Chronic pain distresses a projected 86 million American adults to a certain extent.
What is pain?
Pain is an unpleasant feeling that lets you know that something may be wrong. It is one of the body’s warning signals that indicate a crisis that needs attention. Pain begins in receptor nerve cells situated beneath the skin and in organs throughout the body. Once there is an illness, injury, or other type of problem, these receptor cells send messages along nerve pathways to the spinal cord, which then relays the message to the brain.
Pain can be anything from a minor irritation, such as a weak headache, to something agonizing and emergent, such as the chest pain that accompanies a heart attack.
What are the different types of pain?
Two types of pain include the following:
- Acute pain – may occur from inflammation, tissue damage, injury, illness, or a recent surgical procedure and is of short duration, typically lasting less than a week or two. It generally ends after the underlying source is treated or has been determined.
- Chronic pain is pain that continues for weeks, months, or even years.
What is chronic pain?
Chronic pain is a persistent pain that continues beyond the typical recovery period or occurs along with a chronic health condition, such as arthritis. Chronic pain may be sporadic or nonstop. It may affect individuals to the point that they cannot work, eat properly, partake in physical activity, or enjoy life.
Chronic pain is deemed a major medical condition that can and should be treated.
What causes chronic pain?
There are many reasons for chronic pain. It may have progressed from an illness or accident, from which an individual has long since improved. Or perhaps there is an continuing cause of pain, such as arthritis or cancer. Many individuals suffer chronic pain in the absence of any past injury or indication of illness.
Treatment for chronic pain:
Chronic pain entails all facets of an individual’s life; thus, the most successful treatment includes not only relief of symptoms, but also other forms of support. A multidisciplinary approach to pain management can often provide the needed interventions to help manage the pain. Pain management programs are typically performed on an outpatient basis. Numerous skilled experts are involved in the pain management rehabilitation team, including any/all of the following:
- Orthopaedists/orthopaedic surgeons
- Physical therapists
- Occupational therapists
- Social workers
- Case managers
- Vocational counselors
The pain management rehabilitation programs are intended to meet the needs of the patient, depending upon the precise form of pain, disease, or condition. Committed involvement of the individual and family is fundamental to the success of the program.
The objective of pain management programs is to assist the individual in returning to the maximum level of function and independence achievable, while improving the overall quality of life – physically, emotionally and socially. Pain management procedures assist in reducing the suffering experienced by an individual with chronic pain.
In order to help reach these goals, pain management programs may include the following:
Medical management of chronic pain, including medication management:
- Over-the-counter (OTC) medications may include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), aspirin, and/or acetaminophen.
- Prescription pain medications such as narcotics may be needed to provide stronger pain relief. However, these drugs are reserved for more severe types of pain, as they have some potential for abuse and may have unpleasant side effects.
- Prescription antidepressants can benefit some patients because these medications can increase the supply of a naturally produced neurotransmitter, serotonin. Serotonin has been found to be an important part of a pain-controlling pathway in the brain.
- Heat and cold treatments to reduce the stiffness and pain, especially with joint disorders such as arthritis
- Physical and occupational therapy interventions such as massage and whirlpool treatments
- Exercise to reduce spasticity, joint contractures, joint inflammations, spinal alignment problems, or muscle atrophy (weakening and shrinking) to prevent further problems
- Local electrical stimulation involving application(s) of brief pulses of electricity to nerve endings under the skin to provide pain relief in some chronic pain patients
- Nerve blocks and regional anesthesia
Emotional and psychological support for pain, which may include the following:
- Psychotherapy and group therapy
- Stress management
- Relaxation training
- Behavior modification
- Assertiveness training
The philosophy common to all of these varied psychological approaches is the belief that patients can do something on their own to control their pain, including changing attitudes, feelings, or behaviors associated with pain, or understanding how unconscious forces and past events have contributed to pain.
- Patient and family education and counseling
- Alternative medicine and therapy treatments, as appropriate
Additionally, treatment may include:
- Surgery may be contemplated for chronic pain. Surgery can bring relief from pain, but may also overcome other sensations as well, or become the source of new pain. Relief is not essentially permanent, and pain may come back. There is a range of surgical procedures to ease pain.
- Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice of placing fine needles under the skin at selected points in the body, and has shown some assurance in the treatment of chronic pain. The practitioner to produce pain relief manipulates needles.
Pain Management Treatment
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