We experience pain when our nerves send messages of discomfort to the brain, causing us to perceive a certain sensation as painful. There are many causes of pain, and so to successfully treat pain it is first necessary to isolate and understand the cause of the problem.
There are three broad classifications of pain:
- Psychosomatic pain: The type of pain caused by mental or psychological stressors. An example of this would be headache from anxiety or stress.
- Viscera-somatic pain: This pain originates internally, such as in the gastrointestinal tract, the heart or the lungs.
- Somatic pain: The most commonly spoken of form of pain that originates in the musculoskeletal layers. Examples include any injury to the bones, muscles, skin or joints.
Pain is considered chronic when it becomes an ongoing problem, lasting longer than six months. The goal of a pain management program is to determine the cause of a particular pain and find solutions to reduce discomfort and improve quality of life.
Pain management systems use a collection of treatment methodologies, such as:
- Botox and joint injections
- Myofascial release
- Physical therapy
- Trigger point injection therapy
- Vitamin therapy
- Pain medications and muscle relaxers
Most pain management programs will combine several treatment methods to address the underlying cause of the pain. This helps to find and correct the cause of pain, rather than just relieve symptoms.
Medications and Pain Management
Often, pain medications play a helpful role in the pain management process by providing relief from chronic discomfort as the cause of the pain is addressed. However, they are not recommended as a sole method of treating pain.
Medications reduce the symptoms of pain, but they do not treat the underlying cause of the issue. When medication use is stopped, the pain will return.
Pain medications are associated with several side effects and complications, including weight gain, insomnia and decreased bone strength. Many pain medications are also highly addictive, so long-term use is not advised.
There are four primary types of prescription pain medications. They are:
- Corticosteroids like Prednisone
- Opioids including Morphine, Codeine and Oxycodone
- Antidepressants including SSRIs like Prozac and Zoloft, as well as Cymbalta
- Anticonvulsants like Topirimate and Lyrica
In addition to these medications, many people turn to over-the-counter (OTC) solutions. They generally work by reducing inflammation in the body. They include acetaminophen (in Tylenol and Excedrin) and ibruprofen (in Motrin and Advil). Pain management programs work to resolve the cause of chronic pain so that medication use is not necessary.