chest. There have been frightening reports of death due to a needle puncturing the heart or lung when placed incorrectly. Otherwise, acupuncture seems to be quite safe when these two concerns are addressed.


Chiropractic is a traditional therapy that focuses on the spine. Although chiropractors might claim to be able to treat other conditions, the truth is that they are only trained in working on the spine. It is very important to recognize that they do not have any training which provides them the knowledge to recommend supplements, diets, prescription medications, or anything else. In addition, the science of chiropractic is focused only on the spine. Claims that it can treat completely unrelated conditions have never been proven. So beware!

As you might expect with a therapy that focuses on the spine, chiropractic seems to work for treating back pain. Unfortunately, it has never been studied for treating GI pain. Although some chiropractors may claim to be able to treat GI conditions through spinal manipulation, this claim is not based in science.

Safety Note

It is also important to make sure that no chiropractor ever performs any manipulations on your neck. There have been frightening cases of death, stroke, and blood vessel rupture after neck manipulation. Play it safe and only allow a chiropractor to work on your back if you choose to see one.


We are all familiar with massages! Believe it or not, there have actually been studies to evaluate whether or not massage is helpful for treating pain. These studies have mostly focused on back pain, with some studies looking at other forms of pain. In all, it seems that massage might be helpful for relieving pain, although the benefits are short-lived.

Even though we don’t have any studies that have evaluated massage for GI pain, it is easy to see why it would be hard to touch GI pain with a massage. However, massage is a very safe therapy option, so there is no harm in trying. And just as with acupuncture and acupressure, the relaxation that can come with massage might be beneficial for GI symptoms on its own.


Meditation is an ancient art that focuses on training the mind to free itself from clutter and focus on a relaxed state of being. There are many different forms of meditation that have been developed in different cultures over the years, including mindfulness-based meditation, transcendental meditation, and concentrative meditation. But they all have a similar goal – tackling stress, anxiety, and overwhelm by clearing the mind and resetting a person’s focus.

Studies have shown that meditation can work well in the treatment of anxiety. It has also been shown to be helpful in treating back pain. As we already know, treating anxiety can dramatically improve GI symptoms, so this is something worth considering. And while we have limited information on using meditation to treat GI conditions, there was one small study in people with IBS that shows that meditating twice daily for 15 minutes at a time can reduce IBS symptoms.

If you feel overwhelmed, anxious, or stressed by your life or your chronic GI condition (or both!), then meditation is a very safe and simple therapy to consider trying.


Yoga is an ancient Indian practice that uses exercise to control breathing and body posturing. You may notice some similarities between yoga and meditation – they often go hand in hand. Both of these therapies have the common goal of tackling stress, anxiety, and overwhelm by clearing and refocusing the mind.

There have actually been quite a few studies that have evaluated whether or not yoga can work to treat many different conditions. Yoga seems to help people to manage stress, depression, and back pain. Unfortunately, studies on GI-specific pain are lacking. There is some research in people with IBS, but while some studies have found that yoga can help improve symptoms, other studies have found that it does not help.

Although the jury is out on whether or not yoga is beneficial for managing GI pain, it might be beneficial for managing stress and depression. It is also a very safe and physically beneficial exercise. This might be a great option for many people that are looking for alternative ways to manage their pain.


Many people find that they must try a mix of different therapies in order to get their pain under adequate control. This mix might include any combination of prescription medications, natural products, and alternative therapies. For some people, alternative therapies alone can do the trick. Either way, most people will have to try a number of different options before finding the individualized regimen that works best for them.

Now that we’ve discussed the various treatment options available for managing chronic pain, it’s time to talk about how you can be taken seriously, and get what you need, when you are seeking treatment.

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