Dr. Goodlin notes that while the focus of the current study on alternative, non-medical therapies is encouraging, data is lacking and more research into alternative treatments for patients with chronic pain and heart failure is needed.

“There have been no studies that I’m aware of looking at what [alternative] treatments work best specifically in patients with heart failure,” Dr. Goodlin pointed out. “In general for patients with chronic pain, however, we should be using a spectrum of therapies that include exercise, physical therapy, and modalities like transcutaneous nerve stimulation, heat, or cold, as well as topical medications in addition to medication treatments.”  

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In the interim, clinicians should assess heart failure patients for comorbid pain conditions, such as osteoarthritis and diabetic peripheral neuropathy, and assist them in using safe alternative pain treatments to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life,” Dr. McDonald suggested.

Dr. Goodlin agrees, emphasizing that clinicians need to pay more attention to the pain medications heart failure patients choose.

“I think the important things to be aware of are that pain is common, and we should be asking about it. Also, patients can access NSAIDs over the counter, so we need to be working with patients to develop strategies that won’t worsen their heart failure,” Dr. Goodlin concluded.


McDonald DD, Soutar C, Chan MA, Afriyie A. A closer look: Alternative pain management practices by heart failure patients with chronic pain. Heart Lung. 2015 Sep-Oct;44(5):395-9, doi: 10.1016/j.hrtlng.2015.06.001. Epub 2015 Jun 16.