Handling pain is not always easy. It affects the mental health. As the body tries to deal with the feeling of pain, stress hormones are released. The inability to release the happy hormones is dampened, so there is a complete imbalance within the body. This can make handling the pain even harder. The immune system reacts, and the body inflames which puts more pressure on nerves and makes the pain worse.
While many people will suggest popping a few painkillers that are not always something you want to do. There are a variety of reasons you will want to avoid medication. Some are not suitable during pregnancy, with your other medications, or you just do not want something humanmade entering your body. How do you know the pain medications work?
So, it is time to look at all your options for pain management. Whether it is a one-off migraine or chronic pain daily, there are steps you can take. This all-in-one guide to pain management will help.
Understand the Type of Pain
Before you even start, you need to know more about the type of pain you are suffering with. This is not just about where it is, but why it could be happening.
For example, a headache, because you are dehydrated, will be much easier to manage than chronic pain due to swollen parts of the body and damaged nerves. Chronic pain is much harder to control and manage, whether through natural and pharmaceutical needs, compared to one-off types of pain.
Pain is usually a symptom or a sign for your body to slow down. Most of the time, your body will tell you there’s pain because it wants you to stop whatever you are doing. Alternatively, it could be in pain because of something that is happened. Pain because you are stretching a muscle too far is a sign that you need to stop stretching the muscle, while pain, after you’ve broken your leg, is a symptom of that break.
Chronic pain is slightly different. There’s sometimes no rhyme or reason to it. Your immune system has reacted when it should not have, causing the body to become inflamed in places. The natural inflammatory response causes pressure on the nerves and increases the stress hormones in the body. Your body does not know what to do to help work against the reason for the pain.
The type of pain you have will affect the way in which your doctor treats you. The last thing your doctor wants is for you to become addicted to any pain medications or reliant on them to reduce the amount of pain you have.
In more severe cases, pain medication will be used to end of life care.
Natural Methods of Physical Therapy and Exercise
Exercise can help to manage some pain. If the pain is short-lived for just a few days, exercise is often the best treatment. Whether it is walking, going to the gym, or taking up a dance class, the exercise will help to get the hormonal balance back in check. It helps to release more happy hormones, including the chemicals that naturally remove pain from the body.
Exercise can also help to improve joint stiffness, strengthen muscles, and stretch the tendons gently. For example, yoga can help to ease off tightness in the hips and shoulders. Squats help to strengthen the leg muscles, and some back exercises will improve the strength and alignment around that area. You can reduce pain traveling all the way to your neck and head.
Physical therapy is another excellent want to manage pain. This is highly recommended if you had an injury, as it helps to use the muscles properly again and strengthen them to the point they were at before. You can improve your posture and your flexibility, making it easier to use your joints.
It is possible to take some medications while doing exercise and physical therapy. You should stick to low dosages of the first two medication treatments on the list, depending on the reason for your pain.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Acupuncture for All Types of Pain
Whether your pain is localized, chronic, nerve-related, or due to inflammation, there are other non-drug treatments available. Some of these can be used with drug treatments.
The cognitive behavioral therapy uses talking and other forms of therapy to help understand more about the workings of your mind. It can help to get to the root of the pain, giving you the chance to understand your body more. CBT is more commonly used for depression, so it can be used with drug treatments to deal with the mental side effect of living with pain.
Acupuncture has been used for centuries for pain management. It is an Eastern technique, using needles to help release pressure from the nerves, prevent muscle spasms, and reduce inflammation. The needles are small and are placed in localized areas. Acupuncture has been known to help cure migraines, chronic lower back pain, trauma pain, and much more. It can be used with some drug treatments but also with exercise and physical therapy.
Medications for Chronic Pain
Chronic pain sufferers include those with arthritis, nerve damage, fibromyalgia, recurring migraines, and pain due to disabilities, among other similar problems. Some pharmaceutical medications can be used to help treat the pain. Doctors will opt for the ones with the lowest strength as much as possible but may need to change tactics when the pain medications do not work. Regularly changing medication can also help to prevent the body from getting used to the medications.
When active cancer, palliative care, and end of life treatments are not required, the CDC prefers that doctors prescribe non-opioid treatments. Opioids are extremely addictive and dangerous. However, opioid treatments are sometimes suggested.
Acetaminophen for Non-Inflammatory Chronic Pain
The most common type of medication taken for dealing with pain is acetaminophen, also known as Tylenol. It is used for non-inflammatory types of pain since it has no effect on the inflammation of the body. You can get the medication over the counter as often as you require. However, high usage is dangerous in the liver and can cause toxicity problems within the body.
You should not drink alcohol when using acetaminophen for your pain. The two together will speed up the process of liver disease. You should also keep your daily usage of the drug to 3-4mg per day.
The medication is not any good for malignant pain. This is pain that lasts for six or more months after injury or at a time.
