Pain Management

There is a two step process in experiencing pain. The first is the actual cause of the pain like inflammation or damage that can involve many different parts of the body i.e. nerves, muscles and bone. The second is the perception of pain. There are a number of interventions that work on the physical sites of the body and a number of cognitive pain management strategies that work on the perception of pain. Both can alleviate and soothe the experience of pain. Pain is necessary for survival and serves as a signal system that something is wrong and action is needed for the healing process. Seeing your doctor is important to get a diagnosis and explore what interventions can be made. Acute pain is usually temporary and most often from an injury or after an operation. Chronic pain is long term from something like arthritis.

Pain due to fatigue

Most pain management strategies involve chronic pain. The most commonly used but least effective strategy for chronic pain is the use of narcotic medications. The use of narcotics for long term chronic pain usually has a diminishing effect. Tolerance builds the longer a narcotic is used, more medication is desired and more pain is experienced. Long term medication may be useful to those who do not have to function in the world like nursing home residents, the terminally ill or disabled. But for people who want to function, learning pain management techniques in combination with non narcotic medicines can be very helpful. This would also include acupuncture, holistic, homeopathic and chiropractic interventions.

From the psychological approach in dealing with the perception of pain there are many useful strategies.
The first step that I promote is to learn how to be present with pain at a range between 1-7. Research has demonstrated that using a sober mind and learning how to stay present with pain creates a very strong adaptive response. It is counterintuitive to embrace pain, especially in our society that encourages taking a pill. But taking unnecessary pills has stolen from us what our mind and bodies are capable of doing in the healing process. Embracing the pain may not have the immediate effect of eliminating pain like a narcotic would, but it has a much better long term prognosis. For example if I injure my knee, I am more likely to be careful how I use it if I am in touch with the pain 1-7. If I numb my knee with a narcotic, I will not get the necessary feedback to learn how to use it carefully so I do not injure it more. The more I learn how to tolerate pain the higher my pain threshold becomes. If pain is at an 8, 9 or 10 level then taking a medication is useful.

My cognitive approach to alleviating the perception of pain utilizes mostly mindfulness strategies like healing imagery, self hypnosis and deep relaxation. It is also very effective to gain insight into one’s emotional response to pain and how the pain is affecting thoughts and beliefs about the pain and the overall situation. Often times frustration, anger and panic from the pain experience makes the pain experience worse and the healing process more difficult. To discover this aspect of pain and focus on letting go of nonuseful thoughts and beliefs allows for the reduction of an adrenal response that compounds the negative experience of pain. By learning how to turn off the adrenal response the mind and body has an easier time moving toward healing.