Pain Management – Start Taking Control Of Your Pain
It can seem strange (and cruel) that in this day and age that pain is such a big factor in so many people’s lives. With all the advances made, especially in science and medicine, it would be reasonable to assume that there should be fewer and fewer people in pain, but not so.
Also, there seems to be almost an epidemic of chronic pain. Many people suffer pain daily, for many different reasons. Chronic pain is such a large part of life for many individuals that it is taken for granted, with an assumption that there is nothing that can be done.
For others, their whole day, every day, is based around the limitations to their lives caused by their pain.
This guide can help sufferers understand that natural options for pain relief do exist. Some are as effective as over-the-counter medications, without the side effects.
Not all pain relief is medicinal. Many therapies are available that individuals may not have considered, that may provide relief without damaging their health further.
It is amazing how the three macro lifestyle components of health and wellbeing – diet, exercise and sleep – can play such a big factor in pain, both in cause and cure.
As well as detailing different pain relief options, this guide offers advice to those with specific problems, such as cancer patients, seniors, and work-related pain.
Essential Oils That Can Help Manage Chronic Pain
Everybody will experience aches and pains at some point. Pain is a crucial reaction that alerts your body to a possible injury. However, chronic pain is different from the acute pain that is felt when an injury happens.
With chronic pain, the body continues sending signals to the brain even after the initial injury has healed. Or, if the condition is not fully resolved, the pain may be disproportionate to the ailment. Chronic pain could last from several weeks to years.
Causes of Chronic Pain
Some people experience chronic pain without any prior injury, but in most cases, it happens because of an underlying health problem. These include, but are not limited to, chronic fatigue syndrome, endometriosis, fibromyalgia, inflammatory bowel disease, interstitial cystitis, vulvodynia, interstitial cystitis, and temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ).
People of all ages may be affected by chronic pain. However, it is most common among older adults. Aside from age, other risk factors and causes include injury, surgery, and obesity.
Chronic pain can affect you in many ways. It limits your mobility, and it significantly reduces your endurance, strength, and flexibility. Often, those who are suffering from chronic pain turn to medications for relief.
However, pharmaceutical products do not always provide the needed relief. Also, many products have undesirable side effects, especially when used for longer periods.
For either of these reasons, many seek alternative medications and therapies to help with their problem. One natural solution is essential oils.
Do Essential Oils Work?
Essential oils are fragrant substances derived from roots, stems, petals, and other parts of a plant through a process referred to as steam distillation. They have been used for centuries to improve emotional, physical, and mental well-being.
Even so, not everyone believes that essential oils are effective, especially when they are being offered as a solution for a wide range of mental and physical problems.
Fortunately, there’s a growing number of scientific studies that could ease the worries and concerns of the skeptics. Much research supports the use and efficiency of essential oils for chronic pain relief.
How to Use Essential Oils
There are many ways of using essential oils. These include aromatherapy, aromatherapy massage, and ingestion via capsule. When used correctly, they can promote mental and physical relaxation. They are also used to treat symptoms of inflammation, depression, headaches, sleep disorder, depression, and respiratory issues.
A Few Warnings
Essential oils are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These products may vary in strength, purity, and quality. Be sure that you purchase only a reputable brand from a trusted supplier.
Essential oils mixed with a carrier oil can be applied topically or inhaled. Undiluted essential oils are not recommended to be applied to the skin directly, nor should they be swallowed. A skin patch test should be performed first prior to the application of diluted oil to the skin.
Essential Oils That Calm the Pain
Rosemary is one of the most commonly used oils in aromatherapy for the purpose of reducing pain. It’s an effective treatment that supports pharmaceutical pain medications.
Rosehip oil can help reduce joint pain and inflammation thanks to its active components, including polyphenols and anthocyanins. It is an excellent alternative for people who cannot take other pain medicines due to their side effects.
Peppermint oil is highly effective at managing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, including bloating and abdominal pain. It can also be used for relief from tension headaches and muscle aches.
This essential oil is suggested for individuals with anxiety and sleep problems. It’s also been found useful for those suffering from headaches and chronic pain because of its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.
It contains omega-3 fatty acids and other healthy fats, which are beneficial for overall health, but particularly effective in reducing inflammation. Anecdotal evidence claims it could ease the symptoms of lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Raynaud’s phenomenon.
Eucalyptus oil has been used in traditional medicine and is known for its pain relief and anti-inflammatory properties. Inhaling eucalyptus essential oil has been found effective for reducing pain and blood pressure.
Alternative Herbal Remedies for Natural Pain Relief
Pain is a fact of life, and pain relief is a multi-billion-dollar industry. For many minor aches, such as toothache, headache, stomach cramps, and muscle pain, you probably turn to over-the-counter medicines.
