A while back, we put together a blog post discussing the benefits of a holistic approach to pain management for surgical patients. That post has generated a number of questions about holistic pain management and what it looks like. Let's dig into that here.
For starters, a holistic approach in any medical specialty is one that seeks to treat the whole patient in body, mind, and spirit. It is the complete opposite of traditional Western medicine the prefers to zero-in on certain symptoms and deal with them exclusively.
GPs have been known to struggle to help certain patients manage pain effectively. Why? Because pain has so many causes. Furthermore, patient perceptions play a huge role in determining how debilitating pain is.
This is primarily why taking a holistic approach is better. Treating pain holistically goes beyond the mere symptom to delve into its root causes and how said causes are affecting the patient. Pain doctors look at the whole picture rather than just one tiny aspect of it.
At this point, we do not want you to confuse holistic pain management with a medication-free treatment. Doctors and patients may agree together to forgo pain medication in favor of other treatments. But that's not necessarily a given.
Medications are appropriate in many cases. Sometimes they are utilized exclusive of all other treatments, other times they are combined with things like physical therapy, exercise, dietary changes, etc.
Pain medications aside, one of the hallmarks of a holistic approach is utilizing alternative treatments in addition to pain medication or as a replacement for it. Alternative treatments are offered in a variety of forms. Here are some of the most common options pain management doctors tend to recommend:
The one thing all these treatments have in common is the goal of offering them as an alternative to pain medications. In Western medicine, prescription medications rule the day. So it can sometimes be difficult to convince GPs to try alternative treatments. That's where pain management clinics prove most beneficial.
As a specialty, pain management looks to dig deeper than symptoms alone. Digging deeper often leads pain management physicians to the realization that medication is not always the best avenue.
The holistic approach to pain management can include pain medications. But it is also likely to include alternative treatments as well. The idea is to treat the whole person, not just the pain.