Not all forms of pain can be completely eliminated. If you have a painful, incurable condition, you need to focus on managing that pain instead. Pain management is a specialized science, so here are four questions you can ask to help you understand the issues and answers involved.
1. What Are My Pain Management Options?
In the minds of many, pain management begins and ends with drugs. But medications are only one tool in the arsenal of a modern pain institute with access to both traditional and alternative treatment methods. In addition to (or instead of) painkillers, your pain management plan might make use of:
- Acupuncture - Modern science has discovered that acupuncture needles stimulate the production of the body's natural painkillers for drug-free pain relief.
- Massage - Massage therapy can loosen chronically tight muscles or relieve the muscle knots associated with conditions such as fibromyalgia. It also stimulates blood flow to reduce chronic inflammation.
- Cold laser therapy - A low-level or "cold" laser beam penetrates the skin to boost blood flow, reduce swelling, and relieve chronic pain.
- Lifestyle changes - Sometimes simple lifestyle changes can make you feel worlds better. Weight loss, for instance, can take pressure off of arthritic weight-bearing joints.
Ask your doctor which of these practices, if any, would help you achieve the safest and longest-lasting pain management.
2. What Side Effects Should I Expect?
Any form of pain management can produce effects beyond simple pain relief. Even exercise to help limber up your joints may result in temporary muscle aches, fatigue, or shortness of breath until your body gets used to the regimen. Other side effects may seem more unusual or even alarming. For instance, a pain reliever called indomethacin can actually turn your urine blue! Allergic reactions are a dangerous side effect that may require immediate treatment, so tell your provider about any known (or even suspected) allergies.
Additionally, ask your pain management specialist about the potential side effects of over-the-counter medications before you incorporate them into your daily routine. For example, large doses of NSAIDs have been known to cause ulcers, while acetaminophen can cause liver damage in some people.
3.What Safety Measures Do I Need to Follow?
Pain management programs are not necessarily free of risk, especially where medications are involved. For instance:
- Dangerous interactions between two or more drugs can cause serious illness or even death. Make sure your doctor knows about every prescription or non-prescription drug you're currently taking, as well as the frequency and dosage levels.
- Opioids, which are commonly used to reduce severe pain, have addictive properties that can lead to dangerous, progressively-worsening dependency. If addiction runs in your family or you've had previous issues with chemical dependency, ask your doctor about possible alternatives to opioids.
- Even as common a painkiller as ordinary aspiring can cause dangerous reactions in asthma sufferers.
Don't assume any medication, even an over-the-counter one, is safe for you without first consulting your pain management specialist.
4. Where Can I Seek Emotional Support?
Chronic pain's negative effects extend far beyond physical discomfort. The burden of ongoing pain can also debilitate you emotionally, ruining your sleep, mood, appetite, and overall quality of life. Constant bombardment by this form of stress can weaken the immune system, making you more prone to other health problems -- possibly including new forms of chronic pain.
An effective pain management strategy can obviously go a long way toward alleviating this emotional stress and its physical side effects. A positive rapport with the practitioners at your pain institute or clinic is crucial. If you don't feel that your doctor is sufficiently compassionate or dedicated to your case, that lack of support could actually be exacerbating your pain, so it's time to get a referral to someone else.
Support groups can also be invaluable resources of moral, spiritual, and emotional support. Sharing your stories, fears, successes and frustrations with others who know exactly what you're going through can prove a great comfort. Your pain management clinic should be able to provide you with some specific recommendations, including:
- Small gatherings hosted by a church, hospital, or other civic organization
- Meetings of the ACPA (American Chronic Pain Association) in your area
- Online websites and forums dedicated to discussion of your particular ailment or chronic pain in general
If you're dealing with chronic pain, you'll find that knowledge is as important to your eventual relief as any medication or medical technique. Talk to a pain management specialist today or visit a website like http://illinoispain.com to get the answers you need for building a happier, more comfortable future!