If you have been experiencing pain in any of your body parts, you’re probably looking to get rid of it as effectively and quickly as possible. But how does pain management really work? Do you need to go to the doctor, or can you manage pain by yourself?
In this post, we’ll look at what pain management is, how it works, the different types of pain management out there and what you should consider before choosing the appropriate one for you. Read on for more info!
What Is Pain Management?
As its name suggests, pain management deals with minimizing pain as best as possible. It can be done in different ways, depending on the patient.
When creating a pain management plan, one should consider the patient’s age, health status, and daily activity.
A variety of factors and diseases can be at the root of pain. However, it can also occur due to injuries. Chronic pain is the trickiest to manage of all. Unfortunately, it is typically caused by activities or injuries that happen time and again.
Sometimes, the nerves can be damaged, or there could be a herniated disc causing pain down the leg. But even in these cases, some pain management techniques can prove to be effective.
Chronic pain is the trickiest to manage which is caused by activities or injuries that happen time and again.
What Types of Pain Management Are There?
Whether you are focused on handling acute or chronic pain, there are several different types out there. Before deciding on one, you should have a talk with your physician.
If you choose one kind of therapy by yourself, you aren’t going to know whether you’re treating the right condition, unless you are an expert. Plus, some of them can be dangerous, especially when the methods aren’t applied properly or by a professional.
Here are the most common types of pain management that are currently available.
- Interventional pain management
- Medication pain management
- Non-pharmacological pain management
- Alternative therapies
- Physical therapy
- Counseling and psychological support
How Is Pain Management Guided?
We’ve already mentioned some of the factors that can guide a therapist to choose the appropriate pain treatment. When you go and see a specialist, they will inquire about the history of your pain, but also its duration and intensity.
As you might know by now, some activities or body positions can intensify pain. This is another piece of important information that you should communicate to the specialist.
In most cases, however, pain is caused by the nerve supply of any anatomical structure. Naturally, inflammation and pain can also show up in muscles and other tissues that are not innervated. But usually, the local nerves are the ones in charge of telling your body that something is wrong.
With advanced pain management, you will be able to find out the source of your pain. You will also find out what activities you should avoid and which ones you can still perform. After all, identifying the problem and the optimal treatment are the core goals of any pain management plan.
Finding out the source of your pain is key to learn what you can keep doing and what you need to pause on for a while.
How Does Interventional Pain Management Work?
This is a type of advanced pain management as it uses techniques that aren’t as common as taking medication for your discomfort.
In fact, interventional pain management relies on techniques such as radiofrequency rhizotomy and injections. A therapist can use these treatment methods to directly address the pain source.
What is interventional pain management good for? Some of the conditions that respond to this treatment are the following:
- Muscle and/or bone pain
- Low back pain
- Neck pain
- Chronic headaches
- Face or mouth pain
Also known as nerve blocks, injections offer temporary pain relief. For this purpose, you might receive injections with powerful medications such as opioids and steroids. The shots are administered close to the nerves and are quite effective.
One of the most common types of injections as part of interventional pain management is an epidural steroid injection. Others range from joint injections to single nerve root blocks. Two to three shots are allowed due to the side effects of the medications.
Injections offer temporary pain relief and only two to three shots are allowed due to its side effects.
As complicated as it might sound, radiofrequency rhizotomy is actually rather straightforward. The therapist uses X-ray guidance and a needle equipped with an electrode at the tip.
The electrode tip gets heated and manages to temporarily shut down the nerve’s ability to send pain signals to the brain. In terms of its effectiveness, this method is typically capable of providing pain relief for 6 to 12 months.
During that time, however, the physical therapist could recommend other types of non-invasive pain management. Doing this will help prolong the effect of the initial technique.
Other types of interventional pain management range from cryogenic cooling to electrical stimulation.
What Drugs Are Used for Pain Management?
There is a wide variety of pain management medication available these days, including OTC pain relievers. Before opting for one or the other, we urge you to have a consultation at the doctor’s office.
OTC pain medication includes nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and acetaminophen. The latter is commercially known as Tylenol, so it is widely available.
NSAIDs do come with a series of side effects, though, which is why you should be cautious when using them. They are much safer compared to their steroidal counterparts, but they can still be risky.
Some of the classic NSAIDs currently available are ibuprofen, naproxen, and diclofenac gels. As effective as they might be, they increase the risk of stomach ulcers, stroke, or heart attack.
Diclofenac gels are safer, by contrast, and you’ll find them in most creams and lotions used to treat arthritis or sore muscles.
NSAIDs are much safer to their steroidal counterparts but come with a series of side effects and can still be risky.
Prescription pain management medication
Typical prescription pain relievers range from corticosteroids, opioids, and antidepressants to anticonvulsants and lidocaine patches.
