Other Therapies & Strategies
According to the World Health Organisation, acupuncture can be used to treat neurological pain, musculoskeletal pain and many types of sporting injuries. Many studies have shown it is an effective treatment for chronic pain, and there is a lot of anectodal evidence to support this. Find out more
Dietary changes can have a dramatic effect on pain symptoms. Maintaining a healthy weight can improve some chronic pain conditions, particularly for people with osteoarthritis or other musculoskeletal pain. Weight loss can be achieved by modifying your diet and reducing your intake of saturated fats and sugars. Daily low-impact exercise will also help. For others, a diet that reduces inflammation in the body can help with pain relief. Some also find a low-gluten diet helpful.
Hydrotherapy can be very useful in treating many different types pain conditions. A hydrotherapy pool is heated to around 35 degrees Celsius which allows you to fully relax. Increased buoyancy allows for greater ease of movement and exercise than is permitted on land. Increased temperature and hydrostatic pressure enhances circulation and flexibility and decreases swelling. The benefits of hydrotherapy include pain relief, reduction in muscle spasm, increased joint range of motion, strengthening of weak muscles and increased circulation.
Medicinal cannabis: Chronic non-cancer pain
This fact sheet summarises the evidence and clinical guidance in the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s (TGA) Guidance for the use of medicinal cannabis in the treatment of chronic non-cancer pain in Australia. There has been increasing interest in recent years regarding medicinal cannabis*. However, there is a limited body of evidence to support its efficacy and safety in clinical practice.1–3 While anecdotal reports, animal data and some research on human subjects have suggested some therapeutic potential, there is insufficient evidence from high quality studies, such as randomised controlled trials (RCTs), for most conditions.2 In response the TGA has published guidance documents to assist health professionals and patients in the use of medicinal cannabis, including the document for chronic non-cancer pain (CNCP). Note that medicinal cannabis is not recommended as a first line treatment in any condition. Prescribing should always be considered on a case-by-case basis and once all other standard approved treatments have been unsuccessful...READ MORE
Federal laws legalising the cultivation and manufacture of medicinal cannabis products in Australia were passed in February 2016, and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has reclassified cannabis from being a prohibited substance to a controlled drug. However, there has been limited research on cannabis and pain, and growing it at home is still illegal. If you wish to access medicinal cannabis, you can participate in clinical trials; use the TGA’s special access scheme; or use the TGA’s Authorised Prescriber Scheme. Further details are on the TGA’s website www.tga.gov.au/accessing-unapproved-products and you can find out more about medicinal cannabis here.
Rehabilitation counsellors work with people with a disability, health condition or social issue which adversely impacts their lives. They aim to facilitate independence, participation in the community and personal wellbeing, and are often involved in getting injured people back to work. For more information visit www.asorc.org.au.
TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. It is a drug-free therapy that can be helpful in reducing many types of pain. The pain relieving benefits of TENS therapy are comparable to massage, acupuncture, heat packs, over-the-counter analgesics and muscle relaxants. TENS can be self-administered at home and on demand with a TENS machine. For more information download the TENS fact sheet.
Alexander Technique (AT)
AT is an individualised approach to help people recognise and understand the impact of poor posture on the body. With the help of an AT teacher, people are taught to be aware of their posture, and to change poor habits into good ones, in order to improve movement. AT works on the cause of loss of physical function, not the effects of it, and has proven results in improving low back pain. To find out more visit www.austat.org.au or read about 52 reasons to try AT
The Feldenkrais Method® is based on movement education. With the help of a Feldenkrais Practitioner, people learn to understand their particular habits of thinking, feeling, sensing and acting. The aim is to improve efficiency of body movement and increased consciousness of how it works. For people with chronic pain, Feldenkrais has proven ability to decrease pain and improve wellbeing and physical functioning. For more information visit www.feldenkrais.org.au and to find an accredited Feldenkrais Practitioner call 1800 001 550.
Low-Level Laser Therapy
LLLT uses LED light to reduce pain and promote tissue healing by blocking pain nerves and reducing inflammation, leading to a reduction in central sensitisation and improved circulation. It can be helpful for musculoskeletal pain, migraine, fibromyalgia, nerve pain and neuropathies including shingles and trigeminal neuralgia. Read more about LLT in The Lancet. There are LLT clinics in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
Mindfulness is a special kind of awareness. It is achieved by learning to become aware of all your thoughts, feelings and body sensations in each moment, including pain. It involves learning to accept all of this without reacting to it and therefore becoming less overwhelmed by it. To find out more, click here. You can find a mindfulness course at mindfulnessworksaustralia.com.au.
Resources: Mindfulness (NSW ACI), Online course (Breathworks)
A good night’s rest will help you cope with pain. While it may be difficult to achieve, there are things that can help. If you are having problems sleeping, try implementing a bedtime ritual, and keep your bedroom peaceful and relaxing. Meditation and mindfulness can also help.
Resources: Pain and Sleep (NSW ACI), Tips for a Good Night Sleep (Sleep Health Foundation)
TRE (Stress, Tension & Trauma Release Exercises) is based on the understanding that the neuromuscular system often immobilises the body through tension as a defensive response to stress, and that ongoing pain signals can be part of that immobility response. TRE allows people to physically release stress and tension, which can result in pain relief. Find out more at www.treaustralia.com.au
Complementary medicines can be used in conjunction with or instead of traditional medical treatment. There is some evidence to suggest it can help with the management of chronic pain for some people. Chinese medicine practitioners, naturopaths and herbalists will help you find out more. You can also download the NSW ACI Complementary & Alternative Medicine (CAM) fact sheet.
Meditation & Relaxation
Meditation and relaxation techniques help calm the mind and body. When muscles are relaxed, there is less pressure on nerves and body tissues, and this provides a natural form of pain relief. By practicing meditation and relaxation techniques daily, your body will become used to the experience of calm and it will become easier for you to achieve this state. You may wish to try guided Buddhist or other meditation, or use simple strategies at home.
Resources: Relaxation (NSW ACI), Relaxation Exercise (painHEALTH)
Massage can ease pain by increasing blood flow to sore, stiff joints and muscles and by speeding up the flow of oxytocin, a hormone that relaxes muscles and reduces stress and anxiety. When looking for a massage therapist, make sure they have experience in pain relieving techniques.
Music & Literature
Research has found that listening to music and reading literature can lower pain intensity and improve overall wellbeing. Music can reduce anxiety, fear, depression, pain-related distress and blood pressure, while literature can trigger pain-free memories and send new pain-free messages to the body. The type of music doesn’t matter; as long as you listen to music you enjoy.
Spinal Cord Stimulation
Spinal cord stimulation is a pain treatment that sends an electrical impulse to the spinal cord to block pain signals travelling up to the brain, using implanted electrodes that are connected to a spinal cord stimulator (small battery-operated device). Download our Spinal Cord Stimulation fact sheet or read more on the Victoria Pain Specialists website.
Yoga can reduce symptoms of pain, build confidence and provide physical activity, meditation and an opportunity for self-care. Once appropriate yoga techniques are learnt, people can use them daily as part of their pain management regime, while group yoga can help build a sense of connection with the community. It is important to find a Yoga Practitioner trained in pain management. You can find a Yoga for Pain practitioner here: www.yogaforpaincare.com. Find out more:
How to use yoga for pain relief (Talks at Google)