When looking for ways to reduce your pain, there are more than options than you think.  How can complementary and alternative medicine help manage your pain?  

Pain is something that everyone experiences at some point in life. It is estimated that 20 to 50 percent of patients seeking treatment from their primary care provider report having chronic pain.  While pain medications play an important role in the management of symptoms, overuse can result in serious harm. NSAIDS when used excessively can cause damage to the kidneys and GI tract. Acetaminophen can damage the liver at high doses.3 Opioids carry the potential for abuse, may cause constipation and changes in mental status. Fortunately there are a number of other treatment options that can help with pain reduction.


Supplements and Herbal Medicine

There are a number of supplements and herbs that can reduce inflammation and provide pain relief. Some commonly used herbs include cayenne, turmeric, devil’s claw, and boswelia.  

Physical Medicine

There are a number of different manual therapies that can help in reducing pain. One widely used treatment is spinal manipulation. It is a technique that uses quick, directed movements to restore proper movement and function to the joints. If joints are not moving properly this can lead to local inflammation and pain.


Exercising to relieve pain may sound counterintuitive, but studies have shown that directed exercises have been able to improve low back pain symptoms. It is thought that exercise can actually help to lower inflammation and can modify the way that pain signals are processed in the body. 4


Acupuncture can be helpful in reducing pain and helping patients to quicker recovery. Treatments often include a variety of modalities ranging from needling specific acupuncture points, cupping, and tui na (a form of Chinese body work). Research studies have found acupuncture to be beneficial in treating back pain, neck pain, pain related to osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia. 2

Mind Body Medicine

Mind body medicine techniques can include meditation, imagery, biofeedback, and relaxation.  Studies performed by the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts, found that mindfulness meditation reduced chronic pain in 60% to 72% of patients.2


Before deciding which form of pain management is best for you consult a physician or health care provider.  For a personalized assessment of how best to treat your pain, make an appointment with Bastyr Center for Natural Health via our make an appointment page or by calling (206) 834-4100.


Virgil Tanizaki is a licensed naturopathic physician and acupuncturist practicing at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health. His clinic interests include primary care, men’s health, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, digestive wellness, and pain management.




1: Rosenquist, E. Overview of the treatment of chronic non-cancer pain. In: Uptodate, Sept. 2017

2: Khatta, M. A Complementary Approach to Pain Management. Topics in Advanced Practice Nursing eJournal. 2007;7(1) 

3: Publishing, H. H. (n.d.). 10 things you should know about common pain relievers. Retrieved September 27, 2017, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/12-things-you-should-know-about-pain-relievers

4. Hartigan, C., Rainville, J. Exercise-based therapy for low back pain. In: Uptodate, Aug 2017