Where is the Pain Relief?
Everyone experiences pain at some point in life. For many that pain is in a joint somewhere in the body. Where is your pain? The knee? The hip? The back? And where did that pain come from? A lot of joint pain is a result of car accidents or work accidents which leave a person not only with a painful condition, but also feeling like a victim. Or maybe your pain is a result of a home accident where there is no one to blame but you. No matter where pain comes from within this tangled jungle of pain, the biggest question on your mind is: Where's the pain relief? You need to know which treatment option is best for you and you need to find pain relief NOW! Three basic pathways towards pain relief exist: the bottle, the body and the brain. Let's explore which pathway might be right for you.
Some turn to a bottle of pills or, sadly, a bottle of alcohol to find pain relief. The most readily available pain relievers are available without a prescription, without accessing medical care and are available over-the-counter. Such pain relievers are medications like Tylenol, aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. When these options stop working, a decision point is reached that hinges on the question of whether or not to access medical care. If care is not accessible, one may turn to less desirable, potentially dangerous bottles of alcohol or illegal drugs. As medical care becomes more inaccessible, our society will see more people turn to these less favorable options. If medical care is accessible, some effective, safe bottles of pain relievers exist. In the category of anti-inflammatory medications (NSAID's) my favorite option is actually a topical medication that comes in a bottle. That medication is called PenNSAID. Four dime-sized drops rubbed onto the affected area four times per day can provide safe relief from arthritis or injury pain. The nice thing about topical NSAID's is that they minimize the nasty, systemic affects from oral NSAID pills. But sometimes, an anti-inflammatory is not enough, especially when it comes to nerve pain. Nerve pain can be treated with bottles of anti-depressants or anti-convulsants. My favorite anti-depressant to prescribe is an oldie but goody called desipramine which can improve sleep and relieve nerve pain. My favorite anti-convulsant that I prescribe is a lesser-known one called Zonegran (zonisamide) because it has less side-effects than the commonly prescribed anti-convulsant called Neurontin (gabapentin). When none of these bottles of non-opioid medications are effectively relieving pain, a bottle of an opioid may be appropriate. Over the years, I have found tramadol and now the newer cousin Nucynta (tapentadol) to be surprisingly effective for all types of pain with minimal side-effects. Whichever bottle you and your doctor decide on, finding the right one for you may require a bit of trial and error because everyone is different.
For those who want to avoid bottles, the body offers many pathways towards pain relief starting with improving health and fitness. I like to advocate for the power of nutrition by educating people how cooking can control pain: breakfast, lunch and dinner. Most people do not appreciate the power of nutrition to not only cause pain like when it comes to pain triggers like Nightshade plants, but also relieve pain when it comes to eating a low glycemic load diet. Once a good source of fuel is available for the body, a physical fitness program has more chance for success using things like wobble-boards and Swiss balls. The body can also benefit from massage, acupuncture, Tai Chi, and chiropractic care. Exploring all of these treatment options can be a worthwhile pursuit for finding your way out of a jungle of pain. But when all else fails, the body might benefit from more traditional medical approaches like spinal cord stimulators, injections, nerve blocks and surgery. These options do not guarantee pain relief, but in some cases the potential for benefit may outweigh the potential for risks. Fixing or healing the body is just another pathway that can lead out of the jungle.
After talking about how a bottle of something or a physical intervention for the body might help relieve pain, we should not forget the power of the brain. The brain does contain many powerful pain relieving chemicals that can minimize the painful "alarm" signal because pain is ultimately an output from the brain. Releasing and unleashing these natural chemicals can be achieved with hypnosis, meditation, visualization, biofeedback. Psychotherapy is a legitimate pathway towards pain relief and can be a valuable component of a pain relieving strategy. Beyond these obvious ways to work with the brain is benefits for discovering the power of acceptance. Pain brings new rules, boundaries and limitations; as the famous creed says: "Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things that I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference." Sometimes one has to accept a new reality. Finding this acceptance point is a critical junction within the jungle of pain and can help release the brain from needless distress and worry.
When you are in the jungle of pain, who's RESPONSIBILITY is it to find pain relief? Is it your doctor's responsibility? Is it your therapist's responsibility? Is it your counselor's responsibility? Or is it your responsibility??!!?? Everyone needs to find their own pathway towards relief because everyone is different. Is the bottle, the body, or the brain right for you? Eventually, you may need some guidance along the way from your doctor, therapist or counselor. But until you reach your acceptance point, that pathway will be obscured by a jungle of pain. And magic wands do not exist in the jungle.