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Although integrative pain therapy as an approach to the management of chronic pain is in its infancy, several recommendations are possible.

Based on current research and United States National Institutes of Health recommendations, the integration of psychological approaches (such as behavioral and relaxation therapies) with conventional medical treatment is strongly recommended for the successful treatment of chronic pain conditions. Some mind/body strategies, like biofeedback, hypnosis, and imagery, are already considered to be mainstream treatments by pain specialists. Others, such as meditation, Qigong, and yoga have extensive historical use and need more study to determine their exact role in an integrative program. The potential benefit of all these approaches is the ability to learn to regulate anxiety, improve coping, and possibly reduce pain.

Research also supports physical activity and exercise as a part of most treatment programs for chronic pain. For example, active back exercises can be effective in reducing pain intensity, pain frequency and disability, as well as in helping to prevent recurrences of back pain. Activity can be supported by conventional physical therapy and exercise approaches, or by a wide range of movement therapies.

There is strong support for a treatment strategy that combines therapies that address the physical, psychological and social aspects of chronic pain. Based on a slowly growing experience, the integration of complementary/alternative approaches with standard treatments may offer the best chance of addressing these broad concerns. The most common integrative approach combines traditional treatments-drugs, injections, physical therapy, and other strategies-with a mind-body approach and a therapy that involves movement and exercise. Other complementary/alternative approaches can be considered based on the individual needs, desires and resources of the patient. All patients should be educated about the range of options and the goals of treatment.

The interdisciplinary approach to chronic pain may involve not only traditional health care providers, including physicians, nurses, psychologists, and physical therapists, but integrative providers comfortable with the widest array of healing modalities, whether conventional or complementary, as well as specialists in specific complementary approaches.

A truly integrative approach to pain management requires good communication between health care practitioner and patient. The relative risks and benefits of all therapies, whether conventional or complementary --- and preferably the availability of approaches that are truly integrative---need to be fully evaluated by both the patient and their healthcare provider.

   

 

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