Chronic Pain Relief
Strategies for Managing Long-term and Chronic Pain Symptoms
Living with chronic pain presents a daily challenge that can be difficult to deal with. Yet, even so, there are proven management strategies that can provide relief. Your road to recovery begins with an accurate diagnosis of the root cause of your pain, and a long-term strategy for bringing you back to full health.
Chronic pain can be caused by a number of health issues, including:
- Physical injuries to bones, muscles, and/or joints
- Chronic health conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
- Serious diseases, such as cancer
However, in a minority of cases, no single root cause can be identified. Conditions such as fibromyalgia and chronic pain syndrome remain largely unexplained; however, these types of conditions still respond to treatment. Keeping a positive attitude is essential, regardless of what the cause of your pain is or whether a cause can be pinpointed.
What Is a Chronic Pain?
The definition of chronic pain is a subject of debate within the medical community. Some clinicians define it as pain which has been present for a period of three to six months, while others believe that the 12-month threshold marks the point at which acute pain becomes chronic pain. A third definition pegs chronic pain as pain which has lasted beyond the expected healing period for the underlying cause, rather than tying it to a specific time frame.
Managing Chronic Pain
Management strategies differ, depending on the cause of your chronic pain. Here is an overview of the major ways doctors help patients with various forms of chronic pain:
Chronic pain caused by physical injuries is usually treated with a combination of medications and therapeutic interventions. Various medicines can be used to bring symptoms under control, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and narcotic painkillers. Certain types of antidepressants may also be used to help relieve your pain. Your doctor will recommend a drug based on your symptoms and the nature of the injury. You may also be asked to try various medications until your doctor finds the medicine or combination of medicines you respond to best.
In addition to medications, your doctor will likely recommend physical therapy. These therapy programs help you strengthen affected bodily structures and speed up the healing process.
Chronic health conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are managed through symptom control. You'll need to take a more proactive approach if you suffer from this type of chronic condition, by identifying and avoiding activities which cause your pain to flare up. Medications are also used to alleviate symptoms when inevitable flare-ups do occur. You should also remain as active as possible, as exercise is known to help practically all forms of arthritis.
Cancer pain can be treated in various ways. If it is being caused by a tumor, surgery to remove the tumor could bring relief; however, this is not always possible. If it is not possible to remove the tumor, you will likely be given a powerful form of narcotic painkiller to keep you as comfortable as possible.
Finally, conditions like fibromyalgia and chronic pain syndrome typically respond best to painkillers which combine analgesia with the action of an antidepressant. Again, remaining physically active is essential, and studies have shown that both fibromyalgia and chronic pain syndrome respond positively to the implementation of a cardiovascular exercise routine.
Alternative Treatments for Chronic Pain
While clinical evidence regarding alternative therapies for chronic pain is inconclusive at best, there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence to support their effectiveness. Common alternative and homeopathic treatments for chronic pain include:
- Massage therapy
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
Adding an alternative treatment to your doctor's recommended management strategy may also help your symptoms. Many people also find relief through strength and flexibility improvement programs such as yoga and Pilates.