Corticosteroids are winners in terms of efficiency, but they have many serious side effects. They can cause high blood sugar, weight gain, salt retention, and they can even weaken your immune system. They are commonly used to treat swelling, itching, and allergic reactions. Prednisone and prednisolone are two typical corticosteroids.
Opioids are narcotics. For this reason, doctors use them only for short-term pain. Some of the best-known opioids are morphine, codeine, and oxycodone. They also cause many adverse reactions, but the most concerning one of all is that you can become addicted to them.
Antidepressants can treat pain that stems from emotional conditions. Besides, low doses can treat chronic headaches. There are many types of antidepressants currently available and all of them come with side effects.
Your doctor could prescribe anticonvulsants for treating pain, but seizures are what these substances are commonly able to treat.
Several examples of anticonvulsants range from gabapentin (Neurontin) to carbamazepine (Tegretol). Even though they are mostly well-tolerated, patients undergoing this treatment can experience drowsiness, fatigue, nausea, or dizziness.
Non-Pharmacological Pain Management
If you want to avoid medication and opt for a safer and more natural alternative instead, you can benefit from smart pain management. Here are some of the most effective and popular means of getting rid of pain without using drugs or invasive medical therapies:
If the pain you are experiencing doesn’t stem from a very severe condition, it’s quite likely that massage will solve at least part of your discomfort. Many studies suggest that massage is quite effective in relieving mild pain.
Acupuncture is another alternative therapy that you might want to try out. We would, however, like to point out that it should only be done by professionals. As is the case with massage, some studies suggest that it can provide pain relief, even to people experiencing pain from cancer.
After undergoing a physical exam and evaluation, your physical therapist will give you a clinical diagnosis, a plan of care, as well as a prognosis. You will both set short and long-term goals.
Some of the most common conditions that can benefit from physical therapy range from musculoskeletal dysfunctions to neurological conditions, including stroke.
There are several types of physical therapy available. For instance, orthopedic physical therapy can treat any musculoskeletal injuries from fractures to bursitis. Geriatric physical therapy focuses on older patients with pathologies such as arthritis or osteoporosis.
Neurological physical therapy helps individuals that have neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s, but also stroke and multiple sclerosis. Other types of physical therapy that are out there are pediatric physical therapy, wound care therapy, decongestive therapy, and pelvic floor rehabilitation.
Physical therapy is a pain management alternative that offers excellent results when paired with other kinds of physical manipulation. That’s why it is commonly associated with heat and cold therapy, phonophoresis, electrical stimulation, or ultrasound.
Some of the most effective and popular means of getting rid of pain using non-invasive medical therapies or drugs.
If the patient’s physical pain is associated with stress, PTSD, or any other cause that doesn’t pertain to the body per se, they might find that relaxation techniques can help, too. These consist of hypnosis, breathing exercises, gentle movement (Taichi), or guided imagery.
If you don’t suffer from any medical condition that might prevent you from exercising, you should know that exercise is the best way to prevent pain, and in many cases it could also be the key to the end of your pain condition.
Have you ever spent several hours in front of the computer? If the answer is yes, you probably know how stiff you feel after sitting in the same position for a while. In time, this type of static so-called activity can lead to a variety of health problems.
Not only are you more predisposed to cardiovascular conditions if you don’t engage in enough exercise, but you are also not using your musculoskeletal system enough. Many studies suggest that people who don’t get enough exercise throughout their life are more predisposed to osteoporosis when they age, for example.
Exercising can prevent and treat pain so long as it is not associated with a serious medical condition. Yoga, pilates, light running, even strength exercises are some examples. Even taking the recommended 10,000 steps a day is a great way of getting rid of mild pain.
How Does Pain Management Work? Final Thoughts
Choosing the right type of pain management isn’t as easy as you might think. Depending on the pain cause, you might have to first opt for pharmacological therapy and only then use alternative pain management.
Whatever your case might be, you should ask your physician before trying out any pain-relieving techniques or products.
Ask your doctor about his opinon on the next best step before making a decision.
Some drugs can be life-threatening when associated with others you might already be taking. Some types of exercise could be dangerous for people suffering from specific neurological disorders. Your doctor will give you the advice you need before you make the right decision.
In addition to asking your doctor, ask yourself. Sometimes what doctors prescribe doesn’t solve our problems or simply it won’t help you lead the kind of life you want.
If you are not satisfied with the answer, keep looking, keep asking until you truly find your way out of your pain condition.
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Co-founder of MB Zen, digital nomad and freedom seeker. Loves developing projects that improve people’s lives. Functional training, yoga, and healthy eating define his lifestyle since he got his back injured. Fell in love with Yin yoga from the very first session though he won’t say no to any other kind of yoga.