Traditionally, the first step in treating chronic pain has been medication, including strong painkillers such as opioids. But these drugs can be problematic. Not only are opioids powerful drugs, they can have serious side effects and pose a significant risk for addiction when used long term. The problems associated with using opioids for pain relief make it crucial that other strategies be considered when managing chronic pain. In some situations when medication wasn’t a good option, surgery was recommended as the next step. Fortunately, there now are a wide range of choices available beyond medication and surgery that have been shown to be useful in easing chronic pain. One common form of integrative medicine that’s used frequently at Mayo Clinic is acupuncture. The technique involves inserting extremely thin needles through your skin at strategic points on your body to reduce pain. How often you need this treatment depends in large part on the type and severity of your pain.
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