Pain Relief Guide
Major methods Used to Control and Relieve Pain
Pain management is a major branch of medicine. Doctors and researchers have developed a range of effective techniques for relieving pain, which draw on both pharmacological and natural health practices. This family of techniques is used to manage acute short-term pain as well as long-term pain and chronic pain syndrome. Doctors may also rely on the support of other health professionals, including physical therapists, psychotherapists, occupational therapists and medical specialists to help their patients find relief from difficult or lingering cases of pain.
Medications play an important role in pain management, especially in cases of short-term pain caused by an acute and diagnosable injury. Different drugs may be prescribed, depending on the nature of the injury and/or the root cause of the pain.
Some of the most common pain medications include:
- Opioid analgesics. These drugs, which are derived from either natural or synthetic opium, are particularly effective because of their effectiveness and versatility. Not only do many forms of pain respond to opioid analgesics, but longer-acting formulations of these drugs can provide lasting relief at relatively low dosages. However, they do carry some risk of dependence and addiction.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs. If the root cause of the pain is inflamed tissue, anti-inflammatory drugs may be the best choice for relief. These drugs come in two major forms: steroidal and non-steroidal. Your doctor will choose an anti-inflammatory based on the nature and severity of your pain, your medical history, and whether or not you are using any other medications.
- Antidepressants. Though doctors and researchers are not sure why, some cases of long-term pain and chronic pain respond best to antidepressants, such as SSRIs and SNRIs. Some drugs combine these psychopharmacological agents with analgesic agents. It is believed that antidepressants are effective because they act on the major neural pathways where pain signals are transmitted in the brain.
- Antiepileptic drugs. Anticonvulsants and antiepileptic drugs are sometimes used to manage long-term pain with no apparent root cause. However, these drugs do carry a risk of significant side effects, so they are often used as a last resort when other medications have failed to provide lasting relief.
Cannabinoids, including medical marijuana and synthetic alternatives, are sometimes used to help manage chronic pain. New evidence suggests that up to 80 percent of chronic pain patients respond positively to the use of cannabinoids.
Additional Approaches to Pain Management
Medications alone may not provide complete relief from pain, or they may be unviable as the sole solution to cases of long-term or chronic pain. In such cases, doctors may recommend the use of additional therapies to help manage pain caused by diseases or disorders, which typically include:
- Physical and occupational therapy. Pain can be worsened by underuse or misuse of the affected area of the body. Physical and occupational therapists can help patients overcome this type of pain, while prescribing regimens of therapeutic exercise that help rebuild lost strength.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). Low-voltage electrical impulses which are sent directly to nerve pathways have proven effective in the management of pain, especially pain caused by an acute injury. It is particularly effective for pain caused by diabetic neuropathy, a complication of diabetes that requires additional treatment in addition to the already existing diabetes treatment guidelines in place.
- Alternative treatments. A wide range of alternative and holistic treatments also purport to provide pain relief, though the scientific community is largely divided on their effectiveness. Anecdotal evidence does suggest, though, that these therapies may provide drug-free relief from many forms of pain. Acupuncture, homeopathy, spinal manipulation, meditation, and hypnosis are among the more common alternative treatments used in the management of pain.
In cases of medium- to long-term pain, doctors may recommend a multidisciplinary approach to pain management. Thus, medications may be combined with one or more of the aforementioned approaches to help the patient achieve lasting relief.