What is Pain?
Pain is an unpleasant feeling or discomfort caused by injury, illness, or emotional disorder. Pain can be differentiated into two basic types: acute pain and chronic pain. Acute pain is a type of pain that usually lasts less than 3 to 6 months. It typically comes on suddenly and is sharp in nature, such as after accidental trauma or surgery. Chronic pain is pain lasting beyond six months secondary to a condition affecting either a specific part of the body or the whole body.
What is Pain Management?
Pain management involves the treatment of the underlying condition and pain relief using medications and alternative techniques. Pain management is mainly focused on alleviating your pain and enabling you to carry out your day-to-day activities in a normal way. Pain can be treated in a variety of ways and depends on the type of pain being experienced by the patient. Pain management provides various treatment options to overcome different types of pain. The treatment options may include medications, physical therapy and rehabilitation, and psychological counseling, among others.
At What Stage Should I Consult a Doctor for Pain?
Pain may be due to various reasons. Pain caused by injuries or surgeries is usually not long-lasting and decreases as the wound heals. Persistent or long-lasting pain requires treatment. If your pain lasts even after wound healing and the current medications are not helping, you should consult a doctor to manage your pain.
How Do I Describe My Pain to My Doctor?
Each one describes pain in his/her own way. You can tell your doctor in detail regarding your pain – where it is located and the nature of the pain. Your doctor may also ask you to fill out a questionnaire that helps you to describe and rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10.
When Should I Take My Pain Medication?
It is always better to take pain medication at the first onset of pain or when the pain is mild. To relieve pain more effectively, do not wait till it escalates before taking your medication. Follow your doctor’s orders regarding frequency and duration.
Are There Any Chances of Getting Addicted to Pain Medications?
Addiction mainly depends on your likelihood of becoming addicted based on your family history of addiction. If medications are taken as prescribed there is less chance of addiction to narcotic medications. Feel free to discuss your concerns with your doctor.
What Can I Do to Avoid Worsening of Pain?
Pain may worsen with certain activities. If you notice an activity contributes to or aggravates your pain, you can avoid it or medications can be taken prior to performing such activities. You can also ask your doctor for instructions on the best ways to deal with the worsening pain.
What are My Treatment Options for Pain Management?
Some of the common treatments used for effective pain management include:
- Use of medications such as analgesics, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, narcotics, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These drugs may be sold over the counter or prescribed by your doctor.
- Anesthesia is ideally used during invasive and non-invasive diagnostic and treatment procedures. It includes general, regional, and local anesthesia, and sedatives.
- RICE protocol (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) helps relieve joint and muscle pains such as sprains and strains.
- Epidural steroid injection (ESI) is a minimally invasive approach to treat inflammation of spinal nerves that causes pain in the neck, arms, back, and legs. An ESI contains a corticosteroid medication along with an anesthetic agent which can reduce inflammation and pain. In this technique, the steroidal medications are injected into the spinal canal to pass down to the inflamed spinal nerve through the epidural space which lies between the covering of the spinal cord and the vertebrae. This technique may help relieve back pain in conditions such as spinal stenosis, spondylolysis, or herniated discs.
- Steroid injections: Steroids are medications with anti-inflammatory properties that may be injected into areas of the body such as the joints to relieve pain and swelling. They are usually combined with a local anesthetic to enhance pain relief. Steroid injections are mainly used for the relief of joint pain due to arthritis and may be injected into the major joints such as the knees, hips, spine, ankles, wrists, and elbows as well as the minor joints of the hands and feet.
- Electrical stimulation is a procedure that uses electrical signals to stimulate nerves and the brain to block pain transmission. They include peripheral nerve stimulation, spinal cord stimulation, and intra-cerebral stimulation.
- Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA), also called rhizotomy or neurotomy, is a novel non-surgical technique for treating pain. This technique employs radiofrequency waves to produce heat to damage the nerves transmitting pain signals to the brain. This procedure is performed to treat painful facet joints in the spine that usually cause chronic low back pain and neck pain.
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation involving massage and manipulation are often prescribed to restore function, control pain, and speed up recovery.
- Biofeedback is generally used to treat headaches and backaches. In this method, an electronic machine is used to train you to be aware of and have control over certain body functions such as muscle tension, skin temperature, and heart rate, and change your response to pain with certain techniques such as relaxation.
- Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine needles at specific points of the body to stimulate the body’s energy flow.
- Chiropractic therapy is a hands-on method of treating back pain, musculoskeletal conditions, and neck pain. It involves adjusting the coordination between the structure and function of the different parts.
- Exercise is also a widely prescribed treatment for the reduction of pain. Simple exercises such as walking and swimming help to improve blood supply and oxygen to the muscles, and release endorphins, chemicals that reduce the perception of pain.
- Psychological evaluation and therapy: Psychological counseling such as behavioral therapy improves your mental health and manages conditions such as stress and depression which can aggravate chronic pain. It is important to be physically as well as emotionally stable to manage chronic pain.