Ibuprofen, aspirin, and other NSAIDs may seem like a gift from heaven with their ability to provide fairly rapid, albeit temporary, pain relief. However, what many people are not aware of (or don’t pay much attention to) is that long-term use of such drugs to ease your pain can have adverse effects on your health, particularly to your liver and gut lining.
Instead of popping up a pill every time you feel something painful in your body, there are alternative remedies that can provide natural pain relief that you can turn to.
Let’s take a look at some of them:
Ginger is a remedy that is most likely available in your kitchen - be it ginger root, powdered ginger, or ginger juice. Studies have shown that it can be more effective than synthetic drugs in treating inflammation.
With ginger’s active medical ingredients, such as gingerols and shogaol, this herbal remedy has long been used to ease pain due to upset stomach, nausea, menstrual pain, migraines, and arthritis.
In addition to its traditional culinary usage, you can add ginger to your vegetable smoothies, hot or iced tea, lemonade, stir-fries and cereals.
If you love Asian food, especially Thai and Indian cuisine, then you’re familiar with turmeric. Aside from making these foods flavorful, turmeric is an effective remedy to pain. Its active ingredient is called curcumin, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
If you have rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, ulcers, psoriasis, and even cancer, incorporating turmeric in your diet or taking turmeric supplements can help improve your pain.
You can make a turmeric juice with lemon or hot tea, warm soup with turmeric, or egg dishes with a pinch of turmeric.
White Willow Bark
White willow bark has been used as an analgesic for centuries. It contains salicin, a chemical that is similar to what aspirin is mainly made of. It also contains apigenin, another anti-inflammatory. White willow bark can help ease back pain, osteoarthritis, and headaches, among many other conditions.
Be careful not to use it for the long-term, however, because it can irritate your stomach and affect your liver. Our ancestors used to chew the bark as it is, but today, you can get willow bark herbs that you can brew as tea. Liquid and capsule willow bark supplements are also now available.
Cloves are aromatic flower buds that have been proven to be an effective pain remedy. They are normally used as spices for food. They have compounds that can ease sores, including toothaches, headaches, and arthritis. Today, you can take cloves in capsule, powder, or oil form.
Oregano is commonly used in cooking, as well as in treating cough. However, it has been found to be an effective anti-inflammatory and pain relief for various conditions. Oregano has 32 anti-inflammatory compounds.
If you are suffering from back pain, neck pain, arthritis, sore muscles, or cramps, oregano can provide you relief. You can apply oregano oil directly to the affected area, or you can mix dried oregano with other herbs to make a tea.
Devil’s claw is a South African herb that contains active ingredients called harpagide and harpagoside, that provide anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. It has long been used to relieve low back pain, arthritis, rheumatism, muscle pain, chest pain, upset stomach, migraine, and even skin injuries. Devil’s claw is available in tincture form, as well as tea. You can also take the extract.
Over-the-counter drugs and prescription medicines can be effective in providing pain relief, especially if you follow the right dosage and your doctor’s instructions. However, long-term use of them can lead to other problems, which is why it makes sense to consider natural alternatives.
Because they are natural, herbal remedies have no harmful chemicals that can aggravate your condition. They are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that can provide you with other health benefits aside from pain relief.
This does not mean that all natural remedies are without side-effects. Even the known actions may adversely affect other conditions you have, or other medications you may be taking. You still have to be careful when taking herbal remedies, especially if you are pregnant, prone to bleeding, or have any other serious health conditions.
How to Reduce Painful Inflammation
Inflammation, also known as swelling, is our body’s natural response to an injury or illness. It helps the body heal and protects you from infection and further harm. However, this is a very generalized defensive response, and sometimes its occurrence doesn’t help, and can even cause more problems.
The body can trigger inflammation, such as when you are experiencing stress, or you don’t get the right food or exercise for long periods of time.
When left unattended, a simple inflammation can itself become chronic and do damage to the body. That can contribute to serious health problems, such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer.
That said, it is essential to reduce inflammation when you experience it. Here are a couple of ways you can reduce painful inflammation:
Eat Healthy Foods
Your diet can have a great impact on inflammation, often more than you realize. Some foods can trigger or worsen inflammation, and some others have proven to be anti-inflammatory.
The worst offenders are highly processed foods, especially those containing trans fats and excessive sugar. Among the foods that you should eat are fruits and vegetables, omega-3-rich fishes such as salmon and tuna, walnuts, soybeans, and green tea.
Avoid excessive intake of carbohydrate-rich foods, such as white rice, white bread, and pasta, which could trigger high blood sugar. Go for whole grain and fiber-rich food instead. Foods that are rich in essential nutrients can reduce inflammation.
The big thing is to remember that the effects of both types are cumulative. That means that in most cases, an occasional serving of the bad group won’t devastate your health, but an occasional serve of the good foods won’t fix the effects of a regular diet of bad food choices. Make good food the basis of your diet, every day.
