How Is Pain Treated?
Exercise has come to be a prescribed part of some doctors' treatment
regimes for patients with pain. Because there is a known link between many
types of chronic pain and tense, weak muscles, exercise-even light to moderate
exercise such as walking or swimming-can contribute to an overall sense of
well-being by improving blood and oxygen flow to muscles. Just as we know that
stress contributes to pain, we also know that exercise, sleep, and relaxation
can all help reduce stress, thereby helping to alleviate pain. Exercise has
been proven to help many people with low back pain. It is important, however,
that patients carefully follow the routine laid out by their physicians.
Hypnosis, first approved for medical use by the American Medical
Association in 1958, continues to grow in popularity, especially as an adjunct
to pain medication. In general, hypnosis is used to control physical function
or response, that is, the amount of pain an individual can withstand. How
hypnosis works is not fully understood. Some believe that hypnosis delivers the
patient into a trance-like state, while others feel that the individual is
simply better able to concentrate and relax or is more responsive to
suggestion. Hypnosis may result in relief of pain by acting on chemicals in the
nervous system, slowing impulses. Whether and how hypnosis works involves
greater insight-and research-into the mechanisms underlying human
Ibuprofen is a member of the aspirin family of analgesics, the
so-called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (see below). It is sold over the
counter and also comes in prescription-strength preparations.
Low-power lasers have been used occasionally by some physical
therapists as a treatment for pain, but like many other treatments, this method
is not without controversy.
Magnets are increasingly popular with athletes who swear by their
effectiveness for the control of sports-related pain and other painful
conditions. Usually worn as a collar or wristwatch, the use of magnets as a
treatment dates back to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. While it is often
dismissed as quackery and pseudoscience by skeptics, proponents offer the
theory that magnets may effect changes in cells or body chemistry, thus
producing pain relief.
Narcotics (see Opioids, below).
Nerve blocks employ the use of drugs, chemical agents, or surgical
techniques to interrupt the relay of pain messages between specific areas of
the body and the brain. There are many different names for the procedure,
depending on the technique or agent used. Types of surgical nerve blocks
include neurectomy; spinal dorsal, cranial, and trigeminal rhizotomy; and
sympathectomy, also called sympathetic blockade (see Nerve Blocks in the
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (including aspirin and
ibuprofen) are widely prescribed and sometimes called non-narcotic or
non-opioid analgesics. They work by reducing inflammatory responses in tissues.
Many of these drugs irritate the stomach and for that reason are usually taken
with food. Although acetaminophen may have some anti-inflammatory effects, it
is generally distinguished from the traditional NSAIDs.