Pain Management: What Works and What Doesn’t
Pain is intensely personal. When you’re in the throes of it, the foremost thought in your mind is immediate relief. Approximately 9 million people in the United Kingdom suffer from some kind of persistent or sporadic pain during their lifetime. Pain is responsible for decreased quality of life as well as lost productivity and emotional damage.
Categories of Pain
Acute pain has a sudden onset and is usually caused by a specific disease or injury. It can last for three to six months. Chronic pain, on the other hand, is considered a state that is usually caused by an injury or disease such as cancer, arthritis or fibromyalgia. It can persist over many months or even years.
What Is Pain Management?
Pain management is a medical specialty that involves a visit with a physician who is trained to evaluate, diagnose and treat pain. It’s beneficial to patients who have chronic pain that requires more than one approach or a therapeutic strategy to bring them relief.
At your appointment, your physician will go over your health history to understand the cause of your pain and come up with a multi-pronged strategy to treat it. He or she may prescribe common pain medications, such as:
- NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin
- Paracetamol (Panadol)
- Antidepressants to aid in sleep and alleviate pain
- Anti-seizure medications for nerve damage or injury-related pain
- Steroids like dexamethasone and prednisone, to alleviate inflammation and pain
- Narcotics, which are powerful pain relievers but may be habit-forming
Your doctor may even suggest that you see a behavioral therapist if your chronic pain is causing emotional issues.
What Works in Pain Management?
You are your biggest advocate in getting pain relief. Don’t quit. Be tenacious while you navigate this challenging path, and remember that it’s vital to keep the line of communication open between you and your provider.
Here are several ways to make pain management work for you:
- Educate yourself about your pain, symptoms and possible outcomes for relief. Knowledge truly is empowering.
- Take control of your outcome. If you aren’t getting the help you need, fight the system until you can talk to someone who can help you.
- Request a copy of all of your medical records.
- Take the medication that was prescribed and in the manner that it was explained.
- Journal about your pain, its intensity on a scale of 1-10, the medication you took for it, any extra activity you performed and any side effects the medication caused. Explain where, how much, how long and how bad the pain was. Note any associated emotional issues.
- Ask your physician to explain the reason behind prescribing a certain medication and its potential side effects.
- Be aware that you can find another physician if you feel like you aren’t being treated well or you aren’t getting the relief that you need.
What Doesn’t Work in Pain Management?
- Being a martyr. You don’t need to accept a lifetime of chronic pain.
- Assuming that a certain dosage of a drug will work forever. If you aren’t seeing an effect at a prescribed dose, reach out to your provider.
- Ignoring psychological symptoms. If you feel depressed or fatigued, or you’re struggling emotionally, contact your provider right away.
- Not accepting help. Pain limits the life you can live. Understand your body and know your boundaries.
- Trying an alternative treatment or therapy treatment because someone suggested that it worked for them. What works for one may not work for another due to each person’s individual makeup.
Maintaining a positive outlook on life when you’re in pain is understandably difficult, but proper pain management can bring you relief and a better quality of life. You are the key to unlocking the solutions that are available. Communicating with your provider will give you the framework for successful painful management.
- Whitten, C. E., C. M. Evans, and K. Cristobal. "Pain Management Doesn't Have to Be a Pain: Working and Communicating Effectively with Patients Who Have Chronic Pain." Perm J 9.2 (2005): 41-8. Print.
- Bates, M. S., and L. Rankin-Hill. "Control, Culture and Chronic Pain." Soc Sci Med 39.5 (1994): 629-45. Print.
- Brookoff, D. "Chronic Pain: 1. A New Disease?" Hosp Pract (1995) 35.7 (2000): 45-52, 59. Print.
- Grichnik, K. P., and F. M. Ferrante. "The Difference between Acute and Chronic Pain." Mt Sinai J Med 58.3 (1991): 217-20. Print.
- Catherine Murari-Kanti