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5 Ways to Manage Chronic Pain

Nov. 6, 2019

When will this pain ever end?

 For people living with chronic pain and their loved ones, it’s common to wonder why and feel hopeless or helpless in the daily struggle with pain.

Chronic pain can occur as a result of a disease or condition, past injuries or for no known reason at all. It’s persistent pain that lasts for several months or years. “Sometimes chronic pain resolves with time, but, in many cases, treatment can help actively manage symptoms,” says Dr. Sagar Chokshi, interventional pain physician at Houston Methodist.

Understanding your pain

Chronic pain can interfere with all aspects of your life, affecting your sleep and your mood. It may cause low self esteem, depression, anxiety and anger. It’s important to seek help to avoid worsening symptoms.

“Your doctor may ask you to describe your pain as aching or burning; sharp or dull; constant or intermittent; mild, moderate or severe. He or she may ask you to rate your pain on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being no pain and 10 being the worst pain you can imagine,” Dr. Chokshi says.

Treating your pain

Your doctor may suggest a combination of the following treatments to relieve your chronic pain:

Medications, including over-the-counter (acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen) or prescription pain relievers. When taken as directed by your doctor, medications can be a safe and effective way to manage pain.

Nonsurgical therapies may provide effective, longer lasting relief than medication. Your doctor may recommend injections or nerve root blocks containing steroids and/or analgesic medicines to ease inflammation and relieve pain. Other treatments can include radiofrequency ablation and spinal cord stimulation to block or disrupt painful nerve impulses. These are used to treat a variety of chronic conditions, such as:

  • Pain in the neck and back, arms, legs or feet due to injured, diseased or herniated discs; compressed or pinched nerves; or conditions like diabetic nerve pain
  • Shoulder, knee, hip and sacroiliac joint pain as a result of injury, osteoarthritis or other illnesses
  • Headaches caused by irritation or injury to the occipital nerves, which can cause piercing, throbbing or shock-like pain radiating from the upper neck, up to the scalp and around the back of the head

 

Physical therapy can help you manage pain and maintain your mobility and flexibility.

Lifestyle changes, such as healthy eating, getting regular sleep at night, stopping smoking and doing low-impact exercise, such as walking or swimming. Yoga, massage or acupuncture may also provide relief.

Coping strategies, such as relaxation, deep breathing and meditation techniques help relieve stress and pain.

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