The sensation of pain can be simply defined as a warning sign to the body that something is wrong. The body has three types of pain receptors to properly identify the source of the pain. Mechanical receptors signal pain from motion like twisting, tearing or pressure. Thermal and chemical receptors are sensory. Medically speaking, there are two types of pain: acute and chronic. Acute pain can be seen in a sudden injury or pain following surgery. Chronic pain is pain caused by an illness or injury that lasts longer than three months.
To each their own
The perception of pain varies from person to person. What one person may perceive as excruciating could merely be a frustration to another. A patient’s pain level is dependent on many factors including certain medical conditions, pain history, and mental status. This subjective data is combined with objective data (such as vital signs) to formulate a treatment plan to address pain. The goal of the medical provider is to assess each patient individually while taking into account the two sources of pain perception.
Act, don’t react
Effective and efficient pain management is a vital part of the treatment plan for every patient. A recent study showed inadequately managed pain can lead to adverse physical and psychological patient outcomes. The constant stress response triggered by severe pain can suppress the immune system and cause cardiovascular damage. This is of particular concern for post-surgical patients because they are already susceptible to infection.
The goal of pain management is to provide the patient with adequate pain relief while being realistic about the disease or injury process. In recent years, medical providers have realized the importance of being progressive about pain management. Rather than reacting to a patient in severe pain and prescribing a potent medication, better patient outcomes have been seen in staying ahead of the pain. Put simply: pain management requires frequent pain assessment and moderate interventions to keep severe pain at bay.
Namaste out of pain
Modern medicine has seen the benefits of incorporating non-traditional therapies to assist in pain management. These can include everything from pet therapy to meditation to a regular yoga practice. What was seen as eclectic and unusual many years ago is now integrated into a holistic, non-pharmaceutical approach to dealing with pain.
Patients often report that distraction and guided meditation helps them in dealing with injuries that were previously treated with narcotic pain medicine. Part of the success of these therapies lies in the manipulation of the very organ that processes the pain signals: the brain. By using distracting, mindful activities that activate another portion of the brain, the pain signals are suppressed.
Fun Fact: The brain itself does not feel pain. It contains no pain receptors, but only interprets pain from other places in the body.
Multiple factors mean multiple solutions
The important theme to remember regarding pain management is that no one element will cure acute and chronic pain. The illness or injury was caused by a complex set of events, so the solution must correspondingly be complex. Weaving pharmaceutical interventions with non-traditional therapies will lead to healthier patients overall. There are many options for pain management, whether it’s surgery, physical therapy or an alternative therapy and consulting a specialist will lead to a healthier lifestyle.
If you are suffering from pain and would like to understand what treatment options may be available to you, contact us today for a consultation with one of our physicians.