No one likes to deal with pain, and coping with it chronically can be debilitating. Treatments for chronic pain are numerous and varied. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but there are several ways that sufferers can find relief.
Pain relief medication
The most common treatment for pain relief is medication, either over-the-counter or prescription. Mild pain can often be relieved by using over-the-counter medications, including acetaminophen (Tylenol) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and aspirin. These medications are typically used to relieve muscle aches, swelling and inflammation. Topical over-the-counter pain relievers are available as well. These include lotions, creams, sprays and patches.
Some pain needs stronger medications to achieve relief. Prescription drugs such as muscle relaxers, antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, prescription NSAIDs or stronger painkillers are often used. In addition, depending on the source of the pain, short courses of steroid injections may be used.
Alternative pain treatments
There are specific risks to the use of these pain management techniques. One of the major issues is the side effects of several of these medications. For instance, acetaminophen can affect kidney function and NSAIDs can cause stomach discomfort. Steroids can cause issues with blood sugar and diabetes. Most dangerous, the extended use of strong painkillers such as Vicodin or Percocet can lead to addiction and abuse of these medications. These are real risks that many people are not willing to take. For these individuals there are numerous other options.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) and bioelectric therapy: Both of these therapies use energy pulses to mask the pain either at the site of the pain through TENS or in the brain itself.
- Physical therapy and exercise: Both of these therapies help relieve pain by keeping muscles and joints from getting stiff and by releasing endorphins, which are the body’s own painkillers.
- Psychological treatment and mind-body therapies: These therapies use the idea of “mind over matter” through centering thought and developing skills to cope with the pain. Psychological treatment can often be found through behavioral health facilities or mental health treatment.
- Acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, and therapeutic touch: Acupuncture is thought to cause the body to fight pain through the release of endorphins. Muscle and bone manipulation through chiropractic services are often used to alleviate back pain. Therapeutic touch is thought to help the body heal itself, reducing pain through the healing process.
- Nutritional Therapies: The use of supplements and herbal remedies are thought to be helpful in helping the body heal itself. Some people also believe that certain chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis can be helped through specific dietary modifications, such a vegan or vegetarian diet. All of these treatment options must be closely monitored by the patient’s treatment team in order to make sure there are no drug interactions and that proper nutrition is maintained.
Whatever treatment method is chosen, caution should be taken that the cure is not worse than the ailment. Pain sufferers should weigh their options, make an educated decision, and be aware of the possible side effects of each.