Pain is a burning or aching sensation that almost everyone has experienced at some point. Even though there are more than just a few sources of pain, injury and medical conditions are the most common causes. Regardless of the cause of pain or its intensity, pain can affect one’s productivity and social life. As a matter of fact, some types of pain will not allow you to work, perform your daily activities or go out and socialize at all.
While physical pain can last for a few days, chronic pain can last for several weeks to even a year or more depending on its severity, the cause and how it is managed. Some of the common medical conditions that may cause pain include fibromyalgia, arthritis, interstitial cystitis, and inflammatory bowel disease, just to name a few of the many. As a matter of fact, pain management is also part and parcel of treatment and recovery in certain diseases. The two main pain management approaches include:
- Alternative pain management approaches
Even though over-the-counter pain management drugs are available, and some are effective, most of them may not work for all types of pain. For instance, muscle pain, joint pain, back pain, neck pain, and the list is endless, these may sometimes need addressing through alternative pain management approaches. Additionally, medications and medical approaches may have side effects. Before deciding on what type of alternative pain therapy you would like to take, it is significant to seek physician’s opinion and carry out tests so that the appropriate approach can be advised. Nevertheless, here are some of the most common alternative pain management techniques available.
- Therapeutic Massage
Therapeutic massage is similar to normal massage; only that it is carried out by a registered therapist. The process seeks to override pain signals in areas competing for sensation. The approach mobilizes the patient’s soft tissues to restore normal biomechanical function. The process aims to restructure body tissues by loosening them up and increasing their flexibility. Also important to note is that therapeutic massage can be part of a long-term treatment schedule, especially for patients who’ve undergone surgical procedures as it speeds up the elimination of aesthetics; an important process in post-operative care. Apart from relieving pain, the process can also reduce stress, improve body posture, increase nitrogen and oxygen circulation, soothes and stimulates the body.
- Relaxation Therapy
Relaxation therapy is a technique used to decrease mental or physical tensions through maintaining peace of mind or enjoying a particular hobby. Unlike therapeutic massage, relaxation therapy is self-induced by the individual in pain. People with medical conditions such as arthritis can use the technique to attain calmness, increase blood circulation, and relax their muscles. People in pain can use progressive muscle relaxation, a process that involves tightening and relaxing the muscles. Also, this technique uses the mind in controlling relaxation.
Aromatherapy is also a common alternative approach used to decrease muscle tension and pain. It has its roots in early Egypt and China, dating back up to 3500 BC. The process utilizes oils from natural plants either applied topically to the skin or inhaled to relieve pain. Once the oil is inhaled or applied, it is delivered to the cell membrane and later dissolves into the blood and tissues, activating the nerve endings. The oils can be applied to the body through massage and when taking a bath. It can be inhaled, on the other hand, when sprayed in a room or even when soaked in gauze. The scent also stimulates the mind to relax, revitalizing the body, which is something very essential when it comes to pain relief. Aromatherapy can be used for patients who need regular relaxation of the muscles such as patients suffering from arthritis. Some of the most common plants used in aromatherapy include lavender, rosemary, black pepper, tea tree, ginger, cinnamon, rose, and jasmine, just to name a few.
Hypnosis is an alternative and effective approach used to manage sudden and long-term chronic pain. The process aims at reducing pain through first reducing stress, which always accompanies pain on most occasions. This is especially the case in patients suffering from medical chronic pain diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. The process uses the mind to bring and make positive changes through relaxation and letting go of thoughts that might be destructive. The patient then becomes more absorbed only in the relaxing thoughts, feelings, responding to suggestions about experiencing less pain. This type of therapy is useful especially for those that may find it difficult to sleep because of either normal physical or chronic pain but do not want to use prescribed medicines. It is also known to be effective in patients who have undergone amputations, or those that have been involved in accidents to produce analgesia (lack of pain) and anesthesia (lack of sensation).
- Physical Therapy
Physical therapy does more than just manage pain; it also determines the source of the pain. This particular treatment of pain focuses on using the movement of body parts and education on the basic significance of pain management such as the relation of the brain to the central nervous system sensitivity. The bones and specifics areas that are painful and that have become weak as a result of immobility are made stronger. Physical therapy, as a method of pain management, can be used on patients who suffer from fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, chronic headache, and other musculoskeletal and neuropathic pains. Examples of physical therapy include exercise and massage therapy.
- Occupational Therapy
Chronic pain may cause inability to carry out daily activities because of the stiffness of joints or the specific affected parts of the body. Occupational therapy is a self-management program that ensures that the daily activities are carried out as usual or with a gradual increase of intensity. It is mainly designed for chronic pain patients, where the individual is educated on basic pain management techniques that may help them gradually return to their normal productivity at work. It can include both home and work programs. The therapeutic approaches that may be used include taking breaks during office hours, standing in between activities for those whose job involves a lot of sitting at the office.
- Music Therapy
Just like hypnotherapy, music therapy reduces chronic pain by evoking a sensory stimulation that soothes, inspires, uplifts, and energizes the body. Majority of pain centers have adopted this method of alternative pain managing technique as it has been proved and perceived to reduce pain by relaxation and boosting the mood of the patient. Music therapy does not only imply that the patient has to listen to music. As a matter of fact, the patient can sing or even write song lyrics. Taking part in music-related activities relaxes the mind as the patient lets go of distractive thoughts, which helps a great deal in relieving pain.
