Pain management is important for ongoing pain control, especially if you suffer from long-term or chronic pain.
Pain can range from mildly irritating to debilitating. It may go away after a few weeks (acute), or last for several weeks or months (chronic). Even short-term pain and swelling in the joints can affect your quality of life. Whatever the cause of your joint pain, you can usually manage it with medication, physical therapy, or alternative treatments.
Acute pain begins suddenly and is usually sharp in quality. It serves as a warning of disease or a threat to the body. Acute pain may be caused by many events or circumstances, such as:
- Broken bones
- Dental work
- Burns or cuts
- Labor and childbirth
Acute pain may be mild and last just a moment, or it may be severe and last for weeks or months. In most cases, acute pain does not last longer than six months and it disappears when the underlying cause of pain has been treated or has healed. Unrelieved acute pain, however, may lead to chronic pain.
Tens of millions of Americans suffer from chronic pain which is described as pain that lasts longer than six months and can be mild or excruciating, episodic or continuous, merely inconvenient or totally incapacitating.
Pain signals remain active in the nervous system for weeks, months, or years. Physical effects include tense muscles, limited mobility, a lack of energy, and changes in appetite. Emotional effects include depression, anger, anxiety, and fear of re-injury. Such a fear may hinder a person's ability to return to normal work or leisure activities.
The symptoms of chronic pain include:
- Mild to severe pain that does not go away
- Pain that may be described as shooting, burning, aching, or electrical
- Feelings of discomfort, soreness, tightness, or stiffness
Chronic pain may originate with an initial trauma/injury or infection, or there may be an ongoing cause of pain. However, some people suffer chronic pain in the absence of any past injury or evidence of body damage.
Common chronic pain complaints include:
- Low back pain
- Joint pain such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis, gout, strains, sprains, and other injuries
- Pain from an injury
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Cancer pain
- Neurogenic pain (pain resulting from damage to nerves)
Pain is not a symptom that exists alone. Other problems associated with pain include:
- Withdrawal from activity and increased need to rest
- Weakened immune system
- Changes in mood including hopelessness, fear, depression, irritability, anxiety, and stress
Depending upon its severity, pain may be treated in a number of ways. Symptomatic options for the treatment of pain may include one or more of the following:
- Braces, supports, massagers
- Electrical stimulation and laser therapy
- Positioning pillows and cushions
- Hot and cold therapy
- Topical analgesics
- Non-prescription drugs like Aleve, Motrin, and Tylenol
- Prescription medication like morphine, codeine, or anesthesia.
- Other medication like muscle relaxers and some antidepressants
- Nerve blocks (the blocking of a group of nerves with local anesthetics)
- Alternative treatments such as acupuncture, relaxation, and biofeedback
- Physical therapy
- Psychological counseling
- Behavior modification
Some pain medications are more effective in fighting pain when they are combined with other methods of treatment. You may need to try various methods to maintain maximum pain relief.