Physical activity can also reduce painful inflammation. It doesn’t have to be extreme, as even light exercises are enough to trigger the anti-inflammatory response of the body. Exercise stimulates the immune system, supports weight loss, and makes the heart, muscles, and bones stronger. It also keeps the joints lubricated.
You can do aerobics, stretching, brisk walking, weight lifting, or even gardening. Swimming and other aquatic exercise provide excellent low-impact health benefits. You can also work with a physical therapist to design the right workout for you.
People who are overweight are far more prone to inflammation, so losing weight can help reduce it. This is because as you carry more weight, there’s more pressure on joints, making them work harder than necessary and increasing inflammation. You can lose weight by eating a healthy diet and regularly exercising.
There is a strong correlation between being overweight and experiencing pain from debilitating conditions such as fibromyalgia. Making diet changes to address either area will have positive effects on the other.
Avoid and Manage Stress
The body tries to heal stress with inflammation, but when stress becomes chronic, inflammation will worsen the effects. When you are constantly stressed, the body does not resolve to a natural state where inflammation reduces. For your health's sake, it is ideal to avoid stressors where that is all possible. More often, that may not be an option, so it is essential to learn effective ways to manage stress.
You can do a guided meditation to calm your mind and body, or do yoga and tai chi, which are meditative exercises. Acupuncture can also help reduce your anxiety levels. All these can reduce your body’s stress response, which will help heal inflammation.
Get Massage Therapy
Getting a massage can help reduce painful inflammation as it can improve blood flow and muscle stiffness in the affected area. Massage also helps release toxins from the body, which are causing inflammation. That’s why massage therapy has been widely used as a complementary treatment to reduce pain and encourage faster recovery from injuries.
Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep can help decrease inflammation and allows the body to heal. When you are asleep, the body is able to restore damaged cells. It also improves metabolism and strengthens our immune system.
Sleep deprivation and can ruin your immune system and circadian rhythm, which contributes to the increase in inflammation. It is essential to get seven to eight hours of quality sleep every night. Some may require more, so most people should take that as a minimum.
Inflammation is a natural component of our body’s healing system, which attempts to protect us from further harm and potential infection. However, when your condition becomes chronic, and you don’t get the right amounts of nutrients from your diet, your body produces inflammation that can lead to worse health problems.
When you follow the above tips, you can effectively reduce inflammation in your body, and improve your overall health condition.
However, when you are suffering from serious health problems, it is best to consult with your doctor first so that you will be assured that your actions will help reduce painful inflammation rather than make it worse.
Pain Management Exercises for Seniors
There are many reasons that senior citizens experience physical pain. It could be due to an accident, trauma, or chronic illness. It can also result from exertion, especially if it is more than the body is currently used to performing.
Many seniors reduce their physical activity and range of motion as they age, and physical effort can cause discomfort or pain. Most people, regardless of their age, want to be as independent as they can be. But this may prove to be difficult for seniors, especially those who are in pain.
Seniors run a higher than average risk of experiencing side effects from all kinds of drugs. These include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs. These medications are not recommended for people with liver, kidney, and heart problems, which are common afflictions for the elderly.
Certain drugs may also interact with the medications that a senior is already on. But all this does not mean that pain cannot be managed. Aside from taking prescription drugs, engaging in pain management exercises could also give the elderly the relief they need.
Preventive Physical Activity
Engaging in physical activities on a regular basis is a proven approach to managing chronic pain and is commonly recommended as a complementary treatment to pharmacotherapy. This is especially so for treating and preventing pain among older adults.
Although preventive physical activities are important, seniors who are suffering from chronic pain won’t be in the mood to exercise. It is hard to be motivated to engage in physical effort when even the thought of it causes pain!
However, refraining from exertion will worsen the problem in the future, so it is important to recognize that today’s discomfort will provide relief in the future. Hard as it seems, think an athlete – “short-term pain for long-term gain!”
The good thing is, there are a few gentle exercises to improve health and lessen the ongoing pain.
People who are suffering from chronic pain can often improve their condition by walking at least half an hour, three to five times a week. Those living with chronic pain may feel that moving will only make the pain worse, but that’s not the case.
Researchers say that gentle exercises like walking can help reduce pain by improving the stability of the joints, boosting the body’s natural opioid production, and reducing stress.
Exercises like walking help strengthen the muscles that aid in joint stabilization. They help lubricate the cartilage, which depends on nutrition from movement, since it doesn’t have a blood supply. Walking promotes the flow of joint fluid, which distributes nutrients to the cartilage.
Walking can also increase the body’s production of natural opioids, which help decrease pain but without the risk of addiction. It also helps relieves stress, which is a known contributing factor to becoming more sensitive to pain.
Stretching is often overlooked when it comes to managing chronic pain. It can reduce pain, and it also helps the body become more flexible and mobile.
Doing it right and regularly can help reduce stiffness and increase the range of motion. It helps improve blood circulation to the joints and muscles. Stretching encourages better joint alignment of the shoulders, hips, knees and ankles.
When starting a stretching routine, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. It should be done at least once a day. It should be pain-free and that means the body should not be forced into difficult positions.
Do the stretches slowly and hold them for as long as possible to help the joints loosen up. Stretch the whole body even if the chronic pain is only confined in a single area. Don’t forget to breathe deeply and to relax your body.
Deep Breathing and Relaxation
Relaxation helps recharge the body and calm the mind. It is important for people who are suffering from chronic pain. Pain, whether acute or chronic, puts more tension in the muscles, which results in more pain.
This pain tension cycle can be broken by helping the body relax. There are several forms of relaxation, including deep breathing.
Find a warm and quiet place. Make sure you are in a comfortable position and wear comfortable clothes. Listen to your breathing and breathe through your nose. Place your hands over your stomach and feel it rise and fall while breathing.
Relax your muscles and start taking slow and deep breaths. As you breathe in, imagine that you are inhaling peace. As you breathe out, imagine you are exhaling the pain and tension away.
Those with arthritis will find it challenging to exercise. Swimming offers pain relief and helps these painful joints to move. Less pain is experienced because water helps take off the weight that puts pressure on the joints. In case swimming is not possible or simply not liked, another option is water aerobics classes.
Many studies have shown that engaging in physical activities can help with pain management among seniors and can also protect them from the development of chronic pain. Any sedentary time that is swapped out for exercise, no matter how light, will be of benefit.
Pain is nature’s warning, so it is important to determine what the real causes are. It is imperative to consult a medical professional first before taking any over-the-counter medications or engaging in any pain management program.
Alternative Therapies for Managing Chronic Pain
More and more people are turning to alternative methods to treat their chronic pain. The move is partly due to the expense of medications and treatments, or the fear of dependency on synthetic drugs that can lead to addiction.
Chronic pain is a debilitating condition, preventing many people from doing their day-to-day tasks and enjoying their desired physical activities.
If you suffer from chronic pain and are looking at alternative therapies, here are a few that have proven helpful to others:
From Chinese Traditional Medicine, acupuncture has made its way into the mainstream. Conventional medicine has acknowledged acupuncture as a complementary treatment for injuries and other pain management.
Acupuncture involves inserting tiny needles into the skin in different areas of the body. It is believed that these needles enable the release of chemicals that can numb the pain or block the nerves from sending pain signals to the brain. Acupuncture also restores the normal flow of energy in the body, helping to keep your overall health in good condition.
Acupuncture can provide relief to people who have osteoarthritis, back injuries, dental pain, and surgical pain, among others.
When you experience chronic back pain, neck pain, headaches, and other joint pains, it could be due to misalignment of your spinal column. This either directly or indirectly puts pressure on nerves, which respond by sending pain messages to the brain. If you experience these, you might want to see the nearest chiropractor in your area.
Chiropractic care is about realigning your vertebrae to release the pressure on your nerves. Spinal manipulation promotes self-healing, allowing your body to provide relief to the chronic pain you are feeling.
Stress is one of the major causes of pain, so reducing it can provide you with relief and prevention. Yoga is an effective way to help relieve stress and provide many health benefits. It is an ancient Indian meditative practice that uses poses and stretches.
It teaches you to breathe properly and connect your mind and body to achieve deep relaxation. Yoga also enhances your flexibility and strength.
Yoga is beneficial in relieving chronic pain due to fibromyalgia, arthritis, neck pain, and back pain.
Tai Chi is another Chinese practice, a martial art form that involves slow movement coordinated with deep breathing. Tai chi helps your body relax, promoting physical and emotional health and providing pain relief. It also helps improve physical functionality, balance, and movement.
It is a great complementary therapy for people who have fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
The mind has the ability to influence the body’s functions and symptoms, which is why mind-body therapies work well. Guided imagery is one of these therapies. It involves an expert who will guide you in directing your thoughts and using all your senses so that you can focus on specific images.
Guided imagery helps you relax, reducing cortisol levels in your body, and regulating your heart rate and blood pressure. It also aids in improving your physical function and movement.
Studies have shown that guided imagery helps patients reduce their need for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and sleep better at night.
Hypnotherapy has become a popular alternative and complementary treatment for pain management. It puts you in a deep state of relaxation, tapping into your subconscious so you can take control over your body.
It reduces pain-related anxiety and the need for opioids and other pain medications. Hypnosis has been found effective, particularly for people who are dealing with back pain, strain injuries, surgical pain, and even cancer pain.
Biofeedback therapy is another effective alternative method of managing chronic pain, such as headaches and fibromyalgia. This therapy utilizes instrumentation that teaches you how to control physiological responses, such as blood pressure and heart rate.
With the help of a trained health care provider, psychologist or other licensed providers, you first learn to be aware of your physical responses to different stimuli. Then you learn how to use the signals to take charge of those responses.
Nobody wants to suffer from chronic pain, and natural choices exist to help you manage yours. With these alternatives and complementary therapies, you have options that could help you manage chronic pain and improve your quality of life.
Even so, you must do due diligence before you engage in any alternative therapies to make sure that they are right for you. Consult with your doctor so you can make a professionally guided decision.
Tips to Manage Pain While at Work
If you have been a member of the workforce for quite a while now, the chances are that you have already developed pain and discomfort in different parts of your body. With more years ahead that you still need to work to earn a living, you might be wondering how long you can bear the suffering from these pains.
The good thing is, there are things you can do to cope with the pain, while at work and away from it. These will help you streamline your day at the workplace and help you feel less discomfort during your day. This will also help you to be more productive, as it is hard to do your best work when in pain!
Use Ergonomic Tools
Ergonomic tools are designed to make you feel comfortable while doing tasks in the workplace. They are also meant to help prevent work-related injuries. The ergonomic tools you need will depend on the kind of work you are doing. For instance, when you have a desk job, this is all about finding the right keyboard, desk, mouse, mousepad, and chair.
An ergonomic chair helps you maintain the correct posture while sitting, as it provides the right curve for your spine. This will help you manage and prevent lower back pain. Ergonomic chairs also often have a headrest, which can ease your neck and shoulder pain.
Mechanical keyboards are ergonomic keyboards that make it more comfortable to type. It requires less pressure, so soft touches on the keys are enough. You can also find an ergonomic mouse, which takes the proper shape of the hand. These tools help prevent fatigue and wrist and finger pain, which can often lead to RSI and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Take Breaks and Change Position from Time to Time
Much of the pain that you feel at the workplace can be because of the sedentary nature of your work. If you spend your entire shift sitting on your chair in front of your computer, you will feel aches in your back, knees, hands, and more.
To manage your pain, avoid prolonged inactivity. Change position from time to time, and move around at least every 30 minutes. Take around five minutes to walk, even just up and down the aisle of your workplace. Doing so will increase your blood flow properly and keep your joints and muscles working as they should.
Pick the Right Shoes
Many workplaces require certain types of footwear, such as high heels, as part of the dress code. However, when your shoes are not comfortable, it can lead to leg, knee, and ankle pain. To address this, make sure that as much as you are allowed, you pick the right shoes for you.
This means that they fully support your feet and have ample room for your toes. If high heels are not a requirement, wear flats instead, preferably with adequate arch support.
Reduce Stress Levels
We all suffer from work-related stress at some point or another - be it an overly demanding client, an uncooperative co-worker, a difficult boss, or an unreasonable workload. All these can exacerbate your chronic pain, affecting your productivity and satisfaction with your work environment.
That said, it is important to keep your stress levels at the minimum. Identify the sources of any repeated stressors and seek a solution, rather than simply accepting the situation. This can include talking to the involved person or shifting your focus from the things that you can’t control, to those you can. If you have accrued leave, take some time away to rest, relax, and recharge.
Mind Your Posture
Poor posture is one of the major culprits of work-related pain and discomfort, and if you’re suffering from chronic pain, slouching and sitting improperly can exacerbate your condition. They can put uneven pressure and strain on the muscles around the spine, causing back pain.
It is important to practice good posture at work to maintain the natural shape of your spine. When sitting, your back should be properly aligned, with your feet flat on the floor. Your table should also be of the proper height, and your computer monitor should be at your eye level to prevent eye strain, neck pains, and headaches.
No Joy in Pain
Pain can be a debilitating thing to have to endure at work. It can hinder you from doing your job effectively, which can add to your stress, further exacerbating your condition. With proper pain management, you should be able to reduce or even eliminate your pain. This will have positive flow-on effects for every area of your life and your health.
The Importance of Providing Pain Management for Mental Health
Pain is our body’s natural way of signaling to our brain that something is wrong or that we need extra care. Pain can occur due to injury, illnesses, or disorders. It can be acute, lasting for up to three to six months.
However, it can also be chronic, where pain occurs persistently for a longer time.
Chronic pain is not only physically debilitating but also emotionally incapacitating. It disrupts the balance of stress hormones and neurochemicals in the brain, which can lead to mental health issues.
Pain management is not only important for alleviating physical discomfort but also in mitigating the negative effects on the sufferer's mental health.
Impact of Chronic Pain on Mental Health
Chronic pain is associated with the feeling of helplessness, and even hopelessness, leading to (or adding to) stress, anxiety, and depression. It can diminish a person’s quality of life as it can dramatically interfere with everyday activities.
People who suffer from chronic pain may not be able to function as they should at work or at home. With pain to deal with, people can find it difficult to concentrate. They may also find it difficult to socialize with other people and to keep doing their hobbies and recreational activities.
