Chronic pain is a complex medical issue, and it can, unfortunately, take quite some time to find a pain relief treatment or combination of treatments that work effectively. Chronic pain can develop as a result of an injury or a medical condition such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, cancer treatments, and more.
Chronic pain has the potential to be a debilitating condition that can affect every aspect of a person’s work and social life, as well as their mental health. Pain is defined as chronic if it lasts longer than three months or continues to be an issue longer than the usual healing time for the underlying injury or condition.
In this article, we will explore chronic pain, some pain management treatments, and the potential effects of chronic pain.
Pain Management Doctors
Pain management doctors, like the professionals at Carolinas Pain Center, are healthcare providers who help individuals manage all types of pain. The different chronic pain management approaches they might employ include exercise, therapy, injections, and other pain medications. A single pain management treatment may work for one person, while others may need a combination of several.
These pain management plans are designed to help people dealing with chronic or long-term pain feel better and enjoy a better quality of life.
The first step to finding the best pain treatment for you is to establish what is causing it. The pain management provider helping you with your pain will ask you a series of simple questions such as:
- When do you feel pain?
- Where do you feel pain, and does it stay in one place or radiate (move)?
- Does your pain get better or worse when doing certain activities?
These questions will help your provider understand the type of pain you’re dealing with, hopefully, identify the cause, and use that information to develop the most effective treatment plan for you. Remember that chronic pain medication can lead to drug addiction, and so there are chronic pain management guidelines that every provider must adhere to.
This is why the best pain management programs will combine a variety of treatment methods that address your pain both in the short and long term.
What should I tell my pain doctor?
When talking to a pain doctor, it is important to be as detailed as possible so that they can help you effectively. If your provider gets the wrong idea about the severity, location, and limits caused by your pain, it can have a detrimental effect on your chronic pain relief treatment.
Things that can help you make sure you’re getting the best possible care include:
- Keeping a pain diary with details of when, the severity, location, and what you were doing when pain occurred or got worse
- Learning more precise words to describe your pain such as aching, burning, cramping, dull, piercing, tender, tingling, and more
- Explaining how your pain affects and limits your life
- Being clear about what your pain scale means to you — not everyone’s 10 is the same!
- Being aware of potential bias due to gender, race, body type, mental health issues, and more
- Bringing someone who can verify what you’re saying
Treatment Plans for Pain Management
Many believe that the most effective treatment for pain is simply to take a handful of painkillers and get on with their day. But just enduring the pain is not the answer either, as both can lead to a range of complications. These include possible prescription drug addiction, an underlying and treatable condition going undiagnosed and worsening, and more.
The preferred treatment for chronic pain will combine a variety of techniques that treat both body and mind and consider a patient as a whole person rather than just medicating their pain and ignoring everything else. This is not to say that pain management doctors won’t prescribe medication when necessary, though, and some examples of the type of medication they recommend include:
- Acetaminophen (like Tylenol)
- Steroids such as prednisone and dexamethasone to alleviate pain and inflammation
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen
- Anti-seizure medications, which can be effective when treating pain caused by injury or nerve damage
- Beta-blockers that slow down the heart and can stop hormones, such as adrenaline, from being released
- Antidepressants that can both improve sleep and alleviate pain in certain circumstances
Pain management programs will also often utilize therapy, which can be aimed at both mind and body.
Physical therapy is an incredibly important part of an effective chronic pain treatment plan, as pain can be exacerbated by exercise that isn’t done properly or overdoing exercises. With a proper exercise plan, you will be able to improve fitness, build tolerance, and reduce your pain over time.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is used to help people learn about themselves, have a better understanding of what is causing their pain and the effect it is having, and what they can do about it. It is all about identifying the role that pain plays in your life and what that means for you personally.
Other pain management options that a pain management doctor may use include:
- At-home remedies such as heat and cold therapy
- Exercise including yoga, tai chi, swimming, walking, and a planned gym routine
- Hands-on treatments like acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, and osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT)
- Lifestyle changes including the use of biofeedback therapy, meditation, relaxation techniques, diet changes, and more
Effects of Pain Without Pain Management
People with higher pain tolerance, especially those whose tolerance has built up over time due to suffering from chronic pain, tend to simply endure their pain, often using nothing more than over-the-counter painkillers to manage it on their worse days. But this is one of the worst things a person can do, as constant pain has been proven to lead to a number of sometimes debilitating side effects.
It often surprises people to learn that chronic pain has been linked to higher rates of anxiety and depression, opioid dependence, disability, and more. This is usually because people tend to misunderstand the difference between acute pain and chronic pain. Pain becomes something completely different when you are dealing with it day in and day out for months and even years.
Get Help for Your Chronic Pain
Living with pain on a daily basis can be one of the most challenging things a person can endure, both mentally and physically. If you’re in pain regularly — or even occasionally — speak to a pain management doctor about developing a personalized pain management plan. Remember to be completely open and honest about when you feel pain, as well as what helps to ease it or makes it worse.
It is also important to tell them if you are feeling anxious or depressed or even just suspect that you may be dealing with these serious mental health issues. Inform them about any treatments you have tried, as well as if a treatment isn’t working or the pain keeps returning.
A good healthcare provider who is skilled in chronic pain relief treatments will work with you to adjust your program and find a method that is more effective for you. If you would like more information on chronic pain, please visit our resources page.