Barby Ingle, Columnist
There is no cure for most chronic pain disease, but progress is being made in finding the underlying process that causes it. If we can understand that process, then options to cure chronic pain may come about more rapidly.
The earlier we catch and properly treat what is causing the pain, the better the chances for controlling the pain or putting it into remission. If the symptoms progress and are incorrectly treated or not treated at all, then issues become more complex and invasive.
It is important to learn about the types of treatments available to you, either through insurance coverage or cash pay. Treatment options include physical therapy, medication, orthopedic surgery, invasive surgery, non-invasive procedures, naprapathy, stem cell therapy, infusion therapy, and literally hundreds of other options.
Patients should look for ways to control and minimize their pain and discomfort to the greatest extent possible. Coping skills will develop out of necessity. However, sometimes we need to speak to someone outside of our circle for a different view. Psychological counseling may become necessary. It is okay to ask for help when needed.
Goal creation and treatment plans should also include drug management, family/social adjustment, improvement of the patient's quality of life and psychosocial functioning, and increasing mobilization or range of motion through physical therapy.
Many chronic pain patients consider these milestones for a successful treatment plan:
- Ability to achieve a full night’s sleep repeatedly
- Ability to perform physical therapy with improved muscle strength
- Decreased need for opioids
- Diminished depression
- Diminished swelling
- Improved thinking
- Increased stamina
- Lowered pain levels
It is important to treat the underlying symptoms, even if it means turning to surgical intervention in some cases. Depending on how well you respond to the various options, a progression of treatments may be used by your providers and yourself as an engaged and empowered patient. Setting goals and a timetable that is reasonable can be done with your providers. But remember, you as the patient need to play an important and vocal role in creating the plan.
Treating your chronic pain begins with patient awareness. On my good days, I try a few new activities and increase the amount of physical activity, as I am able. By doing this, I have seen an increase in my body functioning, range of motion, muscle strength, improved balance and posture. I’ve also found that if an activity just takes the edge off my pain, it helps restore cognitive and physical function.
When my pain increases, I find myself slouching more. Becoming aware of yourself and your environment increases your chances of successful treatment and a better quality of life. Get involved in movement training. This can include walking for two minutes at a time or, if you’re ambitious, a mile.
Do what you can do at your level. It will be different for all of us. Moving will improve your health, the function of your body, and also helps with constipation and gastrointestinal issues. Movement increases your blood circulation, which helps with atrophy and can decrease hypersensitivity.
When most people think of physical therapy they think of machines, weights and treadmills. However, I’ve learned that there are many types of physical therapies that are more in line with what we can handle. They include biofeedback, hot compresses, elevation, massage, range of motion exercises, and hydrotherapy.
There is some thought that physical therapy is painful and does not help. But if you find the right combination of medication, counseling and physical therapy, you’ll have a better chance for pain relief and staying on track with your treatment plan. Again, it comes back to surrounding yourself with a team of doctors, caretakers, friends and family supporters that have the willingness and education to support you.
The good news is that no matter how long you have had chronic pain, you can be helped in some way -- if you stay active, avoid unnecessary surgical procedures, can change medication when appropriate, and improve your nutrition and posture habits.
There are hundreds of treatments you can use to help lower and control your pain. What the magic combination is will be different for each of us and we must find what works for us individually.
Barby Ingle suffers from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) and endometriosis. Barby is a chronic pain educator, patient advocate, and president of the International Pain Foundation. She is also a motivational speaker and best-selling author on pain topics.
More information about Barby can be found at her website.
The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.