Pain, while generally a sensation that most people would like to avoid, is in fact the body’s natural method of response to any and all potentially damaging stimuli, i.e.. extreme heat, cold, blunt trauma, etc. However, since pain also bring severe discomfort, anxiety, and sometimes other more serious consequences (sometimes extreme/severe pain can cause elevated stress levels that lead to cardiac arrest, stroke, high blood pressure, and other life threatening conditions), physicians advocate to provide relief to their patients who are experiencing pain.
When it comes to effective pain management techniques, there are several options available from which doctors and patients can choose from, depending on the circumstances as well as the nature of their condition. In most cases, the source or cause of the pain is determined prior to prescribing pain management solutions, whether they are in the form of medication or holistic/natural methods.
Understanding various methods of pain management requires gaining accurate information on how each one works and their corresponding benefits as well as drawbacks. Listed below are some of the most effective methods of managing pain as well as preventing its recurrence.
Non Invasive – Natural Pain Management Methods
Light Exercises – While many people associate physical exertion to pain, exercise is in fact an effective tool to use against chronic pain, especially on certain parts of the body such as the back, arms, legs, and neck. Light workouts and other forms of exercise, i.e.. yoga and stretching allows the brain to produce endorphins(biochemical neurotransmitters), which inhibits pain for long stretches of time. Keep in mind, however, that overexertion will prove to be counter-intuitive and can cause pain instead of relief.
Tip: Certain yoga poses have been proven helpful in relieving as well as preventing pain. Some health experts as well as Yoga gurus even argue that doing yoga on a regular basis can increase a person’s threshold for pain.
Hydrotherapy (Cold and Warm Water) – Whether it is in the form of a water bath or compress, hydrotherapy has been proven effective in easing minor pains. This is used mostly to ease muscle tension caused by trauma, extraneous exercise, and other minor accidents (i.e.. slipping in the tub, twisted/sprained ankle). Using hot and cold temperature intermittently can help relieve the nerve tension, which is causing the pain and discomfort.
Tip: When employing hydrotherapy, be sure to pack the hot water or ice using thick cloth, plastic, or compress. Direct and prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures can cause skin blisters as well as minor or permanent never damage. Never apply cold/hot compress longer than 15 minutes at a time.
Acupuncture – Eastern healing principles have always been known to provide excellent pain management methods, one of which is acupuncture. The use of needles (used superficially so the technique is still classified as noninvasive) on certain areas of the body allows to target pain receptors and reduce the level of discomfort right almost immediately. This method is highly recommended for people who are allergic to pain medications or are otherwise predisposed to addiction (as in the case of those who become dependent on Class A narcotics such as Hydrocodone Acetaminophen, Oxycodone, morphine, etc).
Tip: Acupuncture (as well as acupressure) is also effective in reducing stress levels, which has a positive impact on the central nervous system, which controls the body’s pain receptors.
Meditation and Breathing Exercises – Certain individuals are partial to holistic methods and are extremely opposed to usage of medications. For these people, deep meditation and breathing exercises are highly recommended. The rewards to using this technique include pain relief, higher tolerance to pain, and mental clarity. However, it should be noted that it may take a long time to reach the level required in order to reap benefits such as immediate pain relief.
Tip: Auto circadian Meditation is one form of deep meditation that is known to be effective for pain relief. It also provides other benefits that can people can usually only get during REM sleep.
Certain Over-the-counter medications are known to provide pain relief, albeit temporarily. Some of the most common non prescription drugs used for pain management include the following:
NSAIDs – Non steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs are common used to treat minor aches and pains. Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Mefenamic Acid, Naproxen, and Sodium salicylate are just some of the most popular analgesics used to relieve pain.
Acetaminophen – This analgesic is used not only to reduce pain but also lower body temperature. It is used to substitute for or in combination with Paracetamol.
IMPORTANT: When choosing which OTC pain medication to buy, it is necessary to take note of drug sensitivities (if any) as well as other considerations such as pregnancy, age (below 14 above 60 years of age), etc. Aspirin should NEVER be taken by pregnant women and nursing mothers as well as those who suffer from stomach ulcers and/or chronic hyper acidity. The side effects of OTC medications for pain are usually minimal and often negligible.
Narcotic Therapy (Prescription Medications)
Certain patients do not respond well to holistic. natural, and non-medication pain therapies, which then necessitates the use of narcotics in order to obtain much needed relief. Some of the most common prescriptive drugs used to manage pain include the following:
Hydrocodone (Hydrocodone Acetaminophen or Vicodin is the most popular brand)
Morphine (often prescribed for terminal cases, i.e.. cancer patients)
Fentanyl (available in patches)
Most Class A narcotics for pain are prescribed as post-operative medication, especially in the case of major procedures (i.e.. brain surgery, cardiac bypass, organ transplantation, etc) Note: All of the items listed above are controlled substances and MUST only be taken within the parameters set my the prescribing physician. More importantly, most of these substances are highly addictive and therefore should not be abused. The side effects attributed to usage and/or abuse of these drugs include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, heart palpitations, extreme dryness of the mouth and eyes, kidney and liver damage, uncontrolled tremors and shakes, headaches, damage to the nervous system, memory loss, reduced alertness, and many others. Death is one of the possible consequences of overdosing from any one of these medications.
Other Pain Management Techniques
Invasive – Non Medication Techniques
In certain cases where OTC and prescription medications do not yield favorable results for the patient, surgical procedures may be explored. Some of the most common procedures are the following:
Injections – This process involves administering steroids and/or anesthetics into the joints via syringe. This is usually done in cases of chronic severe pain (common in patients who suffer from car crashes and/or are amputees as a result of the accident).
Prolotherapy - This procedure involves injecting an irritant solution into a specific part (or parts) of the body in order to stimulate better blood flow and facilitate ligament or tissue repair. The efficacy of this method has yet to be determined.
Why Not Use Pain Medications?
While the use of pain medications is a valid choice, it is not ideal for those who want a long term solution to pain. Holistic, natural, and non-invasive methods are still the best choice since they do not have any side effects or pose any kind of danger to the body.
Other Holistic and Alternative Pain Management Methods to Consider
Aromatherapy and Relaxation – The use of essential oils (especially while soaking in a warm bath) help the body achieve a deeper state of relaxation, which reduces muscle tension as well as stress levels. Some of the best oils to use include lavender, chamomile, sandalwood, sweet basil, cardamom, cedarwood, cinnamon leaf, Eucalyptus, grapefruit, jasmine, and many others. This type of therapy can also be used in conjunction with sound therapy (soothing music such as Spa Selections, classical, instrumentals, etc). It has been well documented that the brain reacts differently to various sounds, i.e. loud rock music is mostly distressing while classic compositions and instrumentals are conducive to relaxation.
Massage and Chiropractic Adjustments – For those who are experiencing chronic back pain, muscle tension, cramps, and anything else that has to do with bones, muscles, joints, and ligaments should consider getting an adjustment from a licensed chiropractor. Spinal alignment is usually recommended for individuals who spend hours every day sitting at their desks or standing/bending (as in the case of construction workers and other blue collar jobs).
Hypnosis and Other Similar Methods – The principle of Mind Over Matter has long been the subject of debate between and amongst physicians and holistic practitioners. Some people swear by the power of positive thinking along with the following practices/methods:
Apart from the fact that natural pain management techniques are safer, they also cost next to nothing so people can try various methods without having to think about straining their finances. Pain relief does not always have to come from a pill. In fact, it is ideal to explore all other alternative methods prior to taking any form of medication.