Pain and Pain Management

Defined as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage”, it is unfortunate that most of us at some point will experience some sort of pain. When you have an illness with a symptom of pain either acute or chronic, this can significantly interfere with your quality of life and general functioning. In November’s meeting we discussed pain, the types of pain experienced and methods tried and tested to help.  This is a summary of what was discussed.

Pain

Pain is a feeling triggered in the nervous system, it may be a sharp stabbing pain or a dull ache. Pain may come and go, or it may be constant. You may feel pain in one area of your body, or you may feel pain all over. People with illnesses usually suffer with chronic pain, which is defined as pain that lasts a long time, although some people suffer episodes of acute pain, which is pain that comes and resolves quickly. Chronic pain was what most people with illnesses tended to have with most complaints of it determined to be localised, for example in the joints or specific muscular areas such as the legs, back, or neck. Pain is usually measured by a pain scale, with the sufferer scores their pain level. People’s pain threshold is independent of that person, as everyone has different pain levels, but if you rate highly on a pain scale it does not matter if another would deem this as a mild pain it is affecting you and your life, so the important thing is treatment to greatly reduce or eliminate pain.

Treatment

The treatment for pain is not one size fits all; everyone is different, the main thing is to find a treatment or technique that helps you to remove the pain. Below is a list of treatments and therapies discussed at the meeting.
 
Medication
There are pain medications you can take either over the counter or prescribed. Paracetamol can provide a good balance in pain levels, or ibuprofen for inflammatory pain. A few people have taken some prescribed medications that have been found useful. Amitriptyline and Sertraline were 2 mentions that some members take to help sleep and to balance pain. These are both forms of ‘Antidepressants’ but work by raising your pain threshold thus reducing the level of pain. Pregabalin was also discussed as an effective painkiller and works by blocking the signals sent by the nerves to the brain that say you are in pain. In some severe cases people have been put on morphine taken orally or through a patch worn on the skin, this is not normally a long term measure and 1-2 people also have had either trigger point  or nerve block injections which provided relief on a short term basis. In all cases with medication we enforce talking to your GP and always taking the recommended dose 

Alternative
If medication is not for you, some people have found alternative therapy helpful in pain loss, such as Acupuncture, massage and floatation. These are dependent on whether you have localised pain or if it is all over body pain. Always ensure you use a professional and reputable therapist. In our helpful links page on our website there a couple of sites where you can find recommended therapists in your local area.

TENS
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (Tens) Machines are designed for pain relief and are used as an alternative to painkilling medication. A TENS machine is a small portable, battery-operated device which is worn on the body. The box is attached by wires to sticky pads which you stick to your skin. The TENS machine provides a series of small electrical pulses which are transmitted to the body. The pulses relieves pain by blocking pain messages to the brain, whilst also increasing blood flow to the area. Although there is not much robust proof that TENS machines work, some members have found them to be useful. They can be brought over the counter (Lloyds Pharmacy have their own brand at a reasonable price), should be simple to use and can be used long term, always read the instructions. The advantage is that TENS is well tolerated and largely without side-effects.
 
Bioelectric Therapy
Similar to the TENS machine (above) Bioelectric Therapy is a safe, drug-free treatment option for people in pain It relieves pain by blocking pain messages to the brain. When you are injured, pain receptors send a message to the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). The message is registered as pain by certain cells in the body. Using bioelectric currents, bioelectric therapy relieves pain by interrupting pain signals before they reach the brain. Bioelectric therapy also prompts the body to produce endorphins which help to relieve pain.

Breathing/Meditation/Distraction techniques
Meditation, Breathing exercises and Distraction techniques work by focusing the mind on other places and feelings than what you are feeling at the current moment and this is believed to help lessen the feeling of pain. You may not notice immediate reprieve from your pain, but as you continue to practice, you may find that you are able to control the pain and feel it diminish in intensity.

Reduce stress
It is proven the more stressed we are, the more stress we put on our body then the more we are heightened to feelings of pain. By reducing our stress levels, this helps us to raise our threshold with pain reducing any sensitivity we may be feeling. Trying meditation for pain relief is worth a try and not only can it help you deal with your pain, but it can also increase your health, mental and emotional well-being in many other beneficial ways as well.

Mild Exercise/Physiotherapy
Mild exercise such as those performed in Yoga, like Meditation can help us to stretch muscles, learn to relax and work to focussing the mind on other places and feelings to lessen the level of pain felt. Similar to meditation, it may not show immediate reprieve from the pain but it is aimed to get you in control of the pain and then being able to diminish it.

Join a support group/network
The term a “problem shared is a problem halved” comes to mind, but knowing that others have been or are going through the same as you will help you to realise you are not alone. At our meeting many people said they felt better that it was not just happening to them, that they were not alone and a few weeks later when asked many said they were coping better. Plus being a support group allows people to share ideas and experiences, so someone may have tried something that you haven’t.

Don’t Smoke!
Smoking affects the circulation of your body which can enhance pain. quitting can be an answer, there are many aids out there to help you quit and the benefits are usually seen quite quickly not just in pain management but in general health as well.

Keep tract of triggers
Keeping a diary of your pain levels can help you or someone else to notice any triggers that may enhance your pain allowing you to remove them from your life. Many people use a scale as to the level of pain they are feeling after a certain activity of event. For example, sitting in a chair whilst washing up may score 2 out of 10 on the pain scale whereas standing washing up scores a much higher level of 8/10.

Well balanced diet
A healthy body is a healthy mind, plus when we have an illness a lot of things are out of control, a healthy well balanced diet is something we can control and eating a well-balanced diet is good for the body and there are plenty of foods out there that have good effect on the body acting as antioxidants.

This is not an exclusive list of treatments, there are many more out there but at least this would be a start on finding a technique that may work for you. Remember on any treatment you try, always use a regulated practitioner or follow instructions. If in doubt always speak to your health practitioner.

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