Pain and death are two of my least favorite aspects of being alive. In a perfect world, I’d experience neither. However, I’m less anxious about death. Death I’ll only meet once. Pain can ruin much of that precious time between womb and coffin. If you’re lucky, you’re dealing with acute pain, which is more immediate and temporary, as with burns, cuts, broken bones, punches to the stomach, kicks to the shin…etc. This article may help you, but my real aim is to help people get rid of pain, or at least lessen or manage pain that has been a long-term problem. Doctors refer to this kind of affliction as “chronic pain”, which is defined as pain that is constant or habitually flares up for at least a six-month period. Arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, degenerative disk disease, fibromyalgia, tendinitis, and muscle, tendon, and nerve damage are common causes of chronic pain. Unfortunately, the underlying cause of chronic pain isn’t always found.
Though I’ve dealt with chronic pain and now live nearly pain free, I certainly don’t have all the answers. My pain is unique and so is yours. This article is not a prescription. I’m not telling you what to do; I just want to let you know what your options are – what you can do to get rid of pain. But I will say this: be proactive. Nobody (especially overworked doctors) will care about your pain as much as you do. Seek out treatments. Get second opinions (insurance covers them). Annoy your doctor. Chronic pain is easier to treat when dealt with early. Don’t wait.
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Get Rid of Pain at Home
OTC medications can help get rid of pain that is mild to moderate. Mild analgesics (pain relievers) like acetaminophen (Tylenol, Datril) and NSAIDs (Bayer, Advil, Aleve) can block pain signals and slow the creation of pain-inducing chemicals in the body. NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can also reduce swelling and inflammation. These drugs are the first line of defense against pain, and they are far safer than narcotics and other prescription drugs. However, because of constant commercials and easy access, many people forget that these medicines can cause internal bleeding, gastrointestinal problems, liver damage, and of course death if not used according to the directions.
Exercise is often prescribed for pain. It may seem counterintuitive to exercise when you’re hurting, but avoiding activity can actually lead to weakened muscles, loss of mobility or range of motion, poor moods, and more pain. Moderate exercise can help get rid of pain in a few ways. First of all, when you exercise, you’re increasing the blood and oxygen supply throughout the body, which helps in healing and increases one’s sense of overall health. Exercise also triggers the release of mood-enhancing, pain-killing endorphins. Physical activity and stretching can also help rehabilitate muscles and lend support to and take pressure off of injured or pain-inducing areas. Talk to your doctor about a referral for physical therapy. These experts will design an exercise routine for your specific situation.
Stress management is part of pain management. Anyone who has had to endure long bouts with pain knows that it causes stress, but many are unaware that stress (as well as other negative emotions) can cause and intensify chronic pain. Reducing stress, however, is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. My father (fibromyalgia and arthritis) reduced stress by going to a weekly chronic pain support meeting. Others go through pain counseling to learn how to better cope. Massage therapy, exercise, deep breathing techniques, yoga, meditation, and even time spent listening to music have all been cited for reducing stress.
Using heat and cold therapy, alone or together, is a simple way to treat pain. No, this probably won’t get rid of pain completely, but it may provide enough relief so you can focus on what matters. Heat therapy – using heating pads, lamps, or even hot baths – increases blood flow (and thus, nutrients) to painful joints and muscles. Cold therapy – using cold packs or ice cubes – numbs pain and, as the area warms, blood rushes back carrying nutrients and promoting healing. Some people alternate cold and hot therapies to good effect. It may take some experimentation. Just be careful not to A) burn yourself or B) inflict frostbite.
Small behavior modifications can go a long way in getting rid of pain. Chronic pain sufferers don’t have the leeway most people do; we must walk the line. While most people may become grumpy from sleep loss, we experience drastic spikes in pain. Diet is also more important for pain sufferers. Besides needing vital minerals and nutrients important for healing, a diet that leads to obesity puts added, unnecessary stress on joints and can make chronic pain worse. Smoke? Quit. Smoking may lower your pain tolerance and hinder other pain treatments. Breaking up strenuous activities, pacing yourself, planning your days – small modifications such as these may tip the scales in your favor, allowing you to be productive and happy.
