Dealing with Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is one of the most stressful medical conditions to cope with. Not only does it interfere with your ability to maintain daily responsibilities, it also impedes on your liveliness. Whether you are recovering from an injury, or suffer from chronic headaches, joint pain, and/or menstrual pain, the question always arises of how to effectively manage the pain without harming our bodies in another way. Depending on what your chronic pain results from, many doctors will prescribe over the counter or and/or prescription painkillers as a daily regimen to manage your pain. Though this may temporarily help alleviate your symptoms, it isn’t always a long-term solution.
Opiate dependency and addiction is a growing issue in our population. 12 million Americans have suffered from opiate dependency or addiction at some point. Drugs such as Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Fentanyl, Morphine and Heroin all belong to the opioid family of drugs, because they are all made or sourced from opium. Opioids are highly addictive both physically and psychologically, making even short term use of these drugs very risky for people with a background of addiction. Narcotic abuse is defined as having a strong desire to use the drugs, inability to control use of drug, experiencing withdrawal from stopping use, and having social or legal problems related to narcotic use. This is an extremely high price to pay for dealing with chronic pain. Social, legal and additional medical problems only create more stress to the already stressful chronic pain. If you are experiencing any or all of these issues, it is important that you seek help. Resources will be listed at the end of the blog.
So what is a person with chronic pain to do if they don’t want to deal with the complications, side effects, and possible dependency issues related to narcotics?
Over the counter, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (Ibuprofen, Naproxen, Aspirin) have been shown to be useful in treating short term pain issues to moderate to long term. Not only do they reduce pain, but they also reduce inflammation to the area. This is particularly helpful in treating conditions like tendonitis because it helps to reduce inflammation and speed up the healing process. Acetaminophen helps to alleviate pain as well, but is not an anti-inflammatory.
However, these drugs also come with a myriad of side effects such as increased risk of stomach bleeding, heartburn, nausea, and possible allergic reaction. Though they may temporarily help solve your issue or steer you in the correct direction in terms of healing, you also do not want to burn a hole in your stomach, or overstress your liver.
Massage is an incredibly successful way to help manage chronic muscular, joint and nerve pain. Once you attain the right therapist, you can focus your sessions to specifically focus on the issues you need most help with. This can include trigger point therapy to release muscular tension, or stretching and postural work to help with alignment and nerve entrapment. Since massage also reduces stress and anxiety, any psychological stress that may become physical can also be reduced.
Use of essential oils has also been shown to help manage pain. Many of the benefits of essential oils can be obtained by diffusing, applying topically or even ingesting them. One of the best anti-inflammatory essential oils is Chamomile oil. You can apply this topically to the inflamed area via a carrier oil. Eucalyptus and peppermint also provide a relief as an analgesic when applied properly. Many others such as sweet marjoram, rosemary, thyme, and ginger have been shown to provide relief from pain and inflammation.
Every long term problem requires a long term solution, which inherently also requires consistency. Whatever method(s) you choose must ultimately benefit you more than they harm you. Massage, physical therapy, and use of essential oils and other herbal remedies provide relief without the unwanted side effects of chronic NSAID or narcotic use. It is important to explore the options that work best for you and your livelihood.