What Causes Pain Is Not Always Obvious
Pain varies: what’s causing it, the duration, intensity. Acute pain may follow traumatic injury and lead to complications such as hypertension, tachydardia (abnormal heart rate) or ‘guarding’ (adjusting one’s posture or movements to protect against pain). It can also lead to chronic pain, which is defined as lasting more than 12 weeks.
Chronic pain can be difficult to pin down. One patient may complain of nagging pain even if imaging tests show no abnormality, while another with the same physiology is pain-free. Medical and family history, lifestyle, physical condition, occupation and temperament all guide us in devising the best treatment plan for each individual.
While there are no guarantees in pain management, there are best options.
Here are some Means to Control Acute Pain:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs). Inflammation often follows an injury or strain. By reducing the swelling, NSAIDs can help relieve pain by alleviating pressure on affected bones, muscles, tendons and nerves. This may speed healing and help to minimize pain.
- Heat or ice. This time-honored treatment of acute pain is applied in stages. RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) represents the ‘cold’ phase, when an injury is chilled to dampen inflammation. After the swelling is reduced, heating pads can be used to soothe the area and increase blood flow.
- Nerve blocks or localized anesthesia. A network of nerves that’s transmitting pain signals may be effectively shut down by injecting certain medications, such as local anesthesia, into a specific region. Nerve blocks have been used to manage post-operative back pain.
- TENS. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) employs low-voltage electrical current for pain relief. TENS seems to scramble normal pain signals and encourage the body to produce its own natural pain-relievers, called endorphins. It’s used for low back pain, neck pain, tendinitis or bursitis.
Chronic Pain may be Managed with some or all of the Following:
- Exercise has been found to relieve chronic low back, perhaps by training certain muscles to help support the spine. At our clinic, we’ve seen a number of patients who’ve benefited from supervised activity. Physical therapists can show the patient how to exercise without causing more stress to the afflicted area.
- Relaxation therapy and behavior modification are both useful to assist the patient in controlling and tolerating pain. Science is still not clear on how the mind affects physical reactions but it’s been proven that, for certain patients, these disciplines result in measurable relief of chronic pain.
- Acupuncture is a technique borrowed from Asia that has become a familiar tool in the arsenals of pain management. Scientists concede that there is little evidence of how it works, but studies show that acupuncture is effective for conditions such as chronic back pain.