Many people live in pain. The older the person, the more likely they are to experience some sort of pain. For sufferers, the effects can have a debilitating impact on their life. The need to effectively manage pain is of utmost importance.
There are many different strategies that can be implemented to control pain. These include physical or occupational therapy. Non-traditional therapies such as massage and acupuncture can also be helpful. Keeping a positive attitude can have a great impact on improving life with chronic pain. Counselling provides patients with the support and resources to understand their condition and alleviate anxieties.
What Causes Chronic Pain
Pain comes in many forms and can range from a mild ache to a sharp stab. It may be centered in one location or spread throughout the body. Root causes of pain also vary greatly. It may be due to underlying medical conditions such as cancer or arthritis. It may also originate from injury or surgery side-effects. Back pain is the most widely reported followed by pain in the shoulder, neck, head and limbs.
Impacts of Pain
Pain is either acute or chronic. Acute pain is felt when tissue is injured. Its onset is sudden and the sensation lasts only a short time. Chronic pain typically lasts longer than three months; most endure it for a year or more. It can be caused by injury, illness or unknown causes.
The body will react to unrelieved pain by:
- Raising stress hormones, especially adrenaline and cortisol creating depression and anxiety
- Slowing gastrointestinal functions
- Increasing blood pressure and heart rate
- Changing levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood
- Causing tension in muscles
How is Pain Transmitted
Pain is transmitted through the body by receptors attached to nerves. These nerves can transmit messages rapidly causing sharp pain or slowly causing throbbing pain. They tend to congregate in certain areas of the body over others. For instance, the skin is rich with receptors while the gastrointestinal tract is not. The more receptors, the easier it is to discover the source of pain. Receptors transmit to the nerves located along the spinal cord which, in turn, send the signal to the brain’s thalamus. From there, the message is sent to the cerebral cortex.
Besides transmitting messages, the thalamus helps regulate mood. This explains how attitude plays an important part of pain regulation. Injuries to the cerebral cortex can lower the interpretation of pain sensation.
Pain Management without Medication
There are many options for patients who wish to manage pain without using medication. Understanding underlying causes and combining different therapies can prove effective. Physicians can recommend the best course of treatment for each patient. Treatment types include:
- Physical therapy and massage
- Heat or ice therapy
- Meditation and yoga
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation Therapy (TENS)
Coping with Chronic Noncancerous Pain
Chronic pain sufferers may sometimes have difficulty coping. Pain can drain emotions and cause distress. To help alleviate these feelings:
- Get educated. Learn about the ailment. This will help reduce stress and anxiety over the pain.
- Gather a support group. Include family, friends and healthcare professionals. Be straightforward about the type of support needed and be open to new coping strategies.
- Ward off depression. Along with the support network, find activities to stimulate senses and keep depression at bay. Uplifting activities and relaxing pastimes can take one’s mind off pain.
- Eat a healthy diet, get regular exercise and plenty of rest.
- Accept that flare-ups will happen and stay positive to get through them.
Getting Help with Pain Management
Seventy percent of people dealing with pain seek help. Some will never find the underlying cause, but for many the pain source can be found and dealt with, though treatment may not completely eliminate the pain. Seek professional help in identification and treatment.
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