Chronic pain: complementary therapies

Wednesday 30th July

Find out which complementary therapies may help provide pain relief.

There are so many different types of pain that we deal with day to day. From headaches and migraines, to muscular aches and pains, lower back pain and period pain, we all have different ways of coping. If you don't want to reach for over-the-counter remedies such as paracetamol or ibuprofen – and these are not suitable for everyone – then a complementary therapy may present an attractive proposition.

Take a look at some of the suggestions below as a taster (rather than an exhaustive list). Anyone with an ongoing health issue is advised to speak to their GP first before trying a complementary therapy, as it may not be suitable for them.

Symptomatic pain relief

Acupuncture and acupressure:
Acupuncture (needling certain pressure points on the body) and acupressure (applying manual pressure to the same points) are proven to be particularly effective for lower-back pain. There is also some scientific evidence to support their use for migraine sufferers.

Gentle manipulation techniques such as massage can ease pain in the short term. It relaxes both mind and body, relieving muscle tension and releasing endorphins which are the body's natural painkillers.

Mind and body therapies:
These include self-hypnosis and hypnotherapy which help the individual to block or transform their pain by means of visualisation or refocusing. Additional therapies such as regular yoga and meditation use relaxation techniques to help reduce stress-related pain.

TENS machines:
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (known as TENS) delivers small electrical pulses via electrodes attached to the skin. The patient feels a tingling sensation, which stimulates the production of endorphins and prevents pain signals reaching the brain. These battery-operated machines are commonly used during labour and can also be used for back pain and arthritic pain.

Further information

Read more about complementary and alternative medicine along with topics on keeping healthy in our a healthier you section. You can also find out about the CAM therapies, including acupuncture, that are covered by our cash plans.