Pain is a complex, individualized experience. Who we are and what we do contributes to pain. The last 20 years of research has made promising strides in understanding pain, but we still have much to learn. There are many non-medicinal things that can be done to help ease pain, including strategies learned by a specialized physical therapist.
As a society, we are more aware of how opioid pain medications can have potentially harmful and addictive outcomes for patients. These medications have their place in managing extreme pain, cancer pain, and post-operative pain, but we also know that high doses for long periods of time can be harmful to our health. So what are some non-pharmaceutical methods for treating pain?
- Learning about pain:
- Research has shown that learning about pain is the first step in helping overcome it. Understanding our pain decreases fear and anxiety, and can help establish healthy lifestyle behaviors and coping strategies.
- Improving sleep:
- There is a clear relationship between pain and sleep. Yes, pain can limit our sleep quality at night, BUT research suggests that poor sleep predicts pain better than pain predicting poor sleep.
- Our bodies naturally produce pain medicine called endorphins. These “feel good” chemicals are produced by our nervous system when we do things we enjoy. That can be eating a good meal, spending time with those we love, and relaxing. Exercise is the most powerful, consistently reproducible way to produce endorphins.. So, find an exercise partner, find exercise that you have access to, and make sure you enjoy it! This can be as simple as starting a walking program.
- Focusing on Function and Goals:
- It can be easy for a person suffering with pain to focus on how much they hurt. Data suggests that if patients focus on what activities they want to get back to doing by setting small goals along the way, they start to hurt less and regain their lost function.
These are just a few ways to help decrease pain, but because pain is very complex, it is best treated with guidance and coaching by skilled healthcare professional. I am happy to consult with you regarding your pain; appointments are available with a referral from your doctor.