Alternative Therapies for Chronic and Acute Pain
What is pain? Pain is a signal in your nervous system that indicates something in our body is wrong. It is an unpleasant feeling such as a prick, tingle, sting, burn or an ache. Pain may be sharp or dull. Frequently doctors will as to give a number to pain on the 0-10 scale…10 being an emergency. This scale is often used because there is no way to scientifically measure one's pain. However, this scale can be helpful in monitoring one’s pain complaints with hopeful steady decline in the value as time or treatments progress. Pain can come and go or it may be constant. Pain can become our enemy and become all-consuming in our world of life and work.
We are generally wired to overreact to potential threats and so dysfunctional pain sensation can become such a burden that it interferes in activities and we become fearful to move, live or work. Living with pain and relying on pain medication to treat it has become a devastating public health crisis that is ruining individuals lives, tearing up families and ripping through our communities, yet most of us are ill-prepared to address this with skill and expertise.
Pain is defined by being acute or chronic. Acute pain usually comes on suddenly and is caused by something specific. It is usually sharp in quality. It usually goes away after 3-6 months. Chronic pain on the other hand lasts longer than 3-6 months. It is persistent and ongoing. Chronic pain impacts one's life and is often not just physical but affects one's emotional and mental state. If you have chronic pain or disability that prevents you from doing what you used to you may feel desperate or want to "just give up". If your condition causes physical pain that has not responded well to medical treatments distress can cause emotional turmoil, anxiety, or depression.
In both chronic and acute pain, a "pain cycle" is set up. The pain sensation causes negative mental thoughts. This negativity can cause self-restricted activity. Physical deconditioning results and influences the cycle even further. The sooner the individual can be professionally guided into restoring motion and activity the better. Frequently when people head into this chronic pain cycle a phenomena may develop. This phenomena is called "central sensitization". This occurs when scrambled neurological signals occur at the brain level. Your nervous system is continually reminded over and over again that something is physically wrong. The physical ailment may not necessarily worsen but the pain intensity grows because the nervous system reorganizes itself. The body essentially learns to feel this pain because there is a heightened sensitivity of pain.
Unfortunately, people feel the need for quick or even instant answers or relief. Now enters the topic of Opioid use. Opioid use is effective only under close medial monitoring. Prescription pain pills should be used for only very short time periods. They generally are prescribed for post op, 1-2 weeks of use or for easing end of life pain issues. Here in the United States unfortunately Americans consume 80% of worlds opioids and 99% of world's hydrocodone. Not just long-term addiction but the following lists other risks:
Due to the fact chronic pain has so many emotional and cognitive factors, cognitive behavioral training can be helpful. Being present in the moment helps to "still the mind and calm the thoughts." Paying attention to your abilities and pain levels in the moment helps to ground our thoughts and increase muscle relaxation. This is one reason why Yoga and relaxation exercises can be so valuable. Even just practicing "Pleasant Activity Scheduling". Pleasant Activity Scheduling is making a list of the things you do every day and compare this to a list of things that make you happy. Compare the lists and adjust accordingly.
In conclusion, it is time we stop referring to our bodies as a machine that we can fix or find replacement parts for. We are not cars that can be traded in for a new model. We need to change the way we think about living with pain. We don’t have "degenerative changes" that keep us from being active, instead we have aging knees and hips that we need to just adjust our activities for. We can live and live well with pain and stiff joints. Pain is part of life and we only have one life.
Remind yourself that one can find peace when we alter an activity or exercise to remain functional and productive. Find peace in nature, stillness, or exercise. Each day is an opportunity to grow. Live your life incorporating pain and recognize some days are better than others. Accept your current reality. There are things you can do to alleviate pain and decrease stress to impact your life in a positive way too. Getting out of the mindset of pain is difficult, but not impossible.
Seek physical therapy consults to improve balance, coordination, and to help decrease and or eliminate pain. This may be just the alternative to prescriptions medications and may help you more in the long term. Feel free to contact one of the physical or occupational therapists at The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics- MMI Division for more information on maintaining your mobility or helping with your pain. We do conservative and alternative therapies that are safe and effective. We can be available to discuss via telemedicine or come into the clinic....... WE’RE OPEN AND PRACTICING SAFE SOCIAL DISTANCING. Please visit mmidocs.com or call 301-694-8311 to schedule your consultation today. We are dedicated to helping you reach your goals and live your best life.