Chronic Pain Care
Pain is one of the most common reasons people see a health care provider. Generally, it results from an injury or illness and goes away once the underlying cause ends or is treated. However, for some people pain becomes chronic and can be debilitating.
Many types of pain can affect the body, ranging from a dull ache to stabbing or burning sensations. Some pain is caused by disease or injury, while others have no obvious cause. In some cases, the pain can be linked to emotional stress and even physical changes to the body. This type of pain is called psychogenic or psychosomatic pain. It can occur in the head, neck and back, and may be associated with a range of disorders including fibromyalgia, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) and central pain syndrome.
Some types of pain are difficult to treat. When providers can't find a specific source of the pain, they focus on treating the symptoms instead, a process known as pain management. Medications, lifestyle changes and other therapies are often part of a treatment plan for Chronic Pain Care.
Your healthcare provider may prescribe or recommend non-opioid analgesics, which are medications that don't contain opioids. These include acetaminophen, NSAIDs and other drugs that relieve inflammation, muscle spasms and swelling. They can also include antidepressants and other medications that relieve mood swings, as well as some that block nerve signals. They are known as adjuvant analgesics, because they're used in conjunction with other treatments to control pain.
If your pain is not relieved by non-opioid analgesics, your provider may recommend more intensive treatments. These can include transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), in which small shocks are delivered through patches on your skin. Nerve blocks, in which an anesthetic is injected near the source of your pain, can reduce the feeling of pain and provide diagnostic information. They can be used to help with shingles, pain from herniated discs and other conditions that cause back pain.
If you're in chronic pain, it is important to see your healthcare provider regularly for checkups and to discuss treatment options. Be honest about your symptoms and what's working and not working in your daily life to get the best possible care. With a combination of drug and non-drug treatments, you can manage your chronic pain and improve your quality of life. The sooner you seek help, the more likely it is that you'll find a solution. Eventually, you might be able to stop taking painkillers altogether. Remember that long-term use of opioids increases your risk for addiction. So it's best to take them only as prescribed by your provider and for the shortest period of time needed. This will minimize the risks of becoming dependent on them and increase your chances for a faster recovery.