Chronic pain can result in sleep disturbances, mood changes, fatigue, and loss of appetite. As people feel limited and incapacitated, it lowers their self-esteem and magnifies their frustration. It increases the chances of developing depression compared to those who are pain-free.
Common Conditions that Can Lead to Mental Health Problems
There are many chronic pain conditions that are associated with subsequent mental health issues. Among these is arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis. It affects the hip, spine, hands, and knees, and can limit the ability to do daily tasks and participate in social activities.
That makes them feel isolated and limited, which can lead to depression.
Back and neck pain, even if the pain is not severe most of the time, can also be chronic and can lead to depression. The symptoms include numbness, weakness, tingling, and radiating pain.
However, back and neck pain can also be a signal of an underlying condition, which can be more serious, such as cancer.
Another common condition is migraine, which can really be debilitating. When your migraine has become chronic, the chances are that you spend too many of your days lying down, trying to sleep to numb the pain away.
Because you feel disabled and restricted, it can lead to depression and anxiety.
Chronic Pain Management
Because pain is subjective and the causes of chronic pain can often be hard to determine, managing it can require a multidisciplinary approach. Aside from a physician, it may be necessary to seek guidance from a psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor, and/or therapist to treat the pain effectively.
The treatments may include pharmaceutical therapy, which may also include using antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications to help manage symptoms.
Medications and treatments that provide relief from pain and agony will improve mood and reduce anxiety.
Behavioral therapies are also beneficial in pain management, as they help you change your pain perception and negative thinking. It influences you to create better habits and thinking patterns, so you can fully engage with your life and commit to living better.
Stress reduction therapies are another way to manage chronic pain. Persistent pain can also increase our body’s stress response, which is why you may also experience increased heart rate, sweating, and shallow breathing. However, these responses can exacerbate the pain.
With stress reduction therapies, which include biofeedback and relaxation techniques such as meditation, you can better control your body’s physical response to stress. Because of that, you will experience pain relief, elevated mood, and decreased anxiety.
Studies have shown that there is a correlation between pain and mental health issues. Chronic pain, particularly, can lead to depression and anxiety, and vice versa.
Because the impact of pain is not limited to physical conditions, the best pain management involves strategies that take mental health into consideration.
Treatment is most effective when you use a combination of different therapies, which may include antidepressant medications, stress-reduction techniques, psychological counseling, and pain rehabilitation programs.
You don’t have to suffer in silence because there are many available treatment options. If you are unsure where to begin, talk to your health care provider, who can help you plan the best course of action.
Alternative Pain Management for Cancer Patients
If you have cancer, pain is an inevitable symptom you have to deal with. You could be hurting somewhere specific, or it may feel like you’re hurting everywhere.
Whichever case, it will be very difficult to feel comfortable, or to be in a frame of mind to think clearly and do what needs to be done when you’re feeling pain.
For cancer patients, treatments and pain management are almost always focused on medication. However, cancer medications have side effects, such as nausea, fatigue, and constipation, which make it all the more difficult for patients to take their medicines.
Cancer symptoms and side effects can also result in and worsen mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, which can further exacerbate the pain.
For many reasons beyond the reduction of pain itself, it is important for cancer patients to have an effective pain management plan in place.
Studies have shown that complementary and alternative pain management therapies are beneficial to cancer patients. They can provide essential pain relief which helps improve quality of life.
Here are some of the alternative pain management options that have provided relief to other sufferers.
Acupuncture is part of traditional Chinese medicine, which has been practiced all over the world as an alternative or complementary treatment, alongside conventional medicine.
Traditional Chinese Medicine believes that a human’s body has an energy system that enables it to perform its various functions. When the energy is blocked, it causes an imbalance in the body, leading to illnesses.
Studies have shown that acupuncture is effective in relieving nausea and dizziness among cancer patients. It helps relieve joint pains, hot flashes, and fatigue, particularly after chemotherapy sessions.
Inserting tiny needles in key points in the body helps remove the energy clogs, allowing it to flow properly. The needles stimulate the neural system, producing rapid analgesia.
Massage involves kneading the skin and muscles to promote relaxation and relieve the body’s muscle tension. It is one of the most recognized additions to conventional treatment for cancer patients. Massage also helps ease anxiety and stress, further relieving pain.
There are many kinds of massage, and studies have shown that they provide benefits in pain management for cancer patients. However, the effects are relatively short-term, and more research is needed to document the long-term physical and psychological effects of massage.
Fear of the unknown, and the future, is common among cancer patients, particularly those who have just been diagnosed. That’s why they are very prone to experiencing stress, anxiety, and resultant pain.
Hypnotherapy has been found to be effective in managing physical and emotional pain in cancer patients. With the help of a professional therapist, a patient is put into a trance-like state, accessing the deep unconscious mind.
