Complementary therapies to help relieve pain

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Probably works as a counter irritant to help shut down the pain gates and by stimulating the release of endorphins, the body's own painkilling chemicals. Numerous studies show that it helps relieve headache, migraine, lower back pain and muscle joint and bone pain, but do ask the acupuncturists about his success rates with your type of pain. Contact the British Acupuncture Council on 0108735 0400.

Is a powerful natural medicine - aspirin and morphine originate from plants. Feverfew, shown in scientific studies to alleviate pain, is used by many migraine sufferers, and capsaicin (which puts the heat in chillies) is incorporated into prescription medicines for arthritis. Herbal remedies are not tested as rigorously as drugs, so always consult a qualified herbalist via the National Institute for Medical Herbalists on 01392 426022

Have been found to have many beneficial qualities and help to control the pain volume. Massage with aromatherapy oils promotes relaxation, relieves pain by rubbing and reduces muscle tension as well as lifting your mood, and some oils may be effective in providing short-term pain relief. To find a qualified practitioner contact the Aromatherapy Organizations Council on 020 8251 7912 

Helps relaxation and relieves muscle tension, which may be causing pain, by teaching you to move and use your body correctly. Research shows it can help alleviate lower back pain and arthritis symptoms and it may help with general pain relief, particularly for stress- related conditions such as headaches. Contact the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique on 02073510828.

Pain is stressful and the more anxious become, the worse your pain feels. Experts have identified a pain cycle where the physical problems of pain. Learning to let go of that tension breaks the cycle. All or one of the following techniques should help:

Hundreds of studies have shown that meditation relieves anxiety and depression and promotes deep relaxation. Most people find it helpful to learn the technique first from a qualified teacher, ask in your library about local groups or contact Transcendental Meditation on 0990143733.

Invest in a relaxation tape or try this simple method, find somewhere quiet and comfortable to lie, close your eyes and then, starting with your toes, first tense and then relax each muscle group in turn throughout your body. Take your time and keep going until you work your way up to your head. Then tense your whole body and relax. Wait for a few minutes before opening your eyes and getting up.

This induces an extreme form of relaxation that calms your conscious mind and allows your subconscious to become more sensitive to messages that help relieve stress and anxiety and assist pain relief. Once you've learned the technique from a qualified therapist you can use it for self-hypnosis. Contact the National Register of Hypnotherapists and Psychotherapists (01282716839) or the British Society of Medical and Dental Hypnosis (0170955458).

Imagining your body fighting pain both aids relaxation and helps you feel more in control. Sit or lie comfortably in a quiet room, close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. Confront your pain directly by focusing your mind on the area of your body where you feel it most. Imagine it slowly ebbing away or think of it as a flaming fire that you can douse with cool, soothing water.

An excellent way of promoting relaxation which is especially helpful for relieving anxiety and stress. It may help relieve back pain directly as it strengthens and stretches the lower back and spine. Ask at your local library  about courses or contact The British Wheel of Yoga on 01529303233 to find out about teachers near you. 


Other treatments to try

A TENS machine is probably the most familiar but ail these treatments can be bought and used safely at home.

TENS - (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) 
Involves placing electrodes carrying low voltage electrical stimulation on to painful areas, blocking messages to the brain and encouraging the release of endorphins. Some people experience pain relief only while the machine is switched on, although others find it lasts for several hours afterwards. Small enough to be worn under clothes, it costs from 50 and is available through Boots and other electrical retailers.

TSE - (transcutaneous spinal analgesia)
Is similar to TENS but uses a small electrical current to stimulate the spine directly. It has been shown to help back, neck, post operative and arthritis pain and becomes more effective the longer it's used. Cost: 99   (plus VAT); contact Advanced Pain Management on 01254611431

Is a new treatment using low frequency electromagnetic waves emitted by a small hand-held battery operated unit held close to the area of pain. The waves probably stimulate the release of natural pain suppressants and decrease the levels of stress hormones. Help with back pain, migraine, joint and muscle pain, and shingles. Cost: 154.95 (plus VAT); further information from Snowden Ltd. on 08700771772.

Where to find more help?
For a fact sheet on coping with chronic pain:

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