Whether it’s sharp, dull, constant or sporadic, living with any type of pain is difficult. Living with pain doesn’t have to be a daily reality! There are clinically proven programs that can help to reduce suffering from pain. Below is an outline of pain management facts to consider when trying to find the most appropriate remedy.
Classify The Pain
There are different treatment strategies based on the characteristics of one’s pain, the root cause of pain, and the mechanisms in one’s body that are affecting the pain. Therefore, it’s important to keep track of the intensity and frequency of the pain so healthcare professionals can help find the most appropriate treatment plan.
“Acute” pain lasts a short time (either seconds or weeks) whereas “chronic” pain can last beyond several months. “Nociceptive pain” is caused by continuous activation of pain receptors in either the surface or deep tissues of the body. Nociceptive pain is either “somatic” pain, caused by an injury to the skin, muscles, bone, joint, and connective tissues; or it is “visceral” pain that is caused by an injury to an internal organ or the tissues that support internal organs. “Neuropathic pain” is caused by changes in the nervous system that remain even after an injury heals itself. “Psychogenic pain” is a pain caused from psychological issues.
Interdisciplinary Pain Management
This involves a team of healthcare providers who work to create a holistic approach to managing pain. The team is comprised of: the patient, significant others (family, friends), doctors, nurses, psychologists, physical therapists, pharmacists, occupational therapists, nutritionists, social workers, volunteers, etc. Working with this diverse, highly trained group will ensure that specific roles are being conducted by professionals and that the team has split responsibilities making for a well-blended, progressive treatment program. Mutual respect and collaboration will help the team share goals, insights, and empower the patient to feel his/her best.
Depending on the severity of the pain, over the counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (asprin and ibuprofen) may be sufficient. Topical pain relievers are also a popular option – these creams, lotions or sprays can be applied to the skin to reduce pain from inflammation in muscles or arthritis. If over-the-counter medications aren’t enough to relieve the pain, one’s doctor may prescribe muscle relaxants, anti-anxiety medications, anti-depressants, painkillers or hydrocodone.
Natural Pain Relief
Manual therapies like physical therapy or chiropractic care can reduce the pain. These hands on modes of treatment can range from massage and slow pressing, to deeper, quick thrusts, and they may incorporate hot and cold treatments to relieve pain. TENS, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation is another treatment option that reduces pain via brief pulses or electricity to nerve endings in the skin.
Counseling and psychological assistance are other popular ways to identify the root cause of the pain and help eliminate it through cognitive behavioral therapy. Attending one-on-one appointments with a mental health professional or in a group setting with people who have similar experiences and can understand one’s feelings and provide comfort, are equally important ways to help feel better. Other complementary therapies that can reduce pain include: acupuncture, biofeedback, guided imagery, healing touch, massage, meditation, and yoga.
Is Surgery Appropriate?
Surgery for chronic pain is not common and it’s not the first line of treatment. However, if one is feeling as if he/she has run out of medicinal, holistic, and other therapeutic options to treat the pain, surgery may be an appropriate option. Implanted pain control systems are devices that get surgically inserted under one’s skin and use electric currents, heat, or chemicals to numb or block pain. Intrathecal drugs deliver medicine to the area of the body in which the pain is being experienced. Electrical nerve stimulation uses electric currents to interrupt pain signals from being felt. Nerve ablation is the process of destroying or removing nerves that are sending pain signals. Chemical sympathectomy uses chemicals to destroy nerves.
Decompression is another type of surgery use to nerve pain such as trigeminal neuralgia. This is done by cutting skin open and moving blood vessels or other body structures away from nerves that are causing pain.
10 Daily Tips for Living with Chronic Pain
1. Learn deep breathing or meditation to help relax.
2. Reduce stress in one’s life. Stress intensifies chronic pain.
3. Exercise regularly. Chronic pain can be reduced through natural endorphins.
4. Decrease alcohol consumption. Alcohol depresses one’s body and can impair quality of sleep.
5. Attend support groups. It’s comforting to know others who live with chronic pain as well; one is more likely to learn new ways of coping while making new friends.
6. Stop smoking. Smoking can worsen chronic pain.
7. Keep good records of pain levels and activity levels every day.
8. Use biofeedback to decrease migraines and tension headaches.
9. Get regular massages to aid in chronic pain relief
10. Eat healthily! Proper nutrients will support healing and pain relief