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The Drug-Free, Non-Surgical Therapy That's Curing Chronic Pain


Did you know 1 in 4 Americans have suffered from pain lasting more than 24-hours? In fact, pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined.

Pain is a huge problem in our society. Not only do millions of people suffer from muscle and joint pain every day, but chronic pain is the most common cause of long-term disability. Financially, pain costs us billions of dollars every year in healthcare expenses, time-off from work and/or school, funding for development of new treatments and therapies, decreased quality of life, and even deaths. 

Pain affects mortality

Pain-related deaths are mostly from the pain treatments. Many of us know at least one person currently taking prescription pain medication right now-oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and fentanyl to name a few. Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US, with 52,404 lethal drug overdoses in 2015. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers.

Latest evidence on cortisone pain-relief injections

Newer studies find cortisone injections to be no better at pain-relief than placebo. If they do reduce pain, it is only another temporary fix for pain-relief and may cause additional damage with repeated use. Repeated cortisone injections can cause bone loss and further tissue and nerve injury.

True cause of most muscle and joint pain

Weakened ligaments and tendons are the cause of most muscle and joint pain. These tissues are like the "glue" that attach your muscles and bones together. There are many reasons why ligaments and tendons can become weak. The most common causes are trauma, activities causing overuse, decrease production of collagen, aging, improper nutrition, autoimmune triggers and even certain medications. Naturopathic doctors can address all those potential factors and more. Once we take the steps to strengthen weakened tissues, then there is a high likelihood your pain will resolve. 

The opioid-free and non-surgical game-changer: Prolotherapy and Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP)

Prolotherapy, formerly called sclerotherapy, is not a new or quack therapy. Physicians began using it in the 1930s for treating injuries and healing pain. Since then, many clinical studies demonstrate prolotherapy as an effective treatment for arthritis, joint injuries, and more! Prolotherapy works by precise injection of a mild irritant solution into the site of torn, stretched, or weakened ligament and/or tendon. The solution stimulates the body's natural healing response and allows for new tissue to grow in the weakened area. This leads to stronger ligaments and/or tendons, decreased pain, and increased mobility. Prolotherapy is given as a series of injections, given every 4-6 weeks, until the injury has either fully healed or significantly improved.
PRP Therapy works similarly to prolotherapy, except, the solution injected into the tissues is a blood product obtained from the patient by withdrawing their blood and using a centrifuge to separate platelet-rich plasma from the whole blood. The platelet-rich plasma contains growth factors and immune cells, which may promote faster healing and tissue regeneration. As such, there are usually less injections given; however, office visits are typically longer and more expensive than prolotherapy. PRP injections are best for moderate to severe injuries, and for those who may be allergy-sensitive since PRP comes from the patient's own body.

Finding a Prolotherapy/PRP practitioner

A variety of doctors can undergo professional training and certification to provide prolotherapy and PRP, such as: osteopathic doctors, naturopathic doctors, medical doctors and chiropractors. People can find prolo doctors in their area by simple online search or use of online directories for prolotherapy and PRP. 

Additional non-surgical and non-drug therapies for pain-relief

Other evidence-based and effective pain-relief options include the following, but not limited to:

- Naturopathic Medicine: herbs, supplements, diet, homeopathy, physical medicine
- Acupuncture
- Chiropractics
- Exercise therapy
- Hydrotherapy
- Pain Education

Speak with your healthcare provider about drug-free and non-surgical options for your pain-relief. If you have a healthcare provider who is unable to counsel you on the options outside of drug and surgical interventions, then it's time to find a doctor who can. There are always options!  

Resources (pdf):

* National Institutes of Health Pain Management
* Use of Complementary Healthy Approaches for Musculoskeletal Pain Disorders Among Adults: United States, 2012
* American Society of Addiction Medicine: Opioid Addiction 2016 Facts & Figures

Revée "Dr. Ray" Barbour, ND, MS is a naturopathic and primary care doctor in the Sacramento area.
She may be reached online or at her Sacramento Office (916) 446-2591.


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