Everyone experiences pain at some point in their lives, but for an unfortunate group of people, pain is a constant. For these people who may suffer from back pain, fibromyalgia, arthritis or one of a multitude of pain conditions, finding pain relief is an ongoing priority. Luckily, modern medicine is now able to offer more treatment options than ever before.
There is currently an epidemic of chronic pain in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently published a report estimating that 50 million Americans—or one in five—have a chronic pain condition. Almost 20 million Americans have pain that is so intense that it interferes with work or life activities. The most common chronic pain conditions in the U.S. include
- Lower back pain
- Multiple sclerosis
How Chronic Pain Differs from Acute Pain
Before you seek out pain relief options for your condition, you should understand some of the key differences between short-term pain and chronic pain.
- Acute pain lasts less than three months, while chronic pain may continue indefinitely
- Patients with acute pain often see remission of pain symptoms once the initial injury or illness is resolved.
- While acute pain serves as a biological warning to seek help, there is no valid biological imperative for chronic pain. That is why chronic pain can be considered a disease in which the nervous system malfunctions.
- Chronic pain is potent enough to rewire the brain, shrinking the prefrontal cortex. These changes make the patient more susceptible to depression, stress and anxiety.
- Chronic pain may also interfere with other cognitive functions like information processing and memory formation.
- People suffering from chronic pain often have a sleep debt—on average, losing 42 minutes a night.
- Many chronic pain patients also exhibit a hypersensitivity to stimuli in the sensory nerves.
Some of the Newest and Most Effective Pain Relief Pain Relief Techniques
Medical experts are constantly examining new pain relief therapies to determine their efficacy. You may find some relief from your pain symptoms by using one or more of the following treatments.
- Quell—recently, a new product called Quell arrived on the market. This low-cost device is intended to be worn 24 hours a day and delivers a mild electrical current to the skin and nerves just below. This mild current is intended to disrupt pain signals to the brain. No prescription is required for Quell and there is a money-back guarantee, so you may try the device without much difficulty. The medical community is still uncertain about the efficacy of this device, but many chronic pain patients have found mild to significant improvement to their condition.
- Acupuncture—although the practice of inserting needles into chi points in the body has been in use for centuries, only recently, has the medical establishment taken this pain relief therapy seriously. More studies published in the past few years involving scientific comparisons with non-acupuncture and sham acupuncture practices support this ancient medical practice as a viable pain relief treatment option. Acupuncture has been shown to improve pain symptoms for patients suffering from lower back pain or arthritis, but any improvements are only temporary, requiring sessions on a regular basis.
- Mindful meditation—another practice that originated in the Far East many centuries ago is meditation. Mindful meditation has gained standing in the medical community in recent decades as it has proven successful in mitigating long-term pain. The natural response to chronic pain is to try to fight it off, but this creates frustration, muscle tension and anxiety. Mindful meditation trains you to explore your pain sensations instead of tensing for a struggle. It also soothes your mind and helps bolster peace in your life. If you haven’t tried it, it may sound like nonsense, but new imaging studies show that mindful meditation does alter how pain is processed in the brain. Some long-time practitioners are able to mitigate 90 percent of pain symptoms, making their chronic pain almost unnoticeable.
- Trigger point injections—one of the most painful components of chronic pain is muscle tension. You naturally tense your muscles in response to painful stimuli, and over time, it can be almost impossible to unclench certain muscle groups. This can produce secondary pain symptoms as bad as or worse than the primary pain condition. Trigger point injections implant anesthetic or corticosteroid into a muscle trigger point and may produce pain relief lasting from 4 weeks to a year.
- Radiofrequency ablation—this procedure neutralizes problematic nerves by applying an x-ray-guided heated needle. RFA is used among patients with back or joint pain as well as neuropathy and arthritis. Your doctor can apply this method to multiple nerves in a single session and pain relief may last as long as 8 months to a year.
- AIBP injections—although not on the market yet, A-I binding protein (AIBP) injections are one of the most promising research applications that could reshape pain medicine. AIBP is a naturally occurring protein that appears to block pain signal transmission by inhibiting the TLR4 receptor, a key step in pain nerve transduction. This provides hope for patients suffering from neuropathy including chemotherapy cancer patients. In its final form, AIBP injections could eliminate the need for potent but possibly addictive opioids. Unfortunately, it could be some years before AIBP injections become available to the general public.
- Spinal cord stimulation—if other pain relief treatments have failed, you may want to consider spinal cord stimulation. This involves a surgical procedure in which a device similar to a pacemaker is implanted near your spine. Many patients experience a mild tingling sensation when the spinal cord stimulator is in operation. The spinal cord stimulator delivers a low-level electrical current to the spinal nerves that inhibits the transmission of pain signals to the brain. In patients, spinal cord stimulation has been shown to reduce pain by 50 to 70 percent. Patients can adjust current intensity and functionality via a hand-held remote.
Article written by: Dr. Robert Moghim – CEO/Founder Colorado Pain Care
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