Let me start by presenting what I have discovered to be the most important take aways about treating chronic pain (based on my own personal pain experience and the research I've done while navigating these muddy waters). That is, the table below presents non-invasive approaches that incorporate the mind and body into the treatment, allowing an individual to truly heal at all levels.
Below the table, I then discuss more about commonly prescribed "traditional" treatments, including which ones I have tried and what I've leaned that brought me to create the summary table below.
This content is not intended as and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. I am not a licensed healthcare provider and it is based solely on my personal experience and research (See full Disclaimer).
After more than two years of trying various treatments while still suffering in great pain, I finally found some lasting relief. It did not, however, come in the form of one simple pill. After the first nine months, I gained some modest relief from trigger point (TrP) injections. But the pain continued for another year and a half before I finally found the three key missing pieces that have helped me the most so far:
Ultimately, a combination of several treatments has helped me in my quest to live without debilitating or limiting pain. In the list provided on this page, I include various modalities that I have come across in my ten-plus years of healing my trauma- and emotion-fed chronic physical pain.
Click on each link for a brief description of what I've tried and which modalities have or haven't worked for me.
As a spoiler, receiving myofascial release therapy developed by John F. Barnes (JFB-MFR) and reading about the mind-body connection (via Dr. John E. Sarno and other authors) have had the greatest positive impact on my healing.
I haven't tried some of the treatments listed mostly because of cost. But it is also because I've gained considerable improvement through mind-body—based JFB-MFR therapy and because I understand that I have to address my traumas and emotions before I can continue to heal.
In sum, I have found that paying attention to the needs of my mind and body can lead to relief from pain. This approach has worked not only for me but also for many others. (See books by Sarno, Ozanich, Barnes, Tavolacci, Velicki, and Brady listed in the mind-body and the personal stories sections within the Resources page).
A note on the placebo effect: The effectiveness of the treatments that reduce or eliminate pain may indeed be the placebo effect in play. In my opinion, this inherently effective phenomenon is in many cases a good thing, especially if the treatment is non-invasive and inexpensive.
The book Mind Over Medicine by Dr. Lissa Rankin is a useful resource that looks at the placebo effect in greater detail.
My Personal Ratings Key:
(+++) Most effective
(+) Somewhat effective
(-) Not effective or hardly effective
(--) Not effective or partial negative impact
(---) Not effective and negative impact
(+/-) Unsure or some positive and some negative impact
(?) Don't know because I haven't tried at all or enough
Click on links below for more details on my personal experience with each approach.
Surgery fixed the neurological deficit from my ruptured disc, but likely triggered my myofascial pain
Soft collar (+)
Only helpful immediately after surgery
Initially helpful but eventually became less effective and had unacceptable side effects
Dry needling (?)
Haven't tried but might be somewhat similar to TrP injections but without side effects
Facet joint injection (---)
Made my pain temporarily worse
Haven't tried, but don't expect to
Strengthening didn't help, sometimes made me worse; TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) had nominal positive effect
Didn't provide lasting reduction in my pain
Haven't tried, except for OMT, which has had some positive effect
Patches/heating pads (++)
Help to temporarily moderate symptoms, but don't permanently or completely eliminate my pain
Tried briefly; it aggravated my pain
Haven't tried, but it scares me
Haven't tried extensively, but potentially helpful
Somewhat helpful; psychologically positive
Dance classes (+/-)
Temporarily aggravated my pain to a small degree, but psychologically positive
Flared up my symptoms when I was still in a lot of pain, but I don't necessarily discredit it; a recent trial went well
Greatly flared up my symptoms when I was still in a lot of pain; haven't tried it again yet
Likely helpful; jogging tolerable and helpful only after I embraced the mind-body connection and had already healed significantly; walking more tolerable
Sometimes slightly flares up my symptoms; good for general health
Flared up my symptoms, but cathartic
Tai chi/Qigong (+/?)
Don't know for sure yet since I recently started, but I'm able to do them and I enjoy these practices
Talk therapy (+)
Helpful in processing the psychologically based causes of my chronic pain, but hasn't eliminated my physical pain
Some positive results, but moved and didn't continue
Helped me reduce strong feelings related to past trauma, but didn't permanently reduce my pain
Other psychology-based (?)Don't know; probably helpful if psychological issues are behind the pain
Helps reduce my pain, but not eliminate it completely
Likely helpful in the long run, but hasn't greatly reduced or eliminated my pain
Helps reduce my pain, but not eliminate it completely
Very helpful psychologically
Beneficial to overall health, but hasn't resolved my chronic pain; eating every few hours helps reduce spikes in my pain
Most likely helpful to moderate symptoms; however, I haven't yet seen major improvement
Therapeutic writing (++)
Probably very helpful; to date, unsure of long-term effect on my pain
Helpful for temporarily reducing tension and pain
Work-life balance (++)
Important when managing symptoms and for allowing time to heal
Creative expression (++/?)
Probably helpful; still to be determined for me
Take meaningful action (++/?)
Could be very important; still to be determined for me
Stop trying (++)
Temporarily very helpful after my pain came down through acknowledging emotions, but difficult to maintain
Listen to your body (++)
Let go (+++)
Critical (but very difficult for some of us)
Note: This content is not intended as and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. (See full Disclaimer.)
THE TABLE BELOW SUMMARIZES THE TREATMENTS I'VE TRIED OVER THE YEARS