Integrative Approaches to Chronic Pain Management

Chronic pain is a debilitating condition that is often invisible, which makes it tragically misunderstood. People are told all the time that, “It’s all in your head,” or, “if you just …,” with all manner of suggestions on how to alleviate the pain. Unfortunately, most of those suggestions just plain don’t work. However, the techniques of integrative medicine can sometimes help.


What Is Integrative Medicine?


It’s a collection of techniques that are outside the realm of “traditional medicine.” That does not, however, mean that they’re without merit. Of course, there will always be quackery and outlandish claims of healing, such as the failure of laetrile in treating cancer. But, practices like acupuncture, herbal medicine, and meditation techniques all have both merit and a positive effect.


The most important thing to remember when it comes to integrative medicine is that it is not designed as a replacement for traditional medicine. Read that again. Rather, the techniques are best used as a compliment to traditional medicine. Many of them are for focusing the mind and providing relief from pain. A few, such as acupuncture and Chinese herbalism, are thousands of years old. That means that they predate “traditional medicine.”


Integrative Medicine for Chronic Pain


In 2018, Vickers, et al., published an analysis of acupuncture for chronic pain that focused on the results of 39 studies in which nearly 30,000 patients who experienced chronic pain participated. They concluded that acupuncture was effective in the general treatment of chronic pain. Of course, there would be situations where it was ineffective, contraindicated, or both, but in the vast majority of cases, it helped.


In 2021, Yun, et al., performed a similar analysis of herbal medicines for chronic pain. One such medicine was Corydalis yanhusuo, which is a flowering perennial of the Northern Hemisphere. This plant contains 160 compounds, many of which are effective at treating pain. Indeed, herbalists in China have been using it as such for more than 7,000 years. More importantly, YHS, as it’s known, is not known to develop tolerance, meaning that people who take it are not prone to develop substance use disorder with it.


Yoga is another integrative technique that is effective at treating chronic pain. As Harvard University points out, it helps with pain associated with fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, and chronic lower back pain, such as that from degenerative discs.


These methods are useful for treating the chronic pain associated with cancer, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, migraines, and assorted conditions of the bones, joints, and connective tissues.




Despite its many detractors, integrative medicine is effective in the treatment of chronic pain for many conditions. Although its effect varies for a variety of reasons, the degree of correlation regarding the hypotheses of the researchers performing the applicable studies is quite strong. Therefore, people who experience chronic pain would benefit by speaking with their primary-care physicians about the possible benefits of integrative therapies in the treatment of their chronic pain, remembering that integrative techniques supplement those of traditional medicine.