Pain Management for both Acute and Chronic Pain differ in their treatment options. Acute pain is short-term pain usually associated with an injury, surgery, dental work, cuts or burns, etc. This type of pain that can be mild to severe, and usually resolves when the body has healed or the underlying cause has been addressed. By definition, acute pain lasts no longer than six months.
Chronic pain however is described as lasting longer than six months and can arise from a variety of causes. It may be that pain persists even after an injury has healed. It may be associated with a condition such as nerve damage, fibromyalgia, cancer or arthritis. In some cases, the cause of chronic pain is never known.
The most common types of chronic pain are low back pain, headache or migraine, neck pain and myofacial pain. Sometimes the pain is psychogenic, meaning that no physical cause is found.
Chronic pain can seem to take on a life of its own, creating peripheral problems such as tense muscles, lack of energy, weight gain, limited mobility, sleep disturbances and changes in appetite. Being in constant pain can also produce emotional distress, leading to depression, anxiety, anger, and fear of possibly re-injury.
There are a number of treatment options for acute and chronic pain, often used in conjunction with one another in a comprehensive pain management plan. These include:
Injection therapy. Medication is injected directly into groups of nerves that are creating the sensation of pain in a certain area of the body.
Medication management. Physicians specializing in pain management can prescribe medications to alleviate or reduce pain while minimizing the risk of addiction. Medications may range from over-the-counter NSAIDs like ibuprofen to powerful narcotics.
Physical Therapy. Posture and exercise can help reduce some types of musculoskeletal pain.
Spinal Cord Stimulators – The New Frontier
Spinal cord stimulation or “SCS” is an option for those suffering with certain types of pain. Similar in some aspects to a pace maker, a spinal cord stimulator uses a low level of actual electrical current to “scramble” signals to and from the brain, to essentially “trick” the brain/body into thinking that pain is not present in a particular area. This small device is placed (through a minor surgical procedure) into the body and can be controlled via a remote control from outside the body. Unlike other more invasive procedures, spinal cord stimulator therapy is reversible, and patients for whom SCS is indicated are allowed to have a trial period in which they can essential ‘test drive” the device prior to the more permanent form being implanted. Advances in this technique are on the horizon and are giving those living with chronic pain renewed hope for a more pain free future.