by Kimberly Allen R.N.
Pain is a symptom, not a disease. There is always an underlying cause, wether it’s injury or disease something has caused the pain. Unfortunately pain is a “subjective” symptom, in other words it can’t be seen or measured. The only measuring tool is a subjective scale and as each person is different they feel and react to pain in different ways. You can ask a person to rate their pain on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the worst pain ever experienced, however each person has a different view of how that pain feels to them so the accuracy is also subjective.
When the cause is obvious the treatment is usually pretty straight forward. It’s when you start dealing with chronic, long term pain that problems can begin. Because the most effective treatment of pain is narcotic’s many Dr.’s either under treat or simply refuse to treat chronic pain. So for someone suffering from chronic pain, no matter what the origin is the stress of dealing with a system afraid of treating it only increases the pain and the stress that chronic pain places on the body.
Because of the stigma associated with narcotic use many are looking for alternatives, and there are many out there to choose from. Some work, but many are just “snake oils” with fancy words. When considering alternatives remember you want to be the one in control. Before going out to the local health store think about the things you can so to manage your pain without going to the store. One of the most effective means of self pain control is to increase your endorphine levels. Endorphines are a chemical produced in the brain that compares to morphine in many ways. There are numerous ways to increase their levels. The most common way is thru physical exercise. Now that doesn’t mean you have to run or jog. There are many ways to exercise “gently”. I have RA and so am limited in the types of exercise I can do, but I can still walk and do so as much as possible. Another exercise that is great is swimming. The advantages to increasing your endorphine levels are actually much more than just pain management.
Another very commonly used method is distraction. The more you think about your pain the more it hurts. Find something you really enjoy and do it and get your mind focused on it. It might take a few minutes to get you mind to focus on your task, but it does work I use this method frequently. Laughter is a method of distraction that is helpful on so many levels, so it’s not a bad idea to have a CD with your favorite comedy hanging around either.
Another commonly used method is relaxation. Some consider this just another form of distraction, but either way it is very useful. There are many ways to put yourself in a relaxed state, meditation is the most common. Learning and practicing meditation can help not only your pain but your overall state of well being. Personally, I found that aquariums are great. The soft humm and girgle of the filter as I watch the fish play and chase each other around the tank takes my mind away and sometimes it’s awhile before I realize “hey, it doesn’t hurt anymore”.
If you still feel the need to go to the health store, please research the product you are considering carefully first and always check to be sure that it won’t interfere with any of your current medications.
Always check with your Dr. if you are experiencing unexplained or prolonged pain. Never start treating yourself first, it almost always leads to disaster. For any treatment to be successful it’s important to find the underlying cause before beginning treatment of any kind.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.