Mayo Health Care
Chronic Pain Relief: An Overview
Everyone will experience pain at some point in their lives. Pain is a necessary form of protection against injuries, diseases, or conditions that would otherwise impair or even kill us. Pain alerts us that something is wrong. Pain can be either ‘acute’ or ‘chronic’ – the distinguishing characteristic between the two is their duration. Acute pain usually occurs after a specific injury. It appears quickly and is usually very intense – one example is the pain of a broken bone.
It subsides fairly quickly, particularly after treatment. Chronic pain, on the other hand, seems to build up over time, and often cannot be connected to a particular injury or condition. What chronic pain lasts in intensity, it makes up for in duration – sometimes persisting for decades. Living with constant pain can be unbearable, and many forms of treatment attempt to offer sufferers some sort of chronic pain relief. One of the most commonly prescribed therapy for chronic pain is medication, both prescription and over-the-counter.
While often effective in alleviating pain, these are eschewed by some because of their adverse side effects, which include nausea, dizziness, and fatigue. Others are in search of a more natural form of chronic pain relief. Exercise, stretching and physical therapy reduce chronic joint pain and muscle soreness and spasms by increasing strength, tone, and flexibility. Exercise increases blood flow, eases joint stiffness, aids in weight loss, and counteracts the stress, anxiety, and depression that often comes from living with chronic pain. Chiropractic, acupuncture and massage offer three alternative methods of chronic pain relief. Though their methods differ, all of these have helped sufferers manage chronic pain. In the past few years, researchers have begun to turn their focus on the real source of pain – the brain. Although an injury or wound may lie elsewhere on the body, signals of pain are intercepted, processed, and quite literally ‘felt’ by the brain. Research findings indicate that a multidisciplinary approach to treating chronic pain – one that incorporates psychological as well as physical therapy – provides the most chronic pain relief. Yoga, meditation, and even laughing clinics have proved effective treatments.
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