HOUSTON (KTRK) --Chronic pain affects one-third of all people in the United States, and the number of Americans addicted to painkillers has tripled over the last decade, according to a local doctor.
That potential for dependency has many people seeking drug-free pain solutions, including using an innovative new device. Memorial Hermann's Prevention and Recovery Center is one of only three pain centers in the nation using the Neurolumen.
"It sends very minor electrodes to the spine, or the nervous system, it travels to the brain, and interrupts the pain signal. And then it has a low level laser that penetrates into the tissue. It draws blood to the area and decreases swelling," said Dr. James Flowers. "We've seen patients with a level eight pain, and after neurolumen, a level two pain."
As high-tech as Neurolumen seems, Flowers says it is only one of many non-drug pain management techniques used. He says deep breathing techniques and biofeedback are crucial in managing pain.
"Biofeedback is positive imagery, relaxation, learning how to regulate our own blood pressure, learning how to regular our heart rate, and learning how to regulate the flow of oxygen through our body," Flowers.
He recommends practicing yoga for its deep breathing benefits and its low impact exercise, critical to those in extreme pain.
"Yoga is about breathing, visualization, and slowly moving the muscles," Flowers said. "The worst thing you can do when you have an acute injury is stop moving."
Many patients also find relief through acupuncture. Flowers says the needles help stimulate the body's meridian points, allowing energy to flow more freely.
"We see pain levels decrease after an hour of acupuncture by about 70 percent," Flowers said.
Another factor that can affect pain levels is what you put eat and drink. Wellness specialist Gabrial Fuzat says to avoid sugar, alcohol, and caffeine.
"Caffeine acts as a stimulant in the body. It's not only going to increase anxiety, but it's also going to have an effect on the nervous system," Fuzat said.
Some pain-reducing foods that improve circulation are: