Pain Management Guide

Dealing with chronic pain is a chore at best and agonizing at worst. Many of those who suffer from chronic or even short-term constant pain due to an accident or injury receive prescriptions for opiate pain medication that, in some cases, can lead to dependence and addiction as reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The National Institute of Health’s Medline Plus information system indicates that tolerance to a drug occurs when you need a higher dose to achieve the same effects and is generally associated with addiction. If you’ve never had a problem with addiction in the past, you are less likely to become addicted when taking a prescribed drug according to the directions; however, if you have a predisposition to addiction due to your genes, depression, anxiety or factors in your environment, there is an increased risk.

When you are faced with pain every day, or even for short periods of time, consider using alternate methods to help control to pain. This can help you to either stay within the specific directions provided by your prescribing doctor, rather than taking what you might think is a harmless, extra dose of medication, or it can help you avoid dangerous-to-you prescriptions because of an existing addiction.

Just Relax…

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, relaxation techniques have shown results for some kinds of chronic pain. Fibromyalgia, for instance, has been studied and relaxation shows promise for pain and fatigue associated with this condition. More research is necessary to find definitive results, however. Other studies have shown that relaxation may help when it comes to surgical pain or other pain in the abdomen.

For psychological pain, relaxation has proven a positive resource for depression and anxiety-related conditions, but more research is needed. Finally, for migraine headaches, the research has shown that for some, relaxation is even more effective than medication. The NCCAM is currently funding studies to look into the effects of relaxation on lower back pain as well.

Man feeling stressed

Stress Can Have Physical Results

The American Psychological Association conducted a study and released the results in 2010 which measured, among other things, how individuals with either fair or poor health manifested their stress. The largest percentage of respondents stated they became angry or irritable. The next highest manifestation was fatigue and 30 percent reported muscle tension. Stress can also cause pain, according to the Mayo Clinic. Relaxation techniques can reduce stress and could help to manage pain resulting from stress as a result.

This may seem like a strange question but the relaxation discussed here is not simply lying back with a good book and letting the world roll by. Using specialized relaxation techniques for specific purposes creates physical changes in the body, just as stress causes reactions. The experts at NCCAM have stated that those individuals suffering from heart disease should talk with their doctor, and they emphasize that relaxation techniques are not a substitute for medical care.
A technique recommended by the Ohio State University Medical Center is related to relaxation. Using imagery to help reduce the effects of pain can sometimes help when used correctly. Like relaxation, imagery is used specifically to reduce the muscle tension associated with stress.
The American Chronic Pain Association has prepared a list of 10 steps you can take to control your pain, rather than allowing your pain to control you. Among these steps is the use of relaxation mentioned earlier, but their first tip is to accept that you have a chronic pain condition. They suggest that understanding your physical condition can help you place yourself in a position to take control. If you suffer from a condition for which there is no current cure, you can learn how to deal with the issues this will create in healthy ways.

Get Moving

If possible, increase your physical activity and exercise to the best of your abilities. If you suffer from a chronic condition, such as arthritis, the thought of exercising may seem daunting. However, a study conducted in England and published by the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases in 1998 showed significant improvement in arthritis pain with an exercise program that participants did at home with minimal training.

The Centers for Disease Control mentions several benefits of exercise for people who suffer from various chronic pain conditions, such as lupus, arthritis or fibromyalgia. These benefits are not limited to pain relief, but they all have to do with living a happier, healthier life, such as:

  • Controlling diabetesGuy Managing Pain
  • Controlling heart disease
  • Controlling obesity
  • Increasing quality of life
  • Increasing mobility
  • Increasing function
  • Improving mood

When you must deal with pain as a part of your daily life, it’s easy to use that pain as an excuse or reason to stop participating in the activities you once enjoyed. Exercise can help you regain some of the strength you may have lost and once again see yourself taking part in your life without the use of opiate medications.

Therapeutic Massage

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the reason that massages work to help relieve chronic pain symptoms is unknown. What is known is that they do work for many people. In fact, they include a recommendation from the American College of Physicians that doctors consider using complementary therapies, including relaxation, yoga, acupuncture and massage, for patients who are not responding to evidence-based treatments and protocols, such as prescription drugs.

One idea about how massage works is the “gate control theory.”  This theory is one that some researchers use to suggest that massage can block pain signals from reaching the brain. Another theory is that stimulation in brain chemicals, serotonin or endorphins, can create change in the body that alleviates pain.

The types of pain that massages can help have not been narrowed down definitively, but studies show that massage can sometimes benefit:

  • Low back pain
  • Chronic neck pain
  • Sports injuries
  • Pain associated with depression or anxiety
  • Pain and distress in cancer patients  (currently undergoing studies)
One final note about the benefits of massage concerns the longevity of the results. A group of researchers in Germany conducted a study with 29 participants to find out if massage offered any differences in treatment compared to regular medical care for the same types of conditions. Published in the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine, the study found that the level of pain the participants experienced was controlled by both means – medication and massage. However, on follow-up, the participants who only received massage stated that pain, depression and anxiety were still reduced. The group that had used standard practices did not see the same effect and had begun to experience issues more quickly.
The NCCAM also indicates it is important to remember that massage therapists generally need a license and training. Always check with your physician to make sure you do not have any conditions that would prevent you from getting a massage, such as blood clots, thinning of the blood or other issues. Be sure to keep both your doctor and your massage therapist informed of what each is doing by way of treatments. For instance, it is important that your massage therapist know what kinds of medications you are taking. Likewise, your doctor should be consulted before you begin any other complementary or alternative therapies at the suggestion of your massage therapist, such as herbal remedies or supplements.

Acupuncture: The Needles Go Where?

AcupunctureAccording to the NCCAM, acupuncture has shown “promising evidence” that it can help relieve chronic pain for some conditions, including low back pain, arthritis and chronic headaches. According to this government agency, a National Health Interview Survey from 2007 found that 3.1 million people in the United States had used this ancient form of Chinese medicine in the year before the survey. Of that number 7 out of 10 were seeking relief from pain when they underwent the procedure.

Considered safe, acupuncture is based upon qi, or chi, an energy flow throughout the body. Certain lines, called meridians, connect various aspects of the physical and energetic self. Acupuncture places thin needles beneath the skin to stimulate and regulate the energy. In theory, this practice can control chronic pain; more research is underway.

Get Help With Pain Management

Whatever method you choose for controlling your chronic pain, keep in mind that alternative methods to powerful opiate drugs exist. When used in tandem with your overall pain management plan, in partnership with your medical provider, you may find more relief than you thought.

If you’d like more information on ways to manage your pain, feel free to contact us here at Axis. We are here 24 hours a day to take your call.