So many people live their lives daily with some sort of pain. Some people have chronic pain from a past injury, either from work, car accidents, or chronic medical conditions (arthritis, tendonitis, etc) and others have acute pain from being post-operative (having surgery), a new injury, or because they just slammed their finger in a door! No matter what the reason is, people are living with some form of chronic pain, and how they choose to treat it, can have huge effects on their lives.
How do we treat pain?
Pain is all very subjective to the person who has it; I mean, I might think that stubbing my toe hurts very much, but someone might obtain the exact same injury and be yelping out in pain, because it hurts them more- they actually feel more pain. I have one friend that takes a percocet before she gets a bikini wax, really?!?!? So, how one treats their pain can be very different, but I want people to think how their choices can effect them:
OTC (Over-the-counter) medications: there are NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or Acetaminophen (Tylenol) that are taken orally 4-6 times a day.
Prescription Medications: Opioids (i.e. oxycontin, percocet, hydromorphone/dialudid) which act centrally to decrease pain and are also to be taken orally usually 4 times daily.
Alternative therapies: heat and cold, deep breathing exercises, and distraction techniques.
What are the side effects?
The problem with always taking pharmaceuticals is that there are side effects to each medications that we take, no matter what it is.
Ibuprofen: can cause nausea/vomiting/stomach pain, bleeding ulcers, may impair blood flow to kidneys, leading to fluid retention.
Acetaminophen: low fever, stomach pain, nausea, dark urine, liver failure leading to jaundice (a yellowing of skin and eyes).
Opioids: Nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, constipation, delirium, and compromise of the immune system.
*As with any medication, you may also experience a form of an allergic reaction which can be in the form of hives, difficulty breathing, or anaphylaxis.
Do Alternative Therapies work?
Many people skip alternative therapies and head right for medications to treat their discomfort, always forgetting about the fact that there are other things we can do to help with our discomfort. In the case of chronic pain, there are options of using heat and/or cold therapy for muscle and joint pain, Physical Therapy for long standing injuries or arthritis, or learning to live with the discomfort and how to deal with your pain. And in the case of acute pain, heat and/or cold can also be used, distraction techniques, and deep breathing exercises can assist with pain. A recent study in Pain Management in Nursing looked at non-drug therapies for older adults in rural areas, that usually reach for pharmaceutical treatments for their pain, found that these older adults that don’t usually start with alternative therapies, reported a significant decrease in pain/discomfort with the use of heat/cold and breathing techniques that were taught to them. These adults had never been shown or educated in regards to the use of heat and cold with pain tolerance and found it to be extremely helpful, many stopped using daily medication therapy. They reported significant decrease in pain, just by making a few simple changes, that anyone can do!
Now, I realize that there are some pains that putting a heat pack on is not going to fix (i.e. a broken arm) but it can help with chronic back pains, arthritis, etc. I am not saying that people shouldn’t ever take pain medication, that is ridiculous, but the more we take medications to mask our pain, we become dependent upon them; it can become a habit to take medications, and your pain might not even be tat bad on a certain day, and long term effects of pain meds can be detrimental to your overall physical and mental health. But heat and cold can help and taking deep breaths in to relax your mind, and breathing the pain out with each breath can relax you and help to diminish some pain because your muscles are also relaxing. Anxiety makes pain worse, and being worried about pain is not a good way to go through life; try to use some of these alternative therapies before reaching for your usual pain medication next time, your body will thank you and you will feel more empowered that YOU have the control, not your pain!
Yours in Good Health