With hypnotherapy, the patient is taught how to cope better with cancer symptoms and the necessary treatments. Hypnosis enables the patient to control their pain and reduce stress.
Contrary to the popular misconception that hypnosis takes away control, it makes the patient feel more in control of what they are experiencing.
Meditation brings a peaceful state, where you start to focus on your breathing, then on the things around you. It promotes relaxation, relieving your anxiety and stress. In cancer patients, meditation helps reduce reactivity to pain by using positive imagery and visualization.
Studies have proven that meditation is beneficial in pain management, physical functioning, and emotional well-being among those who suffer from cancer.
Yoga is an ancient practice that mainly involves posing techniques and breathing strategies to restore and maintain the balance of the body and its energy system, called prana.
Many cancer patients have declared the benefits of yoga in managing their pain, particularly as yoga also improves their emotional strength and hope.
Cancer patients say that yoga has helped them deal with joint pain and the emotional burden that accompanies each chemotherapy session.
Cancer patients go through many uncomfortable symptoms, including pain all over the body as a result of surgery. Most healthcare providers would prescribe pain relievers, which is why many patients fall victim to opioid addiction.
Knowing these alternative pain management options will help some cancer patients a great deal in treating their pain and symptoms.
Chronic Pain May Lead to Substance Abuse and Addiction
Pain is one of the hardest things to live with, especially when it is persistent. Chronic pain makes you persistently uncomfortable and limited in your activities, which can lead to other problems, including emotional health issues.
It prevents you from doing physical work or makes it painful to do so. It hinders your day-to-day activities, causes sleep disturbances, and reduces your range of recreational activity.
Chronic pain prevents you from enjoying life in general.
It is no wonder that many people who find it difficult to cope with chronic pain develop substance abuse and addiction. Some people can manage their pain without being dependent on medications, but many have a harder time with it.
How People Can Develop Substance Abuse and Addiction
Painkillers, such as opioids, are one of the most abused drugs related to chronic pain. Studies have shown that many substance abuse and addiction cases stem from the treatment of chronic pain.
When patients don’t feel relief from their current medications, they tend to increase the dosage to get their desired results. Over time, however, they will very likely develop tolerance to pain relief drugs, which means they need to increase their intake further to get the relief that they need, and previously felt.
This results in a cycle of dependency that can be very hard to break away from.
Some people also resort to a quick fix to deal with their chronic pain, such as alcohol and illegal drugs.
Unfortunately, their analgesic effects are very brief, but their own side-effects are longer-lasting. They are also very habit-forming and lead to a range of physical and mental health problems.
Commonly Abused Chronic Pain Drugs and Substances
Among the drugs and substances that are usually abused are:
About 50 million Americans experience chronic pain, and opioids are the commonly prescribed medication to treat the pain. They are also the most commonly abused pain relief drugs. Opioids supply dopamine to the brain, which provides a temporary feel-good sensation, relieving pain.
Many states in America have legalized the use of marijuana for recreational and medical purposes, given its many health benefits. However, marijuana is rich in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a cannabis compound that is responsible for the “high” feeling when taken in high dosage. Due to the euphoric feeling that users can get from using marijuana, it is also prone to abuse and addiction.
Alcohol can provide temporary pain relief because it is analgesic and anesthetic. That’s why it is often used as a quick fix to relieve physical and emotional pain. Abuse happens when people start to go beyond the guidelines of moderate drinking, which is a maximum of one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
Tobacco contains nicotine, which has analgesic properties that can relieve acute pain. Unfortunately, prolonged use of tobacco can actually lead to chronic pain, worsening the pain intensity rather than relieving it.
Even so, tobacco use is still common among people who experience chronic pain, and it is one of the leading causes of premature death all over the world.
Stimulants used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy, and CNS depressants for anxiety and sleep disorders have analgesic properties. Stimulants and CNS depressants, especially when combined with pain medications, are also prone to abuse and addiction.
Signs of Substance Abuse and Addiction
While many patients who experience chronic pain lose control over their pain drugs use even though they are aware of the negative effects, recognizing the warning signs of abuse can make a big difference.
Some of the symptoms of substance abuse and addiction are:
Treatment of Substance Abuse and Addiction
If you recognize the signs of substance abuse and addiction, it is time to seek professional help. The use of pain drugs and other substances beyond the prescribed doses can be life-threatening, which is why it is crucial to address it as early as possible.
When related to chronic pain, treatments for substance abuse and addiction also requires pain management using non-addictive drugs or methods. These include exercise, lifestyle changes, proper diet, acupuncture, meditation, behavioral therapy, and psychotherapy, among others.
Chronic pain is a challenging condition to deal with, and it is unfortunately too easy to become dependent on medications and other substances when seeking relief.
It is vitally important to recognize the dangers of abuse and addiction. With the help of professionals, you can prevent them, while also finding alternative pain management methods.
