Millions of people deal with chronic pain daily. Not only is it a common medical condition, but it also has a significant impact on our lives. Patients often miss workdays because the pain makes it impossible for them to get out of bed, get ready, and reach the office. Despite this, doctors do not have a permanent solution to this issue. A chronic pain patient can either learn to live with the persistent pain or try to manage it.
But, what is chronic pain, and what causes it?
According to doctors, people suffering from persistent pain for at least 12 weeks despite medical intervention suffer from chronic pain. While injuries or surgeries can cause sudden or acute pain, sometimes the discomfort carries on for longer. Similarly, people suffering from underlying conditions such as diabetes and arthritis often experience chronic pain.
Usually, pain results from an initial injury or illness, but it develops into a continuous condition after nerve damage. Therefore, treating the initial cause does not necessarily resolve the issue. But, people may also experience chronic pain without prior injury.
Since the condition affects mobility, patients often suffer from additional psychological problems such as stress, depression, and anger. They may feel helpless and anxious because of their situation. Therefore, treatment plans focus on reducing pain, increasing mobility, and helping patients cope. There are several ways chronic pain patients can manage their symptoms, and using steroids is one way to cope with the condition. However, doctors do not recommend steroid usage because of their multiple detrimental side effects, such as osteoporosis and glaucoma. So, if you’re looking for non-steroid-based ways to manage your pain, the following tips will come in handy.
- Use CBD: Extraneous CBD products such as a CBD balm or oil can help patients directly target affected areas. CBD is a non-psychoactive ingredient commonly found in cannabis that provides pain relief without the mind-altering effects of most opioids. CBD affects the endocannabinoid system that regulates our pain response. Several studies show that a combination of CBD with THC can also manage pain related to arthritis and multiple sclerosis. Also, research suggests that CBD is a promising new drug to manage pain and its common psychological side effects, such as anxiety and depression.
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Chronic and persistent pain is disastrous for health. Often, the condition becomes an all-consuming presence in your life. Patients report feeling fatigued, stressed, and anxious. It makes people more susceptible to mood swings and depression. Therefore, it is necessary to tackle the mental burden of chronic pain as well. Focusing on the emotional effects of long-term pain can also improve our coping mechanisms and encourage a problem-solving attitude. Several studies have proved the efficacy of CBT techniques to reduce disability, depression, and catastrophizing while improving functioning and sleep.
- Nutrition: Like everything else, diet plays a vital role in managing pain. Individuals diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis or migraine headaches have successfully reduced inflammation and spontaneous pain. Some inflammatory foodstuffs may increase the risk and intensity of chronic pain. Therefore, switching to an anti-inflammatory diet with high fiber content can lower chronic pain. However, certain foods may increase pain in some people. Patients can keep a food diary and compare it with their symptoms to identify patterns of endorphin production. But the relationship between dietary modifications and pain management is not well documented. Experts believe that diet-related weight loss, instead of nutritional changes, is the primary reason to improve chronic pain symptoms.
- Physical therapy: PT is a hands-on approach to help improve mobility. It can also help patients struggling to manage long-term pain. Patients can consult a qualified therapist for an initial evaluation and discuss their conditions. Usually, therapists prescribe activities to improve strength and mobility. They may also massage the affected area to decrease pain by improving blood flow. A combination of a walking program with exercise improves the mental and physical well-being of patients.
- Therapeutic exercise: Several practitioners, including chiropractors and physicians, prescribe supervised exercises for rehabilitation and chronic pain management. Exercises can improve flexibility, posture, and balance. A fitness regimen can help patients combat the psychological side effects of chronic pain. Research suggests that moderate exercise can reduce anxiety, depression, and fibromyalgia. Exercise is a viable treatment option as there is no risk of relapse. It also improves patients’ quality of life. Patients can try swimming or yoga to alleviate pain and improve muscle tone.
- Acupuncture: 16th Century Chinese doctors swore by the effectiveness of acupuncture to overcome pain symptoms. Despite its ancient legacy, acupuncture remains a viable treatment option for chronic pain patients. There is evidence to suggest that acupuncture releases pain-numbing chemicals by stimulating acupoints in the body. The process is an acceptable alternative to invasive pain management programs. Some physicians encourage acupuncture to patients because there is a low risk of harm.
- Drug therapy: While milder forms of pain can be relieved with over-the-counter medications, doctors also provide painkillers for chronic pain. However, medication can have devastating side effects. For example, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Aspirin increase the potential risk of heart attacks and strokes. And as drug tolerance increases, so will the dosage making patients vulnerable to side effects. Drug therapy can be effective, but there is a high risk for some patients.
- Opioid therapy: Opioids are potent analgesics used for chronic pain management. However, they have several adverse effects. Efficacy may diminish over time, with doctors prescribing higher dosages to treat pain symptoms. This vicious cycle often results in opioid addiction or relapse. Opioid therapy is not sufficient for pain reduction; it usually reduces the intensity by less than one-third in long-term treatments. Therefore, doctors avoid opioid therapy because of detrimental side effects.
- Trigger point injections (TPI): TPIs treat trigger points or knots of muscles and make them inactive. A doctor injects a local anesthetic with a small needle to alleviate pain. However, trigger pint injections provide sustained relief. Furthermore, doctors use this invasive treatment as a last resort for pain symptoms that do not respond to other interventions.
Chronic pain is a debilitating illness that can make a person feel helpless and hopeless. However, accepting ownership of your symptoms is the first step in managing the condition. Instead of ignoring the reality, follow problem-solving methods to live with your situation. Remember that a holistic treatment with a combination of drug therapies and non-invasive alternative techniques is your best bet for success. The only thing you need to do is put in the time and keep fighting the pain.