CINCINNATI—If you’re finding no relief for that shoulder pain or “tennis elbow,” or that “out-of-whack” back keeps you from finishing your weeding, a University of Cincinnati (UC) physician says some non-traditional therapies might be good options.
Such therapies are based on the notion that the body has the ability to heal itself with just a little prompting, says Michael Bertram, MD, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation,
Prolotherapy, for example, can be traced back to the 1950s. This injection technique has caught enough attention in the U.S. to warrant federal funding for its study.
“Prolotherapy is based on the assumption that injuries we normally attribute to inflammation—injuries ending in ‘itis’—may really be caused by degraded tissue,” says Bertram. “By ‘redamaging’ that tissue, we force the body to respond to the point of injury by stimulating an inflammatory or healing response.”
In a session of prolotherapy, solutions of sugar water (dextrose) are injected into painful joints and soft tissues. The injections cause damage to weakened or degraded tissue, prompting the body to respond.
Another ‘non-traditional’ therapy for chronic pain is acupuncture. This practice, traced back to ancient China, uses the body’s own electrical charges to “rechannel” energy.
“Our cells are made up of positive and negative charges—like mini batteries,” says Bertram. “It is believed that through acupuncture, we can affect the body’s central nervous system which is also electrically based.”
Acupuncture techniques vary, but more modern practice involves placing tiny stainless steel needles into points on the body. Practitioners then use their hands or electrical stimulation to manipulate the needles, prompting the central nervous system to release pain-killing chemicals in the brain and spinal cord regions to block pain.
This therapy has been used to treat chronic pain ranging from migraine and lower back pain to fibromyalgia. It has also been used to treat sinusitis and gastrointestinal problems.
A 2002 survey by the National Institutes of Health estimated that 8.2 million U.S. adults have used acupuncture.