From a toothache to a pulled muscle, pain is the number one reason people seek medical treatment. For thousands of years options for treating pain was extremely limited. As a result of modern pharmacology, we have a wide range of medications to alleviate pain today. But what is pain?
Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. Nerves in the distressed area send signals to the pain receptors located in parts of your spinal cord. The pain receptors then send the signal along different tracks in the spinal cord to the brain. The brain then registers the message and pain is perceived. This often evokes an emotional response such as anxiety or depression as well as a physical one. Because of this emotional aspect of pain, treatment often includes more than just common painkillers, especially for people who experience persistent pain. For treatment purposes, physicians divide pain into three categories: acute, chronic, and cancer pain.
Acute pain refers to pain that is temporary. Because this type of pain is usually the result of an injury or infection, your physician’s primary goal is to treat the underlying cause. Then he or she may prescribe an analgesic such as Aspirin, Acetaminophen, Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), tranquilizers, muscle relaxants, local anesthetics or opioid analgesics to relieve your pain until the other measures take effect. The analgesic chosen will depend on the cause of pain, severity of pain, and your stage of the healing process.
Chronic pain is pain that lasts longer then three months and disrupts your daily activities. This type of pain is often associated with permanent disorders such as slipped disc, arthritis, tendinitis, bursitis, and nerve damage. Pain management physicians employ a wide range of therapies and medications to help people who live with chronic pain. Therapies may include medication, exercise, massage, neural blockade, diet counseling, or medical equipment such as TENs units or brace. Analgesics and muscle relaxants used to treat acute pain are also used for chronic pain. In addition to these, your physician may prescribe an antidepressant, aniconvulsant, or topical analgesic. Individual or family counseling is often suggested as well because chronic pain tends to affect a person’s psychological well being and relationships with others.
Chronic pain is often a consequence of cancer and can result from the cancer itself, medical tests, or treatment. This can weaken the body and impair the healing process, therefore, interfering with treatment. To meet the needs of people with cancer pain, physicians are using a variety of advanced techniques including medication management and pain pumps.