NSAIDs for Inflammatory Pain
The next common option for pain management is the use of NSAIDs. These are known better as ibuprofen and naproxen and are used commonly for managing pain due to inflammation. Doctors recommend it for managing arthritis, carpel tunnel, and even some digestive and ovarian pain. You can take both acetaminophen and NSAIDs together, although you should limit the usage as much as possible.
While this is a medication available over the counter, there are concerns about the side effects on the body. People susceptible to low blood pressure and bleeding, cardiovascular problems, and those who are pregnant should avoid taking the medication. The medication can act as a blood thinner and cause some kidney impairment.
If you take low-dose aspirin, you should also avoid NSAIDs for pain management. Occasional use is considered okay, but doctors prefer for you to avoid completely. If you do need to take NSAIDs, take them 30 minutes after or eight hours before aspirin use.
Some NSAIDs come in a topical treatment. These are creams or gels that can be applied directly to the affected area, commonly used for joint or localized pain. The treatments can also be safer than oral anti-inflammatory medication. Gels and creams are not as easily absorbed into the body, which means you can limit the amount of the medication you get and limit the side effects. However, if you have some of the health problems already mentioned or you are pregnant, you should talk to your doctor first.
Topical Capsaicin Treatments for Localized Pain
Another option for localized pain is a topical capsaicin treatment. This is often a heat/ice rub that helps to give the sensation of something hot or cold applied directly to the area. The active ingredient, capsaicin, is the ingredient that gives chili peppers their heat!
Those who have chronic arthritis or problems with nerves, such as neuralgia because of shingles or carpal tunnel, may find that the creams are useful. They help to minimize inflammation within the body, while also reducing the aching sensation in the joints. The heat treatment can also help to relax muscles, making it easier to move joints.
Rather than creams, you can also get patches. They are extremely common for chronic back, shoulder, or neck pain. The patches are applied and left on for an hour or so (whatever instructed by the brand). You can use four at once, meaning you can cover the whole of the back and neck if needed.
There are minimal side effects linked to the capsaicin treatments, making them one of the most recommended options.
Treatments for Neuropathic Pain
When your pain is of a neuropathic nature, it is linked to the nerves. They may be affected by inflammation or may have been damaged due to trauma or aging. Neuropathic pain can be far more serious on the mental health, as it passes throughout your body.
There are some treatments available to manage the pain. Anticonvulsants are the most popular, including brands such as Neurontin, Lyrica, and Tegretol. The medications inhibit the release of neurotransmissions around the body, so your body stops sensing that there is a pain in various areas. This medication is most commonly prescribed to people with fibromyalgia and other similar chronic illnesses.
Antidepressants can also be used for managing pain. Tricyclic antidepressants are commonly prescribed for neuropathic pain with depression. The pain may have caused the depression, or the pain may be a symptom of depression due to the imbalanced hormones. Patients will be prescribed these treatments for 6-8 weeks and will have regular checkups with the doctor. Some of the most common side effects include dizziness, dry mouth, and cognitive impairment.
Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) may be prescribed instead. They are more common for diabetic neuropathy patients, but not commonly when there is cardiac disease present. Those with osteoporosis, low back pain (chronic), and fibromyalgia are often prescribed SNRIs. There are side effects similar to the antidepressants mentioned above. Fatigue and drowsiness are common, but insomnia can also be an issue.
Using Muscle Relaxants to Manage Chronic Pain
Doctors can opt for antispasmodic treatments. These muscle relaxant treatments are used when the pain is due to muscle spasms within the body. All types of cramping and pain can become an issue due to muscle spasms, including excruciating menstrual cramps, restless leg syndrome, and some neck or back pain.
Most common muscle spasms are linked to long-term chronic pain issues. The muscles struggle to relax daily because you are constantly tensing where the pain is. The muscles then cramp and spasm in reaction.
Opioids May Sometimes Be Required
While the CDC prefers non-opioids for pain management outside of cancer, palliative care, and end of life treatments, there are times that opioids are required. If you have sustained a serious trauma to the body or had surgery, some opioids are often given to help manage the initial pain. The levels are carefully monitored, and you will be weaned from them after a few days, depending on the type and reason for the pain.
Opioids include oxycodone, morphine, fentanyl, and methadone. They tend to work in one of two ways to help reduce nerve excitability. Without the nerve excitability, the pain sensation cannot be carried to the brain and other parts of the body.
- Open the potassium channels
- Block the calcium channel
There are serious side effects, especially to the misuse of the pain medications. One of those is an addiction. Those who have been on opioids for a few weeks because of a serious injury can suffer withdrawal effects when they stop the treatments. Opioids can also cause headaches, confusion, dizziness, sedation, and nausea. Constipation is also common in some patient. These side effects are in those who use the opioids sensibly. Those who misuse them can suffer liver toxicity and kidney damage.
Know Your Pain
Before you even think about taking any types of medications, you will need to understand your pain. Pain management is more than just treating the feeling and sensations. You need to get to the bottom of your pain. It is important to figure out why your body is telling you there’s a problem. This will allow you to treat the condition and live drug-free and pain-free.