How Is Chronic Pain Treated And What Are Pain Management Approaches?
Chronic pain is the leading cause of long-term disabilities and is the most common cause for people to access the health care system.
It is a major contributor to health care costs and leads to loss of productivity in the workplace. Pain that lasts more than a few months is considered chronic pain. Sometimes chronic pain cannot be cured, but there are ways that the pain can be relieved.
Your physician will come up with a personalized treatment plan for you, but several things will be considered. The right treatment option will depend on these things:
- The cause of the pain
- The severity of the pain
- How long the pain has lasted
- The location of the pain
There are many options for relieving chronic pain. Many of them are new to the medical scene thanks to technological advances. Here are some of the medical treatment options available to treat chronic pain:
Radiofrequency ablation – Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is designed to target the nerves that send your brain the pain signals. RFA involves your physician using a needle with a tip that heats up. That needle is placed close to the nerve, then the heat zaps it to keep it from sending the pain signals. RFA is effective as treatment for arthritis and neuropathy as well as other kinds of pain.
Pain Shots – Pain shots deliver the medicine right to the area where it is needed. Before giving the shot, your doctor will do an x-ray to determine the right place for the injection. Your doctor will decide which medicine is best for your situation. Local anesthetics and steroids are often used together in the injection. Local anesthetics will numb the muscle or nerves. Steroids will ease inflammation, which in turn will help ease the pain. There are many kinds of pain shots for chronic pain. Some of the different injections include:
Epidural steroid injections – These help with damaged discs, such as herniated discs. These shots are put in the outer region of your spinal column.
Nerve root blocks – These injections target the nerves along the spine, which can cause pain in other areas, including the arms or legs.
Trigger Point Injections – These work on tight spots in the muscle. Sometimes these are spots so tight that they squeeze nerves and cause pain to occur in other areas. Sometimes the shots might not take away all the pain, and you might need a series of shots for lasting results. The benefits can sometimes last from four weeks to a year. For longer lasting results, the doctor might recommend a pain pump, which will be set up to release the medication automatically.
Opioids – Powerful medications that are used to treat chronic pain, opioids will reduce or block the pain signals. Here are some of the more commonly prescribed opioids:
Opioids are very effective for treating severe pain, but they can have some troubling side effects. Here are some side effects from taking the painkillers:
- There are some more serious side effects that can result, including:
- Accidental overdose
Some people can stop breathing and die from opioids. That is a greater risk from a higher dosage or if they are taken with other drugs or alcohol. Some studies indicate that opioids might not be effective after a few months. People who take opioids long-term are more prone to addiction. Buprenorphine is a safer painkiller, blocking pain like other opioids, but at higher doses the effects taper off, making it less addictive.
Other Options For Treating Pain
There are many kinds of pain medications available, and sometimes over-the-counter drugs might help, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin. There are some other prescription drugs that might help treat chronic pain:
- Anti-seizure medications, such as Neurontin, can treat migraines, fibromyalgia, and neuropathic pain
- Muscle relaxants to relieve low-back pain and muscle spasms
Alternative or Complementary Approaches
There are alternative options, such as acupuncture, massage and yoga that have been around for centuries, but new research indicates that they can be helpful.
Massage, yoga and spinal adjustment can help treat low-back pain, but it could be risky for some other people. Acupuncture, which involves tiny needles being inserted in the skin at certain points, can also help with joint pain from arthritis as well as low-back pain. While you might not be able to address the actual health problem causing the pain, but you might be able to reduce pain and improve your quality of life.