Complementary Health Treatments are Increasingly Popular for Pain and More
Wise & Well Weekly: The newsletter helping you make tomorrow a little better than today
Welcome back to your weekly dose of wisdom and wellness, with science-backed insights you can use to improve your physical, mental and emotional well-being. If you appreciate highly curated, professionally edited articles. Lots of healthy new articles below, with links to the full articles on Medium (no paywall). But first…
THIS WEEK’S SPOTLIGHT
Chronic pain, said to affect 21% of the US population, is among the most intractable health problems, as I’ve written before. Painkillers are minimally effective and some are highly addictive. Surgeries rarely work. Only about 10% of people with chronic pain at a given moment are pain-free a year later. Because chronic pain is a complex thing, often a mental and emotional construct still rooted in biology but no longer owing to an actual injury or specific source, among the more effective remedies are indirect approaches that lean into lifestyle changes. Chief among the behavioral changes shown to help many people: more physical activity, better diet and improved sleep.
Other so-called complementary health approaches can be helpful for many pain sufferers, too. These include yoga, meditation, massage therapy, chiropractic care, acupuncture, naturopathy, and guided imagery/progressive muscle relaxation.
New research published in JAMA finds more and more people are giving these alternatives a try.
Between 2002 and 2022, the percentage of people who tried at least one of those seven complementary health approaches rose from 19.2% to 36.7%. The biggest gains in participation were in yoga, meditation and massage therapy.
Often with chronic pain there’s no silver-bullet solution. My own decades-long bout with back and hip pain was alleviated by yoga. That proves nothing, but it convinced me to listen to scientists in the emerging field of lifestyle medicine, whose experts advise giving various remedies a try. As a bonus, the adoption of smart lifestyle changes is a vital complement to, even in come cases a replacement for, conventional medical treatment of numerous diseases. Leaning into a batch of eight of these healthy lifestyles and behaviors can add up to 20 years to an individual’s life expectancy.
That all adds up to improved odds of a longer life and a healthier, more capable existence.
A selection of this week’s informative and insightful Wise & Well articles:
What You Should Know about Life Coaching
Life coaching and its close cousins -– executive, health, wellness, nutrition and mental health coaching — are big business. And this sort of coaching can be helpful in certain situations, but sometimes the promise exceeds the practice. Learn from this clinical psychologist how to decide if a life coach can help with your actual needs, or if a different professional would be more helpful.
— By Gail Post, Ph.D.
Your Medications May Be Causing High Blood Pressure
We learn that poor diet, chronic stress and lack of physical activity can lead to hypertension. But several medications can pile on, each raising blood pressure further. Among the culprits: stimulants for ADHD, decongestants, steroids, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAID) such as ibuprofen. If you take any of these meds, here’s what you need to know.
— By John Kruse MD, PhD
Forest Bathing: Nature’s Mindful Remedy
Here’s a thoughtful look into the peace and joy of hanging out near trees, and the science of how it can help you feel better both physically and mentally by borrowing a page from the mindfulness handbook.
— By Denny Pencheva, MD
Coincidentally, we have two articles this week about the risks of a sedentary lifestyle, each taking a different view of sitting. Both are presented, separately, because the research on this continues to evolve, so cause-and-effect absolutes are still wanting…
Sitting All Day at Work Raises Risk Of Death
The risk of dying of cardiovascular disease was increased by more than one-third for people who mainly sit at their jobs compared to those who mostly don’t sit at work, new research finds. But there are simple things you can do — during the workday — to counter these effects.
— By Annie Foley
Which Is Best — More Exercise or Less Sitting?
You might have heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking.” While excessive sitting has been linked to many health risks, this physical therapist argues that the case overstates the actual science. Rather than worrying about your sit time, he advises, focus on putting in more time exercising.
— By Zachary Walston, PT, DPT, OCS
And from our sister publication, Aha! …
What Causes Goosebumps?
Goosebumps are an evolutionary throwback that helped humans thousands of years ago, but today, not so much. We get them for multiple reasons — everything from physical or mental stress to sheer awe — and the driving force is a set of tiny muscles you’ve probably never heard of before. Oh, and you won’t believe what happens when you die.
— By Annie Foley
RANDOM BIT OF WISDOM
“The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.”
— William James
Wise & Well writers are physicians, psychiatrists, research scientists, dieticians, fitness experts, journalists and other professionals who share their expertise to help you make tomorrow a little better than today. — Rob