Self Help Pain Relief- Cheap and Effective!

Chronic and acute pain can be a major hindrance to having a quality life. Pain interferes with our ability to function, decreased our enjoyment of activities, and opens the door for future disability and function loss.  Furthermore, pain has neurological consequences, with research showing that 10 years of chronic pain can reduce the actual size of the brain by 1 cubic centimeter!

Suffering is an integral part of being human and it is unrealistic to expect a pain free-life.  Stubbed toes, hang-nails, dehydration headaches, and unexpected injuries are all just part of being alive. There are however, some very simple things that a person can do to prevent pain and alleviate it once it shows up.

First, pain is a consequence of neurological aberrant activity and understanding pain relief requires a little understanding of the nervous system.  Our body has over 100 billion nerve cells in the human brain and these cells and their nerves extending from them make up the master control center of every cell, tissue, and organ system in the body.  Some of these cells process information, some have a stimulatory effect, some have an inhibitory effect, and some produce chemicals and neurotransmitters that have far reaching effects on the rest of the body.

Pain is transmitted along very small or “free” nerve endings.  Like an un-insulated wire, they send their information less efficiently than the larger myelinated or insulated nerves that are involved in movement. This is why, when you smash your thumb with a hammer is first thought is, “oh, maybe it’s not so bad!” then, a second or two later BAM! it hits you and the searing pain blasts into your brain and brings tears to your eyes. The “un-insulated” pain nerves took some time to get to your brain before they could be processed as pain.  Furthermore, shaking your hand, cursing, and jumping up and down all stimulate other areas of your brain and can temporarily “block” the pain. Once you stop moving, here comes the pain again.

Knowing how pain is transmitted can give us insight into how it should be treated.  Pain that improved with movement of the injured area should be treated with movement. Pain that worsens with movement must be thoroughly evaluated to determine if fracture or instability is present.  The important thing is to quickly get evaluation and initiate appropriate rehabilitation as soon as possible. Injuries that are not quickly addressed run the risk of scar tissue formation, loss of function, and chronic pain and disability.

Most pain creates inflammation and inflammatory chemicals must be removed in order to lessen the pain.  I do not recommend over-the-counter pain medication or Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories as these drugs have been shown to have significant side effects including bleeding and death.  Fish oils, Kaprex® and other natural anti-inflammatories are a much better alternative to these meds, with little to no side effects.

Ice is also a very powerful pain reliever.  Icing an injured area with a cold pack or a covered ice pack can give some serious relief.  8 to 20 minutes is adequate and the ice can be re-applied every hour or so. Heat is discouraged as it can significantly increase local swelling and often causes a rebound of more intense pain following application.

These are some simple tools that you can use to help alleviate your pain.  If your or a loved one are suffering, please know that there are alternatives to both acute and chronic pain.  Call today to see if you are a candidate for our pain-relieving therapies.

Dr. Jason W. Haas

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