What treatments are there for chronic pain?

An important treatment for chronic pain is medicine. There are a lot of different types of medicine for chronic pain, so doctors help people decide which one is best. Most of the medicines come as pills, but there are also injections. For example, medicine can be injected into a sore joint. Sometimes an operation is needed. An operation can replace a painful joint with a new one. Medicine and surgery don’t always take the pain away, so other treatments can be used too.

Dr. Donnica Moore, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

Watch as women's health expert and advocate Dr. Donnica Moore explains how chronic pain is treated by your doctor.

Dr. Kelly Traver

The treatment of chronic pain is necessary not just to get a relief from the pain but also to protect one's overall health. If you suffer from chronic pain, know that there are treatments available to help with the pain and also with mood issues or sleep disruption. These treatments may include medication, but exercise is a very potent therapy for pain as well. Stress management techniques such as meditation and yoga can also be helpful. There are also medical centers that specialize in pain management; treatments include alternative therapies such as acupuncture, acupressure, or deep forms of massage. You don't need to suffer silently.

You don't need to be just a victim of chemicals floating around in your head. You can take some concrete steps to take the reins of your life and improve your mood. It is extremely important to remember that our lives are not wholly predetermined by our genes. For example, the environment you are exposed to influences whether certain genes are turned on or off. Your behaviors can also turn genes on or off. You can have much more influence over your mood than you may have thought.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Depending on the cause, medications, acupuncture, surgery, or electrical stimulation may be suitable treatments for certain types of chronic pain. Psychotherapy, biofeedback, and relaxation techniques may also be effective. Treating pain is often complex and may require more than one modality of therapies. For many Americans, inadequate treatment becomes the most frustrating part of chronic pain.

For now, researchers are looking to advances in neurobiology for better understanding of chronic pain. As medical professionals develop a deeper understanding of the causes and mechanisms of chronic pain, better and more effective treatments will also become possible. 

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Brian Yee
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Specialist
Treating chronic pain takes a multifactorial approach from an interdisciplinary group of practitioners. From a Physical Therapy perspective, we take into consideration pain from a physical assessment - including motion, strength, endurance and muscuolskeletal pain sources and coordinate our treatment with other practitioners to address other potential sources such as psychological, medical, family/cultural factors.
Jeanne Longbottom, MSN
Hospice Nursing Specialist

Pain is the body’s warning system designed to alert the self to actual or potential damage to tissues. When you touch a hot stove, pain stimulates the body to pull away from that surface. Pain in a twisted ankle limits your ability to walk on that ankle until tissues are properly supported or healed. Pain is subjective, which means the experience is different for every person. The past experience with pain, emotional make-up, type of injury, and even social stressors or support affect the amount of discomfort each person experiences. It is important to share as much information with your doctor related to your pain experience as possible.  

Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts over six months in duration. Chronic pain outlasts the positive function of pain. For some patients the source of the original pain has been removed, while others have permanent damage that cannot be healed. In either case, combinations of different therapies can often be found to reduce suffering to more tolerable levels. Pain management doctors or clinics should assess your pain carefully to determine the cause and then offer potential treatments. Treatment should include non-drug approaches to relief.

Medication combinations including opiates, anti-inflammatories, steroids, anti-depressants (depression), anxiolytics (anxiety), antiarrhythmics (heart arrhythmia), and anticonvulsants (seizure) can help provide relief for complex pain. Diet and hot and/or cold applications can provide pain relief. Exercise can be hard to start with significant pain, but there are many exercise programs for chronic pain sufferers. Yoga, Feldenkrais, and programs for arthritic patients allow for limitations caused by pain. Many find relief with warm water therapy pool exercises. Keeping joints mobile and strong can improve function and reduce pain.

Alternative therapies such as electrical stimulation, acupuncture, meditation, mindfulness, cogitative behavior to learn coping skills, stress management, relaxation, biofeedback, and self-hypnosis are all helpful to people with chronic pain. The ability to learn to live with chronic pain takes time and practice. There is no magic key or instant relief. Believe in yourself and keep working to find comfort in an uncomfortable world. Good luck.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.