Everyone has experienced some form of pain in their life, but more than half of all adults in the United States experience some type of chronic or recurrent pain. It may be a recurring headache, back pain, joint pain, muscle pain, or pain that stems from various other diseases and conditions.
However, pain can often be controlled with a range of therapies, from aromatherapy and yoga to prescription medications and injections. With all the advances in pain management, there’s likely to be a treatment option that will work for you.
Some pain, such as back and neck pain, can be prevented. Sitting up properly, maintaining a healthy weight, and properly lifting heavy objects are ways to prevent those types of pain. If you sit at a desk to work, take a few moments throughout the day to stand up and stretch your back and roll your neck around. Sitting and being stiff too long can dry up needed lubricants in your joints, so this will help your joints produce and maintain those fluids.
“No matter what is causing your pain, it is important that you discuss it with your doctor,” says William O. Witt, M.D., University of Kentucky professor of anesthesiology and neurology, and director of UK’s pain management program. “Together you can determine the right pain treatment based on your own unique needs and personal health.”
In the meantime, take care of the things you can control on your own. Make sure to get plenty of sleep, eat healthy, and exercise to help your body maintain its function and health.
Before talking to your doctor, it may be helpful to keep a pain diary to give your doctor a better understanding of your pain. Record daily when the pain starts and stops, where it hurts, what makes it worse or better, what it feels like, when it was the worst, what medications you take during the day and their effects, and if you notice any other problems such as blurred vision. Your doctor will review your pain diary and, if needed, order any tests that can help determine the cause of your pain.
Keep in mind there are many ways to manage your pain.
“It is important to remember that you understand your pain best and must participate in choosing an approach that will work best for you,” says Leslie J. Crofford, M.D., director of the UK Center for Advancement of Women’s Health and chief of rheumatology.
Depending on what is causing your pain, you can take over-the-counter or prescription anti-inflammatory medications. Those with joint pain often find aspirin- or capsaicin-containing creams work well. Physical therapy, massage therapy, and chiropractic therapy also help some types of pain. Some people choose alternative therapies such as meditation, yoga, and acupuncture.
“Prescription medications may be required, but should be used together with other approaches, including stress reduction and exercise,” Crofford says.
UK offers a Pain Care Center where all forms of pain problems are evaluated and treated in a multidisciplinary setting. Both medical and behavioral interventions are used, including injections, physical therapy, spinal cord stimulation, biofeedback, and hypnosis. Call the Pain Care Center at (859) 226-7080 or visit their Web site at www.mc.uky.edu/anesthesiology for more information.
UK also offers the Center for the Advancement of Women’s Health, which provides comprehensive medical services for women with an approach that emphasizes education, self-management, exercise, nutrition, and stress reduction. The Center also provides educational and research opportunities for patients with arthritis and fibromyalgia. Visit their Web site at www.mc.uky.edu/womenshealth or call (859) 323-4939 for more information.
Do not be afraid of managing your pain. Treatment by a properly trained pain management doctor can help relieve your symptoms and help you live a happier, healthier life. Develop an open and trusting partnership with your doctor and educate yourself about your specific type of pain and how you can control it. Stay optimistic about controlling your pain, whatever it may be. Together, you and your doctor can find the treatment that’s best for you.