Why Look At Alternative Treatments To Pain Medications?
By Dr. Mitchell Yass – Stop the Pain, I Want My Life Back
After being in the physical therapy field for over 18 years, I believe there is a general consensus that using narcotic, addictive drugs to address chronic pain is a bad choice.
But what comes next is very confusing to me. A debate then ensues about what is the better alternative to these drugs; meditation, massage, vitamin therapy, acupuncture, etc. Now, it is not to say that these types of therapy are not less dangerous than taking narcotic medication and that they might have some capacity to minimize the awareness of pain, but they do nothing to actually identify and treat the cause of pain. These types of therapy still make no attempt to identify which tissue is creating the pain signal and resolve the distress of tissue thereby ending the pain signal. They are very general in nature. They are somewhat generic versus being very specific to the tissue that is creating the pain signal.
One of the reasons that these types of treatments remain as often used replacements to pain medication is the false premise that the medical establishment has correctly determined the cause of the pain through a diagnostic test such as an x-ray or MRI. Once these tests identify the cause of pain as a herniated disc, arthritis, stenosis, degenerative disc disease, a rotator cuff or meniscal tear, these types of treatments are proposed because the only real way to address these types of diagnoses is surgery as suggested by the very physicians who diagnosed this cause and magically also perform the surgery. Nobody wants surgery so these alternative treatments are attempted. When they don’t work, the physician notes that the person has tried everything and now surgery is the only option.
The problem using the x-ray or MRI as the gold standard for identifying the cause of pain is they have been proven to be invalid. In fact, the American College of Physicians has recommended that x-rays or MRIs no longer be used to identify the cause of back pain because in 85% of cases of patients coming to a primary care physician their pain could not be attributed to a spinal abnormality such as a herniated disc, stenosis or degenerative disc disease. These tests do not achieve the ultimate goal of diagnostics; they do not identify what tissue is creating the pain signal. Pain being a signal of a tissue in distress must be perceived as just that; a signal. It is not a separate entity to be treated. The tissue in distress needs to be corrected with an intervention to cause the pain signal to end. If a person has pain from a kidney stone, pass the stone and the pain passes. If a person has stomach pain from eating bad fish, get rid of the bad fish and the pain resolves. Pain at the neck, back or peripheral joint is the same premise. I have proven that the tissue creating the pain signal in most cases is a muscle. Unfortunately, MRIS and x-rays don’t pick up muscle strains, spasms or tightness. Targeted strength training is the only true method to resolving pain from muscle.
It is not to say that those who provide these alternative types treatments for pain are not good people with good intentions, it is simply that the only way to resolve most pain is to identify what tissue is creating the pain signal and resolve the distress of that tissue. Treating pain can only lead to a prolonged experience of pain.
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