Pain Management: Types and Treatment
Pain is the biggest reason millions of people seek medical care in the United States. Although pain is one of the most common symptoms you need medical care for, it is also one of the most misunderstood and ineffectively treated. Pain management strategies include pain medicines, physical therapies, and complementary therapies such as acupuncture and massage.
Your emotional wellbeing can impact the experience of pain. It is important to understand the cause and effective ways to cope with your pain. This will help improve your quality of life. Key pain management strategies include:
Physical therapies - Heat or cold packs, massage, hydrotherapy, and exercise.
Psychological therapies - Cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques, and meditation.
Mind and body techniques – Acupuncture.
Nociceptive pain: This includes a cut or a broken bone such as tissue damage or injury initiates signals that are transferred through peripheral nerves to the brain via the spinal cord. Pain signals are modulated throughout the pathways indicating that something is hurting.
Radicular pain: This stems from irritation of the nerve roots, like from a disc herniation. The pain would radiate down the leg or arm in the distribution of the nerve that exits from the nerve root at the spinal cord. This also includes radiculopathy, which is weakness, numbness, tingling, or loss of reflexes in the distribution of the nerve.
Somatic pain: This type of pain is limited to the back or thighs. The reason for most back pain is not identified and is classified as idiopathic. The back pain can be the result of the issue with three structures - the facet joints, the discs, and the sacroiliac joint.
Neuropathic pain: This would include pain caused by damage or disease that affects the nervous system such as shingles and diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Sometimes there might be no obvious source of pain, and it can occur spontaneously. Neuropathic pain usually occurs after nerves are cut or after a stroke. This includes:
Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) or reflex sympathetic dystrophy;
Sympathetically maintained pain;
Interstitial cystitis; and
Irritable bowel syndrome.
Prescription: This is arsenal against pain is extensive. This includes NSAIDs that are more powerful than other over-the-counter pain relievers as well as opioid analgesics. Various unconventional analgesics were not originally developed as pain-relievers, but they have pain-relieving properties in certain conditions.
Various types of Pain
Pain can have many sources. Pain is majorly divided into nociceptive pain and neuropathic pain. The treatment of pain depends largely upon what type of pain it is, such as:
What is pain-relief medicine?
Pain-relief medicines help in managing short (acute) or long-term (chronic) pain. The pain relievers target the cause of the pain as well as reduce the feeling of pain. Some pain-relievers can be purchased 'over-the-counter' (OTC), and don’t need a prescription from your doctor to access them.
It is important to see a doctor when your pain persists, is not being adequately controlled or you are not sure how to cope with your pain. Doctors may recommend different strategies for managing long-term (chronic) pain, including prescription medicines, as well as strategies that don’t involve medicine.
What are the types of prescription pain relievers?
Pain medications are broadly classified as:
Nonprescription: This includes several mild anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, naproxen), as well as acetaminophen. These provide relief in short-term, acute pain such as menstrual cramps, tension headaches, and minor sprains. These provide quick relief in "everyday aches and pains." Over-the-counter pain relievers, especially acetaminophen, are also sometimes used to treat chronic pain, such as that seen in arthritis. These drugs also help in lowering fever and are often used for that purpose.
Prescription pain medications provide stronger pain relief in comparison to OTC drugs. Common prescription pain relievers include:
Antidepressants: This targets the chemicals called neurotransmitters in the brain that works best for chronic pain, including migraines. The major pain relief is provided by tricyclics and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), such as Effexor and Cymbalta.
Anti-seizure medications: These medications interrupt the pain messages to the brain. These medicines are helpful to ease nerve pain and fibromyalgia.
Muscle relaxers: These medications are effective in reducing pain by relaxing tight muscles as well as muscle spasms.
Opioids: These are lab-made narcotic pain medicines. They change how your brain perceives pain messages. As they can be addictive, healthcare providers rarely prescribe opioids for chronic pain. But they are beneficial for a short time after a surgery or traumatic injury. Codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, and morphine are all opioids.
Steroids: Corticosteroids are strong anti-inflammatory drugs and they stop your body from making chemicals that cause irritation and inflammation. Steroids are beneficial in the treatment of migraines, severe arthritis, and back pain.
Topical: The healthcare provider might prescribe skin creams, gels, sprays, and patches to ease muscle pain, arthritis, and fibromyalgia.
What are the potential risks or complications of prescription pain relievers?
Prescription painkillers are powerful and addictive drugs. They carry a higher risk in comparison to OTC medications. Opioids can be addictive and lead to substance abuse, thus are used for acute pain but not chronic pain. The healthcare providers only prescribe opioids for short-term use to lower this risk.
Prescription medications for pain may cause side effects, such as:
Are pain relievers safe during pregnancy?
Researchers suggest that acetaminophen is safer to take during pregnancy. But, taking NSAIDs or opioids during early pregnancy may increase the risk of birth defects.
In case of a cesarean section (C-section) birth or difficult labor and delivery, you may need pain relief. It is important to let your doctor know if you plan to breastfeed as certain opioids are safer for nursing babies. OTC pain relievers are safe to use while nursing.
Pain relievers can provide a short break from aches and discomforts. A lot of acetaminophen and anti-inflammatory drugs are available as OTC products. These include medicines for allergies, colds, and flu. Many non-addictive pain medicines are available for chronic pain. You should seek advice from your healthcare provider to find the right medicine to help you enjoy better, pain-free days.
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If you or anyone you know is suffering from pain, our expert providers at ASP Cares will take care of your health and help you recover.
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