Aristotle called pain the "passion of the soul." While our notions of pain may not may quite as romantic as Aristotle's, it is important for us to recognize the constructive functions of pain. Pain is the body's mechanism of self-preservation. It tells you when your finger is touching a hot pan or when a fall has resulted in an injury that requires your attention. In this way, pain acts as a warning sign to alert you when damage to your body is occurring or may occur. In fact, the inability to experience pain is a dangerous condition because injury can occur and go unnoticed. For example, one common complication of diabetes is the loss of sensation in the feet. Because of this, people living with diabetes are cautioned to check their feet daily so that injuries are not missed. Because they lack a pain sensation, diabetic might miss being alerted to an injury.
Pain is generally divided into two main types: acute and chronic.
The most important issue in pain management is a focus on managing pain symptoms as opposed to looking for a quick fix. Pain management generally encompasses a variety of techniques to be used in combination over time. This multi-modal approach generally includes pharmacological interventions and lifestyle changes (e.g. diet, exercise, stress management) for optimal management of symptoms. To manage your condition, it is useful to think of chronic pain as a chronic disease. Much like heart disease or diabetes, chronic pain may require a long-term treatment approach encompassing medication use in conjunction with behavioral changes to keep your pain symptoms in check.
The first step toward developing a pain management program is to find a knowledgeable physician to assist you with your medication and treatment decisions. Working with your doctor, you play an active role in your pain management program. Your careful documentation of all your diagnostic tests will assist your doctor in making appropriate treatment recommendations and referrals. Likewise, a medication diary in which you document medications used, dosages, side effects, and degree of pain relief provided will provide a useful record of successful and unsuccessful treatment regimens.
While your doctor can assist with the medical management of your pain, it is up to you to take charge of the behavioral interventions that are part of your pain management program. Simply put, you are the one who must take the steps to practice the appropriate lifestyle behaviors that are part of your overall program. Following a healthy diet, practicing relaxation and stress management techniques, and exercising on a regular basis are common recommendations in pain management programs. Becoming well-informed about these and other pain management strategies is a crucial step toward taking control of your chronic pain condition.
Following are various strategies that you may consider when devising your personal pain management program. Remember that your experience of pain is as unique as you are, so what works great for one person may not be so helpful to another. Be prepared to try a number of strategies of which maybe a handful will eventually prove useful to you for incorporating in your pain management program. Do talk over your plans with your doctor, and then get started on taking greater control of your pain.
Facts on Low-Back Pain
Chronic pain is both physically and emotionally stressful, and this physical and mental tension can, in turn, make the pain worse. Planned, purposeful relaxation can help break the pain-stress cycle by lowering heart rate and blood pressure, relaxing tense muscles, reducing anxiety, and giving you a sense of control and well-being. The type of relaxation referred to here is different from the way we commonly think of as relaxing when we take time to read a book or watch TV. While these activities can be pleasurable and may play an important role in reducing your daily stress, the relaxation referred to here involves learning ways to calm your body and mind.
Tips for Relaxing
Search through the health section in your local library or bookstore to learn more about strategies for relaxation. You'll also want to explore relaxation tapes & CDs. Some offer soothing sounds and music while others provide instructions for you to follow along during your session.
Exercise is an important component to your pain management program. Regular exercise improves your flexibility, your aerobic conditioning, and your muscle strength. It can also serve to boost your self-confidence and lessen anxiety and depression. Improving your overall fitness helps to keep you healthy and reduces your risk for further injuries while also helping to control your pain
Tips for Starting an Exercise Program
Tips for Heat & Cold Treatments
Stress and fatigue increase pain, so stress management is an important component of pain management. While this includes relaxation strategies such as those discussed above, a complete stress management program involves more than relaxation. Stress management means looking at your schedule, planning your day, and setting your priorities. It means scheduling "appointments" with yourself for taking care of you. Getting a good night's sleep is also important for restoring your energy and spirits. Looking carefully at the activities you schedule for yourself and learning to say "no" to some requests for your time is important to do so you do not overload yourself.
Seek information. Becoming well-informed about your condition and about effective pain management strategies is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Remember that rarely does only one type of treatment or technique meet all your needs--rather, incorporating multiple treatment strategies to form a comprehensive pain management program is essential for producing optimal results for pain management.
Explore options. Listed above are only some of the treatment options available to you. In some cases, surgery may be an option to alleviate pain. In other cases, pain clinics may assist in providing effective strategies for pain management. Personal counseling may also be helpful to you in dealing with the emotional burden and physical limitations that a chronic pain condition can cause. Hypnosis has been helpful for providing relief to some by teaching a deep relaxation response. Be aware that the options are plentiful and deserve your investigation to see what works best for you. When you incorporate various techniques into your daily lifestyle, you will not only work toward alleviating your pain but you will also work toward becoming a healthier, more peaceful you.
An NIH news release about chronic pain therapy www.nih.gov/news/pr/nov99/ninds-18.htm
University of Washington Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine http://www.orthop.washington.edu/
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