- Health Library
- Research a Disease or Condition
- Lookup a Symptom
- Learn About a Test
- Prepare for a Surgery or Procedure
- What to do After Being Discharged
- Self-Care Instructions
- Questions to Ask Your Doctor
- Nutrition, Vitamins & Special Diets
Alternative medicine - pain relief
Acupuncture - pain relief; Hypnosis - pain relief; Guided imagery
Alternative medicine refers to treatments that are used instead of conventional (standard) ones. If you use an alternative treatment along with conventional medicine or therapy, it's considered complementary therapy.
There are many forms of alternative medicine.
For many people, acupuncture is an effective means of relieving pain. This may be particularly true for back pain and headache pain. Acupuncture may also help relieve pain due to:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Childbirth (labor)
- Musculoskeletal injuries (for instance, to the neck, shoulder, knee, or elbow)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
How acupuncture relieves pain is not entirely clear.
Hypnosis is a focused state of concentration. Self-hypnosis (in which you repeat a positive statement over and over) or guided imagery (a technique to create relaxing images in your mind) may be simple but effective ways to reduce pain for many people.
Hypnosis is being considered for pain relief following surgery and during labor, as well as for pain due to:
Both acupuncture and hypnosis are often offered by pain management centers in the United States. Other non-drug methods used at such centers include:
- Relaxation training
- Physical therapy
Metz JM, Jones H. Complementary and alternative medicine. In: Abeloff MD, Armitage JO, Niederhuber JE, Kastan MB, McKenna WG, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 35.
Weinstein SM. Nonmalignant pain. In: Walsh D, Caraceni AT, Fainsinger R, et al, eds. Palliative Medicine. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 170.
Michelfelder AJ. Acupuncture for headaches. In: Rakel D, ed. Integrative Medicine. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 110.
Michelfelder AJ. Acupuncture for nausea and vomiting. In: Rakel D, ed. Integrative Medicine. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 111.
Gurgevich S. Self-hypnosis techniques. In: Rakel D, ed. Integrative Medicine. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 94.
Rossman ML. Guided imagery and interactive guided imagery. In: Rakel D, ed. Integrative Medicine. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 97.
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.