Why do we seek pain relief from time to time? Well, because it hurts! At some point in our lives we will have some type of chronic pain that we just wish would go away. But as much as we despise the discomfort and look for immediate pain relief the truth is that pain is useful for our survival since it alerts us to problems within our body. Pain also prevents us from further injuring ourselves, so it can be very useful.
Oral Pain Relief
Now when most people think of pain relief, the first thing that comes to mind is aspirin or some other form of oral medication. In fact, we have been conditioned to believe that "you take something for the pain" and this usually involves a pill of some kind. For severe or chronic pain, opiates are most often prescribed. Morphine and heroine are two common opiates, and you will generally see cancer patients given these pain medicines as pain relief of last resort. Opiates are considered highly addictive and generally reserved for terminally ill patients.
Anti-depressants once were prescribed solely to treat depression and other mental illnesses. However, recent research has concluded that anti-depressants do relieve certain types of physical pain and are often used in pain relief applications to help a patient sleep.
Anti-seizure medications are prescribed to deal with sharp or acute pain caused by malfunctioning or damaged nerves. They most often deaden or numb the nerves themselves so pain signals do not reach the brain.
Less severe forms of oral pain relief generally come in the form of aspirin or ibuprofen. Ibuprofen are specifically designed to reduce inflammation and are therefore recommended for things like muscle aches while aspirin are more useful on headaches and fever reduction.
Pain Relief From Injections
One of the more severe but useful types of pain relief come in the form of injections. Cortisone treatments are common in athletes and involve an injection directly into the muscle or nerve causing the pain. This sort of pain relief is very effective, but it cannot be done on regular intervals due to tissue damage. Therefore, it is only recommended for temporary relief of acute pain.
Dentists also use this form of pain relief when they inject your mouth with Novocain or a local anesthetic. These injections will numb your nerves so that they are no longer sending signals to the brain. The inflammation or source of the pain will remain, but your body won't feel anything until the local wears off.
Nerve Block Pain Relief
This type of pain relief is related to injections but deals with specific nerve blocks within the body. Called a ganglion or plexus, a nerve block will affect a group of nerves relating to a specific organ or part of the body. The doctor provides an injection of a specific nerve blocker in order to temporarily relieve pain to that organ or part of the body. It is different than a local anesthetic in that it has been specifically designed to affect one type of nerve so it is a specialized pain relief and tends to be more expensive than standard cortisone shots or Novocain.
Physical Therapy as Pain Relief
Physical therapy is often viewed as a means to rebuild damaged muscles and nerves after a trauma. However, physical therapy is also used as a natural form of pain relief. Whirlpool therapy, deep muscle massage, and ultrasound are all forms of physical therapy used in natural pain relief treatments.
Electrical Stimulation Pain Relief
Known as TENS, Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation is an alternative to more traditional pain relief treatments. Without using any needles or medicine, pain is relieved when tiny electrical impulses are applied to the skin. The electrical current then stimulates nerve fibers in other parts of the skin and has the affect of relieving pain. The effects are only short term but TENS has proven itself as a legitimate means of pain relief and is a standard component of many physical therapy programs.
Acupuncture Pain Relief
While not widely recognized by the medical community as a legitimate form of pain relief, this type of treatment has been around for centuries and is considered by its adherents as a very effective pain management tool. Acupuncture specialists use lots of thin, small, needles on various pressure points of the body. The pressure points in which a practitioner applies the needles will depend on the source of the pain. Although not a proven form of pain relief, acupuncture does remain one natural alternative to more traditional and accepted forms of pain management.
In very severe cases and when other forms of pain relief have failed, surgery may be the last best chance to end chronic pain. In most cases, a surgeon will go in and actually sever nerve connections so that pain receptors in the brain no longer receive signals. Again this is a method of last resort because, as we stated earlier, pain can be useful and necessary to our survival. Doctors don't like completely severing nerve endings as they will no longer be able to alert your body to problems. But when other forms of pain management fail, surgery may be the only viable alternative.
Topical Pain Relief
Finally, there are also topical ointments, creams, and liquids that can be directly applied to an affected area for temporary pain relief. Topical pain relief has the advantage of being quicker to reduce pain than oral medicines without being as invasive as the injections. While topical pain relief is not recommended for relief of chronic pain, it is highly effective with short term alleviation of minor aches and pains.
Pain relief is something we all must concern ourselves with from time to time. There are a wide array of medical and natural pain relief options available to you, and the one you choose will depend on the nature of the pain and your own comfort level with the treatment. For relief of minor short-term pain oral medication is most preferred, but topical pain relief options are growing in popularity and should be considered as a viable option in most cases.
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