The goal of pain management is to improve function, enabling individuals to
work, attend school, or participate in other day-to-day activities. Patients
and their physicians have a number of options for the treatment of pain; some
are more effective than others. Sometimes, relaxation and the use of imagery as
a distraction provide relief. These methods can be powerful and effective,
according to those who advocate their use. Whatever the treatment regime, it is
important to remember that pain is treatable. The following treatments
are among the most common.
Acetaminophen is the basic ingredient found in Tylenol® and its many
generic equivalents. It is sold over the counter, in a prescription-strength
preparation, and in combination with codeine (also by prescription).
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Acupuncture dates back 2,500 years and involves the application of
needles to precise points on the body. It is part of a general category of
healing called traditional Chinese or Oriental medicine. Acupuncture remains
controversial but is quite popular and may one day prove to be useful for a
variety of conditions as it continues to be explored by practitioners,
patients, and investigators.
Analgesic refers to the class of drugs that includes most
painkillers, such as aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen. The word analgesic
is derived from ancient Greek and means to reduce or stop pain. Nonprescription
or over-the-counter pain relievers are generally used for mild to moderate
pain. Prescription pain relievers, sold through a pharmacy under the direction
of a physician, are used for more moderate to severe pain.
Anticonvulsants are used for the treatment of seizure disorders but
are also sometimes prescribed for the treatment of pain. Carbamazepine in
particular is used to treat a number of painful conditions, including
trigeminal neuralgia. Another antiepileptic drug, gabapentin, is being studied
for its pain-relieving properties, especially as a treatment for neuropathic
Antidepressants are sometimes used for the treatment of pain and,
along with neuroleptics and lithium, belong to a category of drugs called
psychotropic drugs. In addition, anti-anxiety drugs called benzodiazepines also
act as muscle relaxants and are sometimes used as pain relievers. Physicians
usually try to treat the condition with analgesics before prescribing these
Aspirin may be the most widely used pain-relief agent and has been
sold over the counter since 1905 as a treatment for fever, headache, and muscle
Biofeedback is used for the treatment of many common pain problems,
most notably headache and back pain. Using a special electronic machine, the
patient is trained to become aware of, to follow, and to gain control over
certain bodily functions, including muscle tension, heart rate, and skin
temperature. The individual can then learn to effect a change in his or her
responses to pain, for example, by using relaxation techniques. Biofeedback is
often used in combination with other treatment methods, generally without side
effects. Similarly, the use of relaxation techniques in the treatment of pain
can increase the patient's feeling of well-being.