If you struggle with aches and pains that refuse to go away, you just might find relief with a long-practiced but relatively obscure alternative therapy called naprapathy.
Naprapathic medicine treats connective tissue pain by using hands-on manipulation, nutritional counseling, and, sometimes, therapies such as heat, ultrasound, or cold laser therapy. Connective tissue, which includes ligaments, tendons, and muscle, is the material inside the body that provides support to its many parts.
"Naprapathy is hands-on connective tissue manipulation therapy, plus nutritional counseling," says Dr. Paul Maguire, president of the National College of Naprapathic Medicine in Chicago.
"It's noninvasive, so there's no downside to it, and it's a feel-good type of treatment that gets results," Dr. Maguire says. Plus, it is a treatment that has been around for a long time, he adds, noting that his school is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
"Naprapathy is a gentle system of manipulation that can relieve the pinching of areas causing restriction to nerves," Dr. Maguire explains. It is designed to stretch connective tissue and relieve pain.
Conditions that may be helped by naprapathy include carpal tunnel syndrome, back pain, headaches, neck pain, knee strain, sciatica, shoulder pain, and tennis elbow, according to Dr. Maguire.
A recent study published in The Clinical Journal of Pain that included more than 400 people with back or neck pain found that those treated with naprapathic medicine were more likely to have symptom relief and less disability.
Compared to standard medical advice, which included staying active and learning pain coping strategies, treatment with naprapathic medicine was 27 percent more likely to cause a reduction in pain and 18 percent more likely to cause a reduction in the risk of disability, the study found.
Overall, those who underwent naprapathic treatments were 44 percent more likely to perceive that they were recovered than those in the standard group, according to the study.
Naprapathic practitioners are currently licensed in just two states - Illinois and New Mexico. Dr. Maguire says many practitioners become licensed in these states and then practice elsewhere, sometimes obtaining other licenses, such as massage therapy, in their own states.
"This therapy is on the fringe of medical treatment and seems to be picking up pieces that other modalities have left behind," says Dr. Gerard Varlotta, director of sports rehabilitation at New York University Medical Center.
Manual manipulation of connective tissue could be useful for conditions such as fibromyalgia, some rheumatological disorders, and in sports medicine.
But Dr. Varlotta offers some advice. "Make sure the practitioner is educated, and that what they say makes sense. If they promise to cure cancer, that's not what they're going to be doing.
"But, if you have realistic expectations, that they'll try to free up areas that have become restricted over time, that's reasonable," says Dr. Varlotta.
Always consult your physician for more information.
Pain is an unpleasant feeling that lets you know that something may be wrong. It is one of the body's warning signals indicating that a problem needs attention.
Pain starts in receptor nerve cells located beneath the skin and in organs throughout the body.
When there is an illness, injury, or other type of problem, these receptor cells send messages along nerve pathways to the spinal cord, which then carries the message to the brain.
Pain medications work by reducing or blocking these messages before they reach the brain.
Pain can be anything from a slight nuisance, such as a mild headache, to something excruciating and emergent, such as the chest pain that accompanies a heart attack.
Back pain is the most frequent cause of activity limitation in people younger than 45 years old.
Cancer pain affects the majority of patients in intermediate or advanced stages of cancer. About 1.4 million new cases of cancer are diagnosed each year in the US.
Arthritis pain affects nearly 47 million Americans each year.
The three most common types of chronic headaches are migraines, cluster headaches, and tension headaches.
Other pain disorders such as the neuralgias and neuropathies that affect nerves throughout the body, pain due to damage to the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord), as well as pain where no physical cause can be found - psychogenic pain - increase the total number of reported cases.
Chronic pain is long standing pain that persists beyond the usual recovery period or occurs along with a chronic health condition, such as arthritis. Chronic pain may be intermittent or continuous. It may affect people to the point that they cannot work, eat properly, participate in physical activity, or enjoy life.
A multidisciplinary approach to pain management can often provide the needed interventions to help manage the pain. Pain management programs are usually conducted on an outpatient basis.
Many skilled professionals are part of the pain management rehabilitation team.
A pain management rehabilitation program is designed to meet the needs of the individual patient, depending upon the specific type of pain, disease, or condition. Active involvement of the patient and family is vital to the success of the program.
The goal of pain management programs is to help the patient return to the highest level of function and independence possible, while improving the overall quality of life - physically, emotionally and socially. Pain management techniques assist in reducing the suffering experienced by a person with chronic pain.
Always consult your physician for more information.