Sleep and Pain Management
We all need to spend one-third of our day sleeping - and for many good reasons. It is essential to get adequate sleep, especially when you are experiencing pain. How much is adequate will vary depending on many factors, including age, gender, lifestyle, general health, and others.
Eight hours is often given as an ideal, but for many people, that should be considered a minimum. Also, that needs to be every night. And it is not just about spending eight hours in bed; sleep has to be of good quality, or else, you will still feel tired when you wake up.
Many people say they just don’t have time for eight hours of sleep, but often the same people manage to rack up many hours watching TV. If you are suffering from pain, prioritizing sleep is even more important.
Why Sleep Is Important for Healing
When you sleep, your body is freed from its daily rigors and can shift its efforts to restoring and repairing cells and tissues. Some hormones, essential for healing, can only be released when you sleep.
During sleep is when the body can repair blood vessels, heal wounds, repair damaged muscles, and create more white blood cells to boost your immune system.
As the body is resting, there is less demand on your heart, so your blood pressure drops and other muscles relax. This is important in reducing inflammation in your body that causes pain.
Pain management also requires energy. That’s why getting enough, and quality sleep is crucial to allow your body to rest, so you can wake up energized the next morning. Research has also shown that being even mildly sleep-deprived increases sensitivity to pain. Getting regular full nights of sleep will make any pain and discomfort more bearable.
Tips to Get Quality Sleep at Night
While sleep should be part of the normal day to day cycle, many people find it hard to spend eight hours in bed. Others are so caught up in their busy schedules and lifestyles that they tend to ignore their need for sleep
. Experiencing pain can also make it hard for people to fall asleep or have a good quality sleep because pain can cause sleep disturbances.
Here are some tips on how you can get quality sleep at night to help your body heal, and help in your pain management:
You are a product of your habits. Establishing a bedtime routine can help your body recognize the signs that it is time to sleep and rest. Set a specific time to go to bed, and a specific time to get up.
For example, you have decided you must go to sleep by 9 p.m. every night, and wake up at 5 a.m. every morning, regardless of the quality of the sleep you had.
To do so, be in bed at least 30 minutes before your bedtime, to allow your body and mind to calm down and relax. So, if you’ve set 9 p.m. as your bedtime, lay down on your bed by 8:30 p.m.
It is also helpful to create a routine before bedtime, to be followed in the same order each night. Prepare your things for the next day, brush your teeth, take a warm bath, and read a few pages of a book.
These activities will signal your mind that you are nearing your bedtime, so the energy drops and your mind and body start to relax.
Your nervous system needs to calm down for you to be able to sleep. Relaxation techniques can help ease your body into good quality sleep. Among these techniques are deep abdominal breathing, meditation, guided imagery, and soothing music.
What you do during the day can also greatly affect the quality of sleep you have at night. Exercise regularly, but don’t do it within two hours of your bedtime. Also, don’t eat in the hour before going to bed.
It is important to eat healthy foods all day, but absolutely refrain from high GI food and drink between your evening meal and bedtime. Soft drinks or drinks containing caffeine are a big no.
Use your bed for sleeping purposes only to establish a strong connection between your body and sleep. It signals to the brain that when you lay down on your bed, it is time to sleep.
That means you should not use your bed for other activities, such as reading a book or working on your laptop. Any type of screen viewing will adversely affect your sleep, so keep them out of the bedroom.
Also, set the temperature of your room to cool, make it quiet, and turn off the lights. Darkness promotes the release of melatonin, which is essential for the body to achieve deep and healing sleep.
Sleep Complements and Supports Conventional Pain Relief
Pain management, especially for chronic pain, is often focused on prescription medications. However, it is time to start focusing on getting enough and good quality sleep, tapping the body’s natural ability to heal.
Effective pain management is multi-faceted, and effective and adequate sleep must be part of any plan.
When a person is in pain, the last thing they want to think about is putting in emotional or physical effort to reduce their future pain. They just want the pain to stop now.
This may be a valid approach for acute pain, but when pain is persistent and ongoing, it can be very necessary to create a pain management plan, and take steps to implement it.
In the short-term, these steps can be uncomfortable, even painful themselves, or distressing. But chronic pain is long-term, even lifetime, so a pain management plan needs to be viewed in the same light.
Pharmaceutical pain relief options exist, but almost all are unhealthy when taken for long periods. Some are very injurious to health – physical, mental and emotional. Unfortunately, some are highly addictive. This is hardly unusual – relief from pain is hard to turn away from.
For someone suffering from chronic pain, it can seem cruel to be told they have to do something. Something that may itself cause temporary pain and discomfort.
However, if no changes are made, nothing will change. So the pain will continue. No one wants to hear it, but courage and foresight is needed. Most people can manage their pain better, and improve their quality of life.