Why you need a holistic approach to chronic pain management.
More than 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain (1). This condition can include anything that bothers you for longer than six months and can continue to affect you even after your injury has healed. If you experience this condition yourself or know of people who do, then you know how frustrating, lonely, and agonizing living with chronic pain can be. You have probably wandered around by yourself, asking physicians, friends, and Google for treatments that might help you manage your condition better. The solutions you found are not connected, and the only person who has a full view of your situation is you.
But here’s the thing: pain management requires an integrative, holistic approach. And you need a treatment plan that includes both traditional and complementary therapies. Here, we’re going to discuss what integrative care is, why it is needed in recovering from chronic pain, and how to start using it.
First things first - what exactly is integrative care?
In traditional Western medicine, treating chronic pain relies primarily on prescription drugs that are designed to temporarily suppress symptoms with little regard for other factors that might be contributing to the pain.
Compare that to an integrative, or "holistic," approach that includes appropriate prescription drugs to manage symptoms, but also utilizes non-invasive treatments that are focused on helping people create real, sustainable improvements in their pain levels and functioning (1). These complementary treatments can include areas in your life that are important but neglected by the traditional pain model, such as sleep, behavioral health, mental health, smoking, weight, etc.
Why a holistic approach is needed for chronic pain treatment
The traditional model of treating chronic pain patients using mainly prescription drugs and invasive procedures, such as surgeries and injections, doesn’t get to the root cause of most chronic pain. Pain researchers have established that chronic pain is best thought of as having biopsychosocial causes. In other words, one's body (bio), one’s psychological state (psycho), and one’s relations to other people (social) all can contribute to the experience of long-term pain.
An integrative, holistic chronic pain model addresses the multitude of underlying factors that could be perpetuating a patient’s pain (e.g., stress, diet, imbalances, etc.) By dealing with the drivers of pain from multiple angles and exploring potential factors that are standing in the way of recovery, a guided integrative approach can help you find the right mix of treatments that tone down your pain.
How is an integrative approach applied?
The first step in adopting an integrative approach is finding someone to help you navigate between the different therapies and treatments. It’s important that your care has all the right pieces AND that each piece is coordinated with the others. How often has a doctor told you that you need to lose weight, or sleep better, or eat healthier, or feel happier? And yet, in the end, you’re stuck on your own trying to figure out how in the world to make these changes.
A few people have a doctor or clinic that provides this kind of navigation. Alternatively, people are increasingly turning to online therapy and treatment centers for chronic pain, like Lin— an all-in-one chronic pain management platform. At Lin, based on a number of factors, such as your history, past treatments, and symptoms, a real person works with you to create an integrative plan specifically tailored to your unique needs and circumstances. More importantly, your navigational coach will know if it’s time to revise the care plan as you go through your journey.
Another challenge for many people who want a holistic approach to their pain care is that it can be hard to stick with a plan. Digital care navigation platforms, like Lin, help solve this challenge. Continuous interactions with your personal health coach help people not find a better path to managing their pain, but follow it all the way through.
The bottom line
Integrative, holistic care is truly what’s needed to create significant, sustainable changes in your pain levels. Walking this path alone can be confusing and difficult to manage, so don’t hesitate to seek support and guidance. Your partner in recovery can help guide you towards a healthier, happier, and more pain-free life so you can get back to doing more of the things you love.