You’re medically diagnosed with chronic pain when you experience symptoms lasting longer than three months. In many cases, the physical reasons for your pain may have already healed, with only the pain symptoms remaining.
Medication-based treatment, so effective for short-term use, isn’t the best alternative for chronic pain care. The longer you use medication, the more likely it is that your body begins to resist the effects, requiring increasing dosages to generate the same pain relief.
Larger doses mean that side effects become more intense, too. You begin to suffer from the medication as well as the pain. Then there’s a risk of drug dependence, an effect that contributes to the current opioid crisis.
At Westside Pain Specialists, we take a long look at our patients’ pain management plan. A frequent goal is targeting pain with fewer pharmaceutical components, moving away from medication as the focus of pain control. You have alternatives to reduce or eliminate pain medication.
The nature of chronic pain management
Typically, a medical condition is treated until it heals. Chronic pain is a different case, since it often arises as a symptom of degenerative illnesses. Chronic pain may slow or stop but will never “get better.”
Arthritis is a prime example. Joint deterioration from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and many other forms of the disease is progressive.
Therefore, the strategies that work for conditions that heal don’t always apply to ongoing chronic conditions. At Westside Pain Specialists, we focus on an approach that includes treating both the mind and body for pain responses. Continuous pain takes both physical and mental tolls.
This generally leads to four concepts that help you to cope with pain with a goal of reducing or eliminating pain medications.
Physical and occupational therapy
Chronic pain often influences the way your body moves. Physical and occupational therapy compares your pain and mobility with the demands on your body.
Physical therapy focuses on mechanics and strength, working your body so that muscle groups work together to balance loads and stresses. Occupational therapy considers the tasks required in daily life and develops ways to accomplish these in pain-free ways.
Often an extension of physical therapy, increasing your activity level helps your body’s own pain management system. Stimulating blood flow keeps inflammation to a minimum while providing the raw materials for body repairs.
While you may not be able to reverse the causes of your chronic pain, increased activity is a surprisingly effective pain reliever for many.
Pain triggers the fight-or-flight response in your body. While this is an invaluable function in a sudden crisis situation, it’s not meant to be a constantly active state. Ongoing pain means ongoing stress and you’ll suffer for it, both mentally and physically.
Stress management can include yoga, meditation, and controlled breathing activities. Pain tends to drop as your stress level falls.
Alternative treatments and techniques
As we’ve noted, yoga and meditation can engage the mind/body relationship to ease how you feel about pain.
There are also drug-free therapies that change the way pain signals modulate. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a great example of how small electrical signals can interrupt the pain portion of nerve communication.
These are just a few of the drug-free techniques we use regularly at Westside Pain Specialists. Call our most convenient office in Beverly Hills or Rancho Cucamonga, California, to speak with our pain management professionals about reducing the amount of pain medication you take.