What is Chronic Pain?
Pain is considered to be chronic if it lasts for longer than a 12 week period despite medication or treatment. After suffering some form of pain, the majority of people will return to normal following surgery or medication but sometimes the pain can carry on for longer or can appear without any history of an injury or operation. Chronic pain is also associated with a number of different conditions such as diabetes, fibromyalgia a range of spinal issues and the symptoms can often have a real negative effect on a patients quality of life.
What are the best treatments for chronic pain?
There are various treatment methods for chronic pain and they tend to be categorised into two sections: Medical and/or Holistic. In this article we are going to give an in-depth overview of the range of chronic pain treatments within each category of holistic therapy and medical treatments.
Holistic Treatments for Chronic Pain
There’s a lot you can do to help yourself to have a better quality of life, even with chronic pain. Simple changes to lifestyle can make a big difference to the amount of discomfort you may be experiencing. Many times simply switching to a clean & healthy diet with regular exercise can help reduce bodyweight and strengthen areas of the body which otherwise have been dormant and causing pain – however if these types of lifestyle changes are still having little effect on your chronic pain then there are also a range of holistic approaches to consider:
A form of Chinese alternative medicine which uses thin needles to insert to nerve areas of the body. It entails stimulating points on the body to alleviate pain or help with various other health conditions.
A treatment where a practitioner uses their hands to help manipulate problem areas with the bones, muscles and joints in the spine. Chiropractic care can help with both neck and back pain.
Stress reducing exercise such as yoga and low impact circuit classes can really help with managing the chronic pain simply because exercise releases endorphins into the blood flow which send positive signals to the brain, overriding the feeling of pain.
A technique which involves focused attention, reduced peripheral awareness and the capacity to respond to suggestion. It offers a gentle way of entering deep relaxation and redirects your attention from the sensation of pain.
The healing power of a well-placed hand can offer relief from people suffering with chronic pain. It increases blood flow to sore, stiff joints and muscles which in turn triggers the natural release of Opioids into the brain – acting as a painkiller.
A Physiotherapist can identify practical ways to help you manage chronic pain, such as making sure you have the correct equipment or right shoes. They also are likely to give you advice on correct movement and posture.
Vitamins & Supplements
Evidence suggests that certain dietary supplements and vitamins can help with certain types of pain. For instance, fish oil is often used to reduce pain associated with joint swelling.
Studies have shown that in some cases, depression and chronic pain go together. So considering therapy to identify the source of the pain can change the pattern of thought associated with pain.
Medical Treatments for Chronic Pain
If holistic therapies are unsuccessful then a General Practitioner may suggest a medical alternative to help with pain management. Some medical approaches to consider are:
- Oral Medications: the medications offered vary depending on severity but can include anti-inflammatory drugs, acetaminophen, and opioids which are taken in pill form.
- Antidepressants: If the chronic pain has been linked to feelings of depression then a prescription of antidepressants can often be prescribed to help you tackle those feelings. These medications are not meant to be taken on an “as needed” basis but must be taken every day whether or not you have pain.
- Topical Medications: Alternatively there are a range of creams and ointments available which once applied to the skin, are absorbed and act as pain relief by sending pain blocking messages to the brain.
- Interventional Techniques: There are a number of techniques that involve injecting into or around various levels of the spine region, also known as trigger point injections. These injection act as a pain blocker and help reduce swelling.
- Nerve Block: A nerve block treatment is an injection which targets toward a certain nerve or group of nerves sending the messages of discomfort to the brain.
- Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS): A machine which acts as a pain blocker by using a self-adhesive pad to pass an electric current through the skin.
- Neuromodulation Technology: This pioneering technology offers patients implants such as Spinal Cord Stimulators and Peripheral Nerve Stimulators as a more permanent solution for chronic pain.
Neuromodulation Treatment for Chronic Pain
Neuromodulation treatment involves implanting electrical devices into the body to treat chronic pain. Often offered if all others treatments above have been attempted and failed, a trial period of one to two weeks is often required beforehand to ensure that Neuromodulation treatment is suitable (mainly because it is one of the more invasive chronic pain therapy treatments available). Once the implant has been surgically inserted, electrodes are implanted next to the nerves or the spinal cord modulating specific pathways in the spinal cord to block transmissions of pain signals to the brain.
This type of treatment is rapidly growing in the UK and quickly becoming one of the most common solutions for chronic pain. This is due to its high success rate, allowing patients to have a significant improvement to their quality of life almost instantly.