Medicated creams help get rid of pain for some people.Capsaicin-based creams (Dolorac) are made from the seeds found in hot chili peppers. The capsaicin in these creams alters nerve signals in the skin without numbing. It may take a week or two of application before you notice much of a difference, and the relief is temporary. You’ll want to vigorously wash your hands after using this stuff in case of an inadvertent eye rub. If you cook with hot peppers, you already know. Methyl creams like Ben-Gay can also relieve pain, but generally not chronic pain. If anything, they just distract you from your old pain by bombarding your nerves with new, uncomfortable sensations.
Prescription Pain Medication
Narcotics. Narcotics are often used to get rid of pain, though more often for short-term (acute) pain. Codeine, morphine, oxycodone, methadone – these powerful drugs, derived from opium, block pain signals. Because of the risk of addiction, they are rarely prescribed for chronic pain; however, pain specialists are changing how the medical community thinks about these drugs.
Antidepressants and Anticonvulsants. Certain antidepressants (tricyclic antidepressants) are used to get rid of chronic pain. They work by stopping chemical reactions in the brain that lead to feeling pain. So, if you’re depressed and in pain, it’s a two-birds-one-stone situation. Another antidepressant, Cymbalta, is being used for pain caused by damaged or malfunctioning nerves. Anticonvulsants – drugs designed to stop epileptic seizures – are also being prescribed for pain caused by nerve damage. These drugs (Carbtrol, Lamictal, Topamax) work by stopping damaged, malfunctioning nerves from sending their stupid, unhelpful signals.
Injection Therapy. When pain is severe and limited to a relatively small area, injection therapy is a good option. While not usually permanent, these injections can give chronic pain sufferers a chance to catch their breath, begin physical therapy, or just plain get some things done. What type of medication used will depend on the area being injected and severity of pain experienced. Generally, injections consist of anesthetics and/or steroids.
Pain Clinics and Pain Centers
Pain centers are facilities that strive for a multidisciplinary approach, boasting an array of doctors from different fields who work as a team to treat your pain. They may help you find a medication or other treatment to get rid of pain, but they’ll also treat the mental, social, and occupational aspects of chronic pain. You may see physical therapists, alternative medicine practitioners, occupational therapists, psychologists, as well as physicians. Pain centers are often larger and conduct research and educate pain specialists. Pain clinics are often more specialized, treating specific causes of pain, such as back pain or nerve damage. If you’re dealing with intractable pain (and you have insurance or bags filled with money), ask your doctor about seeing a pain specialist at one of these facilities.
Get Rid of Pain with Complementary Alternative Medicine
Acupuncture. People are often skeptical of acupuncture because their ideas about the treatment are derived from film and television. They envision an old, incense-crazed Chinese mystic who rejects all things Western. In fact, acupuncture is becoming more and more popular as treatment to get rid of pain. It is endorsed by the National Institute of Health for getting rid of headaches and back pain, and its uses are expanding. Not thrilled about needles? Try acupressure or shiatsu – forms of massage therapy that utilize the principles of acupuncture.
Massage.Massage therapy can help get rid of pain by relaxing muscles, lessening pressure on nerves, increasing blood flow, and stimulating the release of endorphins – the body’s natural pain killers. If you’ve ever had a professional massage, you know that it is also insanely relaxing and stress relieving, which is important for managing pain. The downside? Massage therapy is rarely covered by those stingy insurance companies.
Biofeedback. In my former job as a teacher in a tough school, I worked in a high-stress environment. In an effort to keep staff from leaping off the building, administration brought in biofeedback practitioners. These people use a variety of methods including guided imagery, deep breathing, meditation, and a variety of monitors to help you learn how to control automatic functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, skin temperature and so on. While it mainly is a stress reducer, it is also used to get rid of pain – especially low-back pain.
Chiropractic. Chiropractic therapy involves manipulating joints and especially the spine. The theory is that misalignments cause a disruption of signals to and from the brain, resulting in pain and other ailments. While some doctors scoff at this form of treatment, chiropractic therapy is recognized by insurance companies and constitutes the third largest group of medical practitioners (behind physicians and dentists) in the United States. Research has shown this treatment to be effective for neck pain, migraines, and lower-back pain.
Hypnotherapy. Because hypnosis is most often associated with silly entertainment in which individuals humiliate themselves in some way, it may seem strange that it is a viable way to get rid of pain. During hypnosis, a person becomes deeply relaxed and focused. In this state, practitioners use the power of suggestion to help patients block out pain, change behaviors, and let go of stress. Self-hypnosis can be learned from a certified hypnotherapist or licensed psychologist.