Pain Management

Reviewed: April 05, 2013
By eHealthIQ
Pain Management

Overview and Facts

If you suffer from long-term or chronic pain, it is important to employ pain management techniques to provide pain relief. Pain management is an approach to pain that attempts to ease suffering and improve the quality of life of those suffering from pain. In order to effectively manage long-term pain, pain management is essential.

Pain is something that affects many, but is hard to measure. There is no test that can diagnose pain, and pain symptoms are different for everyone. It could be as a result of a disease or injury, or it can be triggered by stress, age or other complications. There are two types of pain:

Acute pain

  • Begins suddenly
  • Usually lasts for just a moment
  • Typically is a warning of a potential disease or threat

Chronic pain

  • Lasts for long periods of time
  • Resistant to most medical pain treatment
  • Can cause severe problems
  • Usually persists even when an injury has healed

Signs and Symptoms

Pain is an unpleasant, sensory and emotional experience associated with tissue damage. The feeling of pain can be very mild or extremely sharp and severe. Pain can affect pretty much any part of the body and can indicate a greater problem or disease such as fibromyalgia or osteoarthritis.

Symptoms of chronic pain:

  • Frequent headaches
  • Pain that doesn’t go away after an injury
  • Arthritis-like pain
  • Back pain
  • Persistent or recurring pain
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain
  • Weak immune system
  • Sudden or shooting pain
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Discomfort, stiffness, soreness

Causes and Diagnosis

Chronic pain can be brought about by many different factors. First, general aging can affect bones and joints and may cause pain. Injuries that don’t heal properly can cause chronic pain, as well as disease such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

Back pain is one of the most common types of chronic pain. Back pain can be caused by a number of factors:

  • Frequent poor posture
  • Overweight (having excess weight strains back and knees)
  • Sleeping on bad mattress
  • Injury
  • Lifting things improperly
  • Long-term poor posture

Diagnosing pain is difficult because there is no test to measure the pain or a device to show the pain. Often times a doctor must diagnose based on the patient’s description of the type, duration, symptoms and locations of pain. If pain has lasted more than three months without a clear reason, a person should see a doctor. Or, if the pain is affecting sleep or other daily activities, it is important to visit a doctor for pain treatment, which can provide pain relief. Health professionals such as your family medicine doctor or a nurse practitioner can help with pain treatment and pain relief for mild to moderate pain. For more severe, constant pain, pain treatment should be provided by a specialist such as a pain management specialist, physical therapist or a neurologist, depending on the pain.

Tests and Treatment Options

Doctors are constantly striving to provide pain relief for patients. Now, there are doctors who specialize in pain treatment who are focused on all types of pain. They are experts at diagnosing and treating pain, from back pain to knee pain to pain related to arthritis and more.

Pain doctors usually work closely with your primary care doctor. They review medical records and complete a thorough physical examination to determine what the best pain treatment is. They may need to order other tests to determine cause of pain.

There are many treatment options for pain, including over the counter and prescription drugs, mind-body techniques, surgery and therapy. Each has different benefits, as well as risks. Pain relief is typically found when a combination of pain treatment is used. Here are some examples of pain treatment options:

Therapy – This can be both physical therapy and aquatic therapy. The physical therapist may suggest an exercise program that will help ease your pain and increase daily functioning. Deep tissue massage and whirlpool therapy are also good treatment options.
Surgery – Surgical treatment may be recommended to provide pain relief, but only if absolutely necessary, meaning and other pain treatments have not been successful in providing pain relief.

Nerve blocks – Sometimes a group of nerves, called a plexus or ganglion, is responsible for causing pain to a specific organ or region of the body. By using nerve blocks, which means anesthetics are used to block certain nerves, pain may go away.
Trigger point injections – This procedure is used to treat muscle pain in the legs, lower back, arms and neck. Trigger point injection can also be used to treat conditions such as fibromyalgia that do not respond to other pain treatment.
Acupuncture – This is an ancient Chinese practice that uses very thin needles at specific points on the skin to treat pain. Practitioners of acupuncture are specially trained in this type of pain treatment and it can be used for certain pain conditions.
Drug therapy – Some mild forms of pain may simply be remedied with over-the-counter drugs such as Tylenol, which is an acetaminophen, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin. Both can provide pain relief caused by stiffness and muscle aches.

Helpful Tips and Home Remedies

Chronic pain is without a doubt both physically and emotionally stressful. Having additional tension can make the pain even worse. Sometimes planned relaxation, meaning not just a regular routine of watching TV or reading a book, can help break through the pain cycle and provide pain relief. Planning out 10-20 minutes of relaxation a day can help with pain relief. Here are some tips for planned relaxation:

  • Find a quiet place for relaxation
  • Turn off all lights to darken the room
  • Take the phone off the hook
  • Play soothing music
  • Sit in a comfortable position on the chair or the floor
  • Breath deeply
  • Meditate or engage in another type of relaxation method

References

  • http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/default.htm
  • http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pain-medications/PN00060
  • http://www.medicinenet.com/pain_management/article.htm
  • http://backandneck.about.com/od/chronicpainconditions/f/painmanagement.htm
  • http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Back-pain/Pages/Treatment.aspx

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