Although sometimes considered controversial, at least based on research, acupuncture has gained popularity as a technique for relieving pain and relaxing the body. Various techniques are used to stimulate specific anatomical painful body parts. The process can be manual through the use of some types of needless, or electronic. When a basic needle is manually used, more than one piece of a needle is inserted into the parts of the body that are painful. Patients who have used the technique refer to the process as relaxing as it provides a dull sensation to the joins or painful body parts. Acupuncture is commonly used for patients with chronic medical pain conditions, as well as those with frequent bouts of neck or back pain.
Chiropractic is a pain relief technique that focusses on the therapeutic movement of the spine. The process involves the application of strong pressure on the joints between the spines. The technique is, therefore, structure focused. The pressure exerted manipulates the body to relieve pain through spinal manipulation and realignment. The process also involves educating the chronic pain patient on the significance of pain relief and ways through they can relieve pain without the aid of a chiropractic therapist, sometimes known as a chiropractor. Patients who have developed stroke and musculoskeletal related pain can use this type of technique. Some of the most common chiropractor adjustment techniques include the following:
- Activator technique
- Diversified technique
- Gonstead technique
- Flexion-distraction technique
- Thompson (drop table) technique
Biofeedback is a self-regulatory therapy process where sensors are put on a specific body part and physiological data is monitored with the ultimate focus on providing pain relief. The process increases the physiological body response as patients are also taught how to invoke physiological changes to the body. The two main types of biofeedback are:
- Electroencephalogram: Monitors physiological process of the brain (aka neurofeedback)
- Electromyogram: Monitors muscle contraction
After the observation, the patient is taught how to regulate the different physiological processes and relieve pain. Several pain management techniques may be used together with biofeedback, including mindfulness meditation, deep breathing, guided imagery, and progressive muscle relaxation.
- Cold and Heat Therapy
You might have seen people using ice during sports when injured to relieve pain or even people using warm water to relieve pain. Hot, warm, and cold water/ice are some of the most effective but short-term ways of relieving pain in the body. Temperature therapy is simple although it should not be done to certain extremes.
- Heat Therapy: In heat therapy, the patient places something warm on the painful part of the body. This increases blood circulation around the area. During the process, the patient can choose dry heat therapy or moist heat therapy, the two major types of heat therapy. Dry heat therapy includes heat pads, saunas, and dry heat and is reasonably easy to use. For moist heat therapy, the patient uses a steamed towel or even takes a warm shower. Heat therapy is a common process that should be done more often and is also practiced by a majority of people. Routine warm bath is an example of a moist heat therapy. The main risk associated with heat therapy is that one might burn the skin if too high temperatures are used. This can cause tissue damage. Temperature therapy can be used in cases of first aid and when patients are being taken to the hospital
- Cold Therapy: Cold therapy is common in sporting events and is aimed to reduce the flow of blood to the painful area. The process significantly reduces inflammation and swelling. However, it is advisable that patients with sensory disorders seek medical attention before using cold therapy for pain relief as this might have deleterious repercussions on the tissues.
Exercise is also one of the most common pain management techniques. As a matter of fact, exercise should be carried out by everyone on regular basis. Through exercise, the body achieves a reverse and downward cycle of pain. People working in offices, pregnant women, and those that do mechanical work develop pain in areas such as the back, neck, and feet. Exercise is among the best ways to relieve such pain. There are, of course, plenty of exercise options you can engage in. these range from high-intensity aerobic activity to cardiovascular exercises and weightlifting.
Also important to note is that exercises depend on strength, general health, age, and other factors. Old, pregnant, and ill people may find it difficult to carry out regular and intense exercises because of the various vulnerabilities that they are exposed to. This does not, however, mean that they should not take part in activities that relieve pain. In case you experience difficulties with coming up with a reasonable and manageable exercise program, seeking expert help is advisable. One does not have to be home or in the field, taking a stroll during lunch break is also an example of a helpful exercise that can help relieve muscular tension, increase blood flow and reduce pain exercise.
- Mind and Pain Techniques
The body responds differently to stress and depression. In fact, stress and depression only amplify body pains. The mental and emotional states can thus be used to control and relieve pain while increasing relaxation. Patients can practice yoga or tai chi, which’s calming and meditation effect ensures pain relief and the strengthening of muscles. As a matter of fact, research shows that the historic Chinese exercise technique can help relieve chronic pain, especially for fibromyalgia patients. It has also been found effective in relieving pains associated with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and tension headaches according to the Harvard Med School Journal.
Apart from the use of drugs to relieve pain, there is a number of other natural ways techniques that can be used as drugs can be addictive, and the body may develop resistance to them after some time. If done right, the above natural alternatives pain management approaches can be safe and inexpensive. Especially for long-term use, they can be overly beneficial. It is, however, important to seek medical attention before settling on the type of alternative method to using as some pain may persist and can only be made worse especially those that need surgical rectification. Even when practicing any of the above techniques, it is also essential to avoid injuries and foods that may lead to obesity as these are some of the most common causes of pain.