Finding drug-free techniques to treat chronic pain

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Nearly half of all Americans contend with chronic back pain, headaches, or joint discomfort at some point in their lives, yet painkillers to bring relief have recently come under increased scrutiny for their health risks.

Last month, the US Food and Drug Administration slapped new warnings on extended-release opiates, such as OxyContin and Opana ER, to make it clear that they should be used only as a last resort treatment for those in severe continuous pain; that’s because of their risks of addiction — even when used at the recommended doses — and of accidental overdose and death. Chronic use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory painkillers like aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen have long been known to increase the risk of ulcers and internal bleeding, but even the seemingly innocuous acetaminophen (Tylenol) has its risks.

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