Massage, acupuncture, physical therapy are all viable alternatives to helping people suffering from chronic pain.

HONOLULU – State legislators asked a group of physicians and alternative medicine providers to talk to them on Thursday about different ways to alleviate pain, other than giving a patient opioids.

The House Committee on Health and the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Health Committee reviewed alternatives in addressing the opioid addiction crisis. This briefing provided a snapshot of provider perspectives for alternative treatment modalities that prevent or reduce the abuse of prescribed opioids that alleviate pain from injury or chronic health conditions.

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, 200 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, and 2,000 Americans suffer an overdose every day. From 1999 to 2017, more than 700,000 people have died from a drug overdose.

Healthcare providers in the following categories offered their thoughts: medical management, body and pain management/ physical therapy, acupuncture, massage therapy, Transforming to a Quad Model – Department of Health’s Hawaii Opioid Initiative on Education, Prevention and Pain Management, and mind/behavioral/cultural practices.

Anesthesiologist Dr. Jerald Garcia, billed as a “top pain management specialist,” was one of the people who spoke. He explained to lawmakers why opioids have become so prevalent in our society. Dr. Garcia said it’s very hard to treat chronic pain, but has been easy for doctors to simply prescribe pills. “You’re seeing a patient so debilitated, suffering, crying, cannot do things. So that’s a tendency,” he said, while agreeing it’s great that legislators want to tackle the problem by finding different ways to cope with pain. “That’s a shift we need to make as a community.” He also cautioned that while alternative treatments can be a viable alternative, they can be expensive and currently not covered by insurance.


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