Chronic pain is a very real problem for millions of people. For some, it is just inconvenient. Others find it terribly annoying. Still others are completely debilitated by it. The thing about pain is that it’s usually a symptom of an underlying condition. And because of that, there isn’t just one way to treat it.
Medical Science does a great disservice to patients by assuming all chronic pain can be addressed with over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medications. That is certainly not the case. If we have learned anything from more than a decade of dealing with the opioid crisis, it is the fact that prescription pain medications are rarely the best long-term treatment option.
Pain management is what the doctors at Lone Star Pain Medicine in Weatherford, TX specialize in. They treat everything from back to neck to shoulder pain. Their treatments go above and beyond prescription medications and surgeries. Fortunately for them and their patients, they are not limited to such a small number of treatments.
Pain management treatments can be divided into more than a dozen categories. Among them is physical manipulation. Treatments in this category include things like physical therapy, chiropractic manipulation, hot and cold treatments, and even massage. It is not uncommon for pain medicine doctors to combine physical manipulation with OTC pain relievers.
There are cases in which physical manipulation not only relieves pain but also strengthens soft tissue. A good case in point is physical therapy as a treatment for osteoarthritis. Physical therapy doesn’t do anything to rebuild lost joint cartilage. Yet it does strengthen muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Physical therapy strengthens weak joints, providing additional support and reducing the stress that causes some of the pain.
Some of the most revolutionary chronic pain treatments involve manipulating nerves. For example, a sympathetic nerve block reduces pain by preventing pain signals from traveling from the affected area to the brain. Pain medicine doctors identify the site of injury or disease and its associated nerves. Then they inject a combined anesthetic and steroid into the site.
Another form of nerve manipulation involves spinal cord stimulation. The doctor implants a small electrical device to stimulate the spinal cord with minimal electrical currents. Pain is replaced by a tingling sensation that most patients don’t find disturbing. Some even like the sensation.
Yet another category is that of mind-body treatments. These treatments are based on the understanding that how people perceive pain from a mental standpoint will likely influence what they actually feel physically. If someone believes a particular experience is going to be extremely painful, the chances of experiencing a high level of pain are pretty good. It works in the other direction as well. The link between mind and body explains why people have differing pain thresholds.
One of the more common examples of a mind-body treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The main focus of CBT is to help patients understand their thought patterns and emotions in relation to the problem at hand. Where pain is concerned, the therapist attempts to help patients understand their own perceptions of pain, then help them learn to think about pain in a new way.
How patients respond to any particular treatment varies from one person to the next. That’s why there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating chronic pain. It is too bad so many doctors approach pain management only from a medication angle.