Chronic Pain Treatment
Other Treatment Options
Medications are not the only treatment options available for chronic pain. While other treatments normally can't replace medications, people who use them may be able to use less pain medication, which can help reduce the risk for side effects. These other options may include:
- Physical rehabilitation
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Complementary and alternative treatments
- Surgery and other procedures.
Physical rehabilitation includes therapies such as exercise programs, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. The goals of these types of treatments are to promote flexibility, improve strength, and restore functioning.
Pain can make it difficult to remain physically active. Although inactivity may provide temporary relief of your symptoms, in the long run, it can actually worsen your pain, as well as your overall health. Research has shown that physical activity can improve pain control in people with chronic pain.
The good news is that you don't have to engage in strenuous physical activity to reap the rewards. Even exercises such as swimming and walking have been shown to be beneficial. It's best to work with your healthcare provider, physical therapist, or other specialist when first starting an exercise program.
It's normal to experience a wealth of psychological reactions to chronic pain. Feelings of anger, frustration, anxiety, and depression are common, and may make your chronic pain worse.
Psychological therapy can help you manage the psychological aspects of living with chronic pain. Cognitive behavioral therapy is an increasingly popular approach. This goal-directed treatment teaches people how their thoughts and approach to their condition can contribute to their symptoms. During cognitive behavioral therapy, a person learns how to reframe their thoughts in order to better cope with their symptoms.
Complementary and Alternative Treatments
Complementary and alternative treatments include things such as acupuncture, meditation, tai chi, and yoga. Strong scientific evidence supporting these types of treatments is generally lacking. However, the evidence is growing, and early research suggests that many alternative treatments may be effective for treating common types of chronic pain.
If you are interested in trying complementary and alternative treatments, it's important to keep a couple of points in mind. First, complementary and alternative treatments should not be used as a replacement for traditional medical treatments. In addition, it's a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider before trying a complementary and alternative approach. Your healthcare provider can go over the evidence for the particular treatment you're interested in and tell you if it's safe for you to try.
Surgery and Other Procedures
In some cases, surgery or other invasive procedures may be needed when medications and nonmedication treatments fail to provide adequate pain relief. If you continue to experience unrelenting pain despite trying numerous other approaches, your healthcare provider may recommend a medical procedure.
These procedures are quite varied, and may include things such as steroid injections or electrical stimulation, which uses electrical pulses to relieve pain, or surgery. Your healthcare provider will talk to you in depth about any of these procedures if he or she believes they may benefit you.