A startling 100 million Americans
suffer chronic pain due to such conditions as arthritis, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, autoimmune disorders, spinal injuries or from an accident or trauma. Even though medication can be an important part of a pain management plan, it shouldn’t be the “go-to” all the time as many medications have serious long-term side effects such as stomach problems, heart issues or dependence. Luckily there are many non-pharmacological ways to supplement medication. Some of which include:
- Heat and ice –physiotherapists use ice and heat to respectively bring down inflammation or increase blood flow to the damaged area. Heat is usually used for chronic injuries such as deterioration from osteoarthritis, and ice for acutely inflamed areas.
- Massage or physiotherapy – millions of people respond well to physiotherapy or massage for long-term pain and inflammation. Professional massage helps in various ways such as distracting the brain, stimulating the release mood-boosting neurochemicals and increasing circulation to the afflicted area.
- Distraction techniques – research has deduced that distracting yourself from your pain with a book, work or a hobby actually help deactivate the areas of your brain that process pain. Going a step further, cuddling and gentle touch help distract by releasing the “love hormone” oxytocin, a natural painkiller.
- Mentally guided pain management techniques – Such psychological relaxation techniques as guided imagery, progressive muscular relaxation, hypnosis and meditation have proven quite successful for many in learning to corral chronic pain.
- Pain-tracking – keeping track of your pain can help you figure out what activities, foods, medications or environments may make it worse or alleviate it. Keeping a small journal in your purse or pocket may be useful to jot down daily changes. You may identify specific pain triggers this way which can help you avoid them.
- Gentle exercise – Even though it may seem counterproductive to exercise when you are in pain, mild routine exercise is actually one of the best things for chronic inflammatory conditions like arthritis. Gentle movement such as yoga, walking or swimming can increase circulation and strengthen muscles surrounding your troubled joints. Check with your doctor (or one of ours!) first so ensure the exercise you wish to attempt will be beneficial and not detrimental to your condition.
- Acupuncture – There is debate as to how effective practices like acupuncture are for pain relief, but recently an extensive group of studies were conducted on nearly 18 000 chronic pain patients which found that 50% of participants saw some degree of pain reduction from routine acupuncture in comparison with control groups.
- Personal TENS machine – You can purchase a personal transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) machines that physiotherapists use to help with such conditions as tendonitis, bursitis, and arthritis. TENS machines work by sending electrical currents of varying intensities to the afflicted area via electrodes. While the empirical effectiveness of TENS machines as pain relievers hasn’t yet been proven, there are ongoing studies looking into it and millions of people respond positively to the treatment.
- Trigger point injections – Trigger point injections consist of a doctor injecting your problem area with a tiny needle containing anesthetic, saline solution or a long-acting corticosteroid. In some cases, a ‘dry needle’ is inserted which can deactivate the trigger point which may alleviate some pain. Corticosteroid injections such as methyl-prednisone can be highly effective for certain people, reducing pain and inflammation in the area for weeks, months or even longer.
- Stress management – When the body is stressed it triggers the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline in the bloodstream. Chronically elevated levels of cortisol can worsen pre-existing inflammatory conditions. Therefor, it stands to reason that alleviating your stress can also help assuage some of the pain and inflammation as well. Check out our latest post on stress and anxiety management to learn more about leading a more peaceful life!
Thanks for visiting EMC, we hope some of these pain management tactics can help you lead a more pain-free life!