How is chronic pain treated?
Treatment of chronic pain usually involves medicines and therapy. Chronic pain treatments will usually not take away all of your pain. Instead, treatment should reduce how much pain you have and how often it occurs. Talk to your doctor to learn how to best control your pain.
Medicines used for chronic pain include pain relievers, antidepressants, and anticonvulsants. Different types of medicines help people who have different types of pain. Your doctor usually will recommend long-acting medicines for constant pain. Short-acting medicines treat pain that comes and goes. If your doctor recommends an over-the-counter pain reliever, read and follow the instructions on the box. If your doctor recommends a prescription pain reliever, be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions for how to take the medicine. Taking certain prescription pain relievers improperly may increase your risk for side effects or addiction.
Are drugs the only way to treat chronic pain?
No. You can do many other things to help relieve your pain. Almost anything you do to relax or get your mind off your problems may help control pain. It's important to include relaxing activities in your daily life, even if you are already taking medicine for pain. Relaxation can actually change the body's chemicals that produce pain. You might have to use stress-reduction methods for several weeks before you notice a decrease in pain. Your doctor can give you tips about stress reduction and relaxation methods.
Several types of therapy can help ease your pain. Physical therapy (such as stretching and strengthening activities) and low-impact exercise (such as walking, swimming, or biking) can help reduce the pain. However, exercising too much or not at all can hurt patients with chronic pain.
Some types of chronic pain can be helped by osteopathic manipulation therapy (OMT) or acupuncture. Occupational therapy teaches you how to pace yourself and how to do ordinary tasks differently so that you reduce your pain or avoid reinjuring yourself. Behavioral therapy can reduce your pain through methods that help you relax, such as meditation, tai chi, and yoga. It can also help decrease stress.
Lifestyle changes are an important part of treatment for chronic pain. Getting regular sleep at night and not taking daytime naps should help. Stopping smoking also helps because the nicotine in cigarettes can make some medicines less effective. Smokers also tend to have more pain than nonsmokers.
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Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff