Migraines. Cancer. Pain from repetitive movements or lack thereof. The discomfort you feel may be due to disease or it may be a byproduct of how you work. Either way, acute or severe pain can prevent you from living your life.
Every day, 50 million people in America deal with some type of pain. About 20 million of this group experience what is called high-impact chronic pain. Pain is reportedly the top reason Americans seek health care, costing the country close to $635 billion every year in lost productivity, treatments and disability payments.
Although many people experience chronic pain, not enough research and investment seems to be made to resolve this condition. Pain management, for most, is still a substantial struggle. For one, some aggressive techniques tend to be expensive or may take too long to relieve pain . For another, the side effect of the medications may result in more problems than a patient can handle.
For most sufferers, managing pain is still a trial and error process.
What are Methods of Pain Management?
Multiple treatment options are available for people dealing with different types of pain. Some may be done on the patient’s own at their home, others require a pain specialist and special devices.
As is the case with every symptom or medical condition, the treatment must be unique to the person’s pain. Applying the same sort of treatment for neuropathic pain, for instance, in two different patients may result in a negative reaction for either one. So it’s vital to get checked by a healthcare provider specializing in pain.
Exercise and Strengthening Programs
Swimming, walking, tai chi and yoga may be included in a management plan for chronic pain disorders. Some of these exercises help reduce pain, improving the body’s strength and contributing to overall wellness. In some cases, pain relief may be gained by focusing on good posture.
Restorative therapies include chiropractic care, massage therapy, aquatic therapy, postural training, heat and cold therapy, dry needling, osteopathic medicine and kinesiology taping, among others. This technique combines therapeutic modalities to create complex integrated functional electrical stimulation (iFES).
Counseling and Therapy
Chronic and unmanaged stress can exacerbate pain. And anyone who has dealt with pain knows that this symptom can worsen stress as well, creating a vicious cycle. Some pain treatment plans will include some type of counseling or therapy.
These may be cognitive behavior therapy and biofeedback. Both forms of therapy allow you to change how you react to pain, improving your physical and mental wellbeing.
Complementary therapies are what you’ll recognize as alternative treatment options because they don’t rely on modern medicine. Instead, many of the therapies involved here are traditional and natural.
Reiki, acupuncture, acupressure, ayurvedic medicine, cupping and even hypnosis may be used to manage pain. Equine-assisted therapy may also be explored to manage depression and stress, which are typical in pain patients.
Pain relief medication may be injected directly to the affected area. Your specialist may recommend steroids, like corticosteroids, for bursitis, gout, rheumatoid arthritis or tendinitis. Other injected pain medication include nerve block injections, like lidocaine (which is an anesthetic) and epidural injections, which combine steroids and anesthetic.
Stimulations and External Neuromodulation
Low-voltage electric currents may also be used to relieve chronic pain. This therapy is called transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). A TENS unit is a device that delivers electrical impulses through electrodes on the painful area. As the electrical current is applied the nerve cells, pain signals are blocked.
This kind of stimulation is generally used for acute pain and long-term, chronic pain. People suffering from fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, chronic pelvic pain, back pain and other conditions.
No prescription pain medication must be taken without a physician’s checkup. What are the common drugs used for pain control? For over-the-counter medicines, you could take:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
OTCs are mostly for sprains, toothaches, menstrual cramps, migraines and headaches.
For prescription medication, a doctor may prescribe the following:
- Muscle relaxants
- Anti-seizure medications
Prescription pain medicine is intended only for severe pain, like nerve pain, cancer, diabetes-related neuropathy, fibromyalgia, post-operative pain and severe muscle pain, among others.
Although pain management requires some form of medication along with physical therapy and other modalities, the prescribed medicine may do more harm than good in some patients. Such is the case with OxyContin.
The Opioid Crisis and Treating Pain: Is OxyContin Still in the Market?
In the late ’90s, drugmaker Purdue Pharma introduced OxyContin to the market. The opioid painkiller was touted to be non-addictive compared to other opioids owing to its “time-release” method. The Food and Drug Administration signed off and approved the drug with a label that essentially classified it as being “non-addictive.”
As a result, doctors were greatly encouraged (some even incentivized) to prescribe OxyContin more than other painkillers. So Purdue’s drug became the top-selling painkiller. Unfortunately, people who were prescribed the pain medication became so addicted to the powerful drug that many died from overdose. And it is said to be the drug that triggered the opioid crisis.
According to reports, about 600,000 people have died from opioid overdoses since 1999. Some 1.2 million more are projected to die from opioid use without interventional procedures.
Although OxyContin isn’t the only opioid people use, it’s still the top-selling pain medicine. So yes, it is still available and still being prescribed. But because Purdue Pharma has been on the receiving end of multiple lawsuits from different states, the company has stopped marketing the drug to doctors.
Why is Management of Chronic Pain Important?
Pain has a way of affecting every facet of a person’s life. People who deal with chronic pain will likely see their quality of life drop and experience substantial functional disability. Their condition may prevent them from working or performing their best as well, which will impact their earning abilities.
An effective pain management plan addresses these and other concerns, allowing a person to regain some of their routines. Functional abilities and usual habits may not be entirely restored, but the right medical treatment, medication and therapies can improve life for people experiencing chronic pain.
Is Chronic Pain a Disability?
Chronic pain on its own is not classified as a disability under the Social Security disability claims. But the medical conditions that create pain are, like spinal disorders, inflammatory arthritis, systemic lupus and peripheral neuropathy. Any medical condition that has limited your functional abilities may entitle you to disability benefits.
Chronic or acute pain doesn’t just cause pain. Without help from pain management doctors and an effective treatment, the persistent pain you experience may end up controlling your life. Although the occasional painkiller may help, it’s not the only way to control pain. In the long run, it may not even be a good solution. So talk to a physician or seek a pain specialist to manage or reduce pain.