Chronic Pain and Medicine Philosophy Cornucopia

by Celeste Cooper, RN Health Professional

As a person living with chronic pain, have you ever thought about trying various traditional and alternative treatment strategies? Could melding different philosophies be beneficial? Are we aware of what's available and what those options are?

Pharmacist's hands taking medicines from shelf

Allopathic medicine – M.D.

Allopathic medicine, also referred to as traditional or Western medicine, is practiced by M.D.’s. The way they treat pain is centered on diagnosis of the problem and treatment with medications, interventional procedures, and sometimes, integrative medicine.

Adjust your health

Osteopathic medicine – D.O.

Doctors of osteopathy use the same practices for treating chronic pain as M.D.’s. They take the same medical boards as M.D.’s. Because of their holistic approach, they may be more open to complementary medicine. Many also perform osteopathic manipulation.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Complementary medicine

Complementary medicine includes things such as mind-body practices, acupuncture, Ayurvedic medicine, chiropractic and osteopathic manipulation, traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy, and naturopathy. The NIH shares research highlights regarding complementary medicine for treating chronic pain.

Fresh herbs on top of a doctor's prescription pad

Complementary vs. alternative medicine

“Complementary medicine (CAM) refers to non-traditional treatment like acupuncture working in conjunction with traditional medicine like chemotherapy. Alternative medicine refers to a substitution of alternative treatment for traditional therapy, such as dietary changes instead of chemotherapy.”

Ayurvedic Doctor

Ayurvedic medicine

Ayurvedic medicine is one of the world’s oldest medicine systems. This ancient approach from India includes a variety of dietary considerations and practices that utilize healing energy to treat pain. A comprehensive, holistic approach to pain management may include Ayurvedic medicine.

Female physical therapist working with male patient

Chiropractic medicine

Knowing what a chiropractor has to offer for treating our pain is important. Some chiropractors take many approaches including spinal adjustments, myofascial therapies, physical therapy, and holistic medicine to alleviate pain, improve function, and support the body's natural ability to heal itself.

Three bottles of homeopathy globules and healthy herbs

Homeopathic medicine

Homeopathic medicine takes an alternative individualistic approach by using the least amount of a remedy to stimulate healing from within. As an example, homeopathic medicine might include arnica for treating pain and inflammation. The Arthritis Foundation offers a guide for supplements and homeopathic remedies.

Yoga exercises in nature: Warrior 2 Pose


According to the National Institutes of Health, naturopathy evolved from a combination of traditional practices and health care approaches popular in Europe during the 19th century. Those who practice naturopathic medicine treat pain holistically using homeopathic and mind-body medicine, exercise, and other alternative approaches.

Doctor chatting to male patient

Functional medicine

Functional medicine includes genetic science, systems biology, and how environmental and lifestyle factors influence the emergence and progression of disease. For instance, someone with pain from Crohn’s disease might see someone certified in functional medicine, i.e., allopathic, osteopathic, or naturopathic doctor, nurse, etc.

Silhouette of a woman practicing yoga in the mountains

Holistic medicine

Holistic medicine is a healing philosophy that addresses our whole being, body, mind, and spirit. Today, it is considered an integral part of traditional and alternative medicine for treatment of chronic pain.

A woman is at the doctor's office

How we choose

Many factors influence our medical choices, i.e. our personal and cultural preferences, availability and accessibility, referrals from family and friends, and cost. Always check insurance coverage and financial obligations before making your decision. We do better when we find a doctor with similar principles for managing our pain.

Celeste Cooper, RN
Meet Our Writer
Celeste Cooper, RN

Celeste Cooper, R.N., is a freelance writer focusing on chronic pain and fibromyalgia. She is lead author of Integrative therapies for Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Myofascial Pain and the Broken Body, Wounded Spirit: Balancing the See-Saw of Chronic Pain book series. She enjoys her family, writing and advocating, photography, and nature. Connect with Celeste through Twitter @PainedInkSlayer.