When it comes to chronic pain treatment there are a plethora of options that might, or might not, work. As for the best treatment for chronic pain, it all depends on the individual and the specifics of the situation. Where medication will help with one person, stretching and exercise might be what is best for the next. Over the decades the way that specialists handle pain has changed and evolved. Long gone are the days when a doctor would simply prescribe some strong opiates and let the narcotics numb the pain away.
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What is Chronic Pain?
There are countless origins and causes of pain. A stubbed toe, a sprained ankle, a sore throat…and so on. When a person experiences pain that will not go away and stays for longer than just a few days or a week, it is considered chronic pain. This type of pain can be so intense and relentless that it causes a person non-stop agony with no hope for relief in sight.
Some people struggle with this type of pain for weeks, some for months, some for years and some for a lifetime. In many cases, chronic pain is not a simple fix that will just go away.
The pain can originate from nerve damage, tissue damage within the body, diseases such as cancer, and even bones that were damaged but did not properly heal.
There are four basic types of pain that people can suffer from:
- Nociceptive pain
- Inflammatory pain
- Neuropathic pain
- Functional pain
Any of these pain types can become chronic pain.
Pain can come from various sources such as a tissue injury, pain caused by inflammation, pain caused by nerve irritation, and even pain that has no obvious origin. Regardless of the origin of pain, when it is relentless and refuses to go away the situation can become debilitating and leave the patient miserable.
In the past, doctors have been able to prescribe certain types of opioids that cause the pain to diminish to a point where it becomes tolerable for the patient. However, there have been several issues that came into focus behind such lax opioid prescription practices.
Although opioids are an effective pain relief method, many people like how they feel and want to keep using them long after the pain is gone.
Types of Pain Treatment
There are hundreds of ways that physicians can treat pain ranging from various drugs to acupuncture and even cold compresses. What counts the most is which ones are effective for individuals, and which are not.
Some people will be willing to try acupuncture and cold compresses or even hatha yoga practices to find comfort and relief from their pain, however, depending on the type of pain that they are dealing with and where it is located, there may be only a limited amount of treatments available.
Some of the more common treatments that doctors will recommend for chronic pain are:
- Prescription pain medications
- Non-prescription pain medications
- Trigger point injections
- Surgical implants
- TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation therapy)
- Bioelectric therapy
- Physical therapy
We can take a deeper look into each of these treatment types and give an idea of what might be a good solution for a particular person.
Prescription Pain Medications
One of the quickest ways to deal with pain is to give the patient a healthy dose of some pain medication. Many patients that suffer from traumatic injuries are treated with a shot of liquid Dilaudid, also known as Hydromorphone. This is a powerful opioid that has a very high risk of addiction but does wonders when it comes to pain relief.
When it comes to chronic pain and issues with long-lasting pain problems using drugs like Dilaudid is not a sensible solution. While it is very effective for pain relief, it causes a euphoric high a lot like heroin. Repeated use causes the body’s natural pain relief system to shut down, which in turn, causes the body to become dependent on the drug.
Some of the more popular opioid pain medications that doctors have prescribed in the past are:
Other types of medications that doctors can prescribe for pain are:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Depending on what is causing the pain anti-inflammatories can be very effective at relieving chronic pain as well as acetaminophen. However, each of these drugs comes with their own risks and health hazards.
Non-Prescription Pain Medications
There are a lot of over-the-counter pain medications available on the market. Asprin, Motrin, Tylenol, and more. These medications come in a low enough dose that there is no need for a prescription.
One of the problems that patients have with this type of treatment is that they fail to follow the recommended dosage and end up causing great harm to their bodies. Tylenol, which is a name brand for acetaminophen, can cause terrible liver and kidney damage.
If the recommended dosage works for you and relieves your pain, it might be a good solution for you. However, if it does not, you could cause severe damage to yourself if you overuse these medications.
Trigger Point Injections
Trigger point injections are when a physician locates a trigger point for pain and injects a solution directly into the area to relieve the pain. The solution can be a saline solution, a local anesthetic, or a corticosteroid. (Also known as a cortisone shot.)
The shot renders the trigger point inactive for a period of time and the pain fades away. Although this is an effective treatment, it is only temporary and the patient will have to return over and over again in order to maintain that relief.
Surgical implants are usually for patients that have tried virtually everything to get some pain relief, but nothing has worked. There are several different types of implants and surgeries that are designed to alleviate pain.
- Spinal cord stimulation
- Artificial joints
- Intrathecal pumps
Modern-day technology has allowed for medical developments that far surpass the old ways of handling pain and have become a ray of hope for current and future pain sufferers.
In many cases what causes chronic pain is damaged nerves. Repairing the damage is not such a simple task so new innovative methods of nerve stimulation are becoming more and more popular in medicine. There is a type of treatment now that allows doctors to place a tiny nerve stimulator into the tissue under the skin where the nerve is damaged that wraps around the nerve and cools it down so that it does not signal the brain for pain. The device is made to dissolve on its own so that it does not need to be surgically removed.
TENS Unit Therapy
A TENS unit is a device that sends low-voltage currents to treat pain where it is felt. The way that it works is as the electronic pulses consistently drive into the pain area the activity changes the patient’s perception of the pain. Although it does not exactly take the pain away, it can “distract” the patient to where they do not feel the pain as the area is being treated.
TENS units are small and inexpensive, for the most part. They do not require a prescription. Whether or not they are effective for a person will depend on what type of injury is causing the pain and how intense the pain is.
Bioelectric therapy for pain can be an effective treatment if the conditions of the situation are in line with how the treatment works.
The way it works is that the person who is being treated is equipped with some electrodes that attach to the skin. These electrodes send electric pulses into the area where the pain is going on. These electronic pulses are supposed to block pain messages to the brain.
As the therapy session is taking place the patient will be hooked up to a computer where the software will track the dosage of the current and control how strong or weak the pulse that is sent out will be.
As the treatment session moves forward you will be asked to give your input on whether or not the intensity of the pulses causes pain relief, or even causes a sensation.
Your input will determine the intensity of the electrical stimulation and how the duration of the treatment.
For some patients, this technique is very effective and helps to relieve even the toughest of chronic pain problems.
One of the best ways to tackle chronic pain is to get the body and muscles in shape and re-balanced so that the area that is in pain does not have to work so hard in order to keep the body balanced and functionally moving.
Many of the people that suffer from back pain, do so because they are out of shape. The muscles that are supposed to engage when in motion are not strong enough to handle the weight of the body or the force of the action. This will force other muscles to try and help with the movement risking an injury, such as a torn or pulled muscle, leading to muscle imbalances.
For example, if a person bends over to pick up something heavy from the ground and they use their back muscles as opposed to their leg muscles to carry the brunt of the weight, they can pull a muscle causing imbalances, inflammation, and pain.
Physical therapy is a way that can help to train the person to lift things correctly and to engage their core when they are moving in a way that does not put any strain on their back.
Stretching, muscle building, and learning how to properly move your body in a functional way are all helpful solutions that can alleviate pain and give newfound hope to chronic pain sufferers.
The BEST Treatment?
As we discussed earlier, what might be the best for one person could be the worst for another one. When somebody is suffering from chronic pain issues it is recommended that they try several different methods until they find one that works for them. The key is to try and keep a positive attitude so that you don’t lose hope. There is something that will work, you just have to find it.