Pain. Immediately, you know what the word means and recognize the sensation, but do you know how many people experience pain of some sort? As many as one in four people in the United States lives with chronic pain and must find the right combination of coping strategies. Pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined. Pain can take many forms, from an occasional stabbing or throbbing feeling to a steady pain that won’t go away. Each type of pain also has a different cause.
What is pain?
Pain is a condition that strikes as much as 20 percent of the population around the world and more than 76 million people in the United States alone.
According to medical author William C. Shiel, Jr., MD, FACP, FACR, pain is an unpleasant sensation in animals that is caused by actual or perceived injury to body tissues and produces physical and emotional reactions. Presumably, pain sensation has evolved to protect our bodies from harm by causing us to perform certain actions and avoid others. Pain might be called a protector, a predictor, or simply a hassle.
"Acute pain is a warning signal that something is wrong. Examples include breaking an arm or cutting oneself. It is pain with a clear cause that you treat, and then it goes away," says Jennifer Schneider, MD, PhD, a chronic pain specialist and author of the book Living With Chronic Pain. "Chronic pain lasts at least three or six months, depending on the definition. The real difference with chronic pain, though, is that it is pain that has lost its usefulness. The source of pain has sometimes gone away, but the pain is still there. It doesn't signal anything, it just causes trouble."
"Pain is the final interpretation of the central nervous system to any stimulation, mostly noxious [irritating] stimulation, at the given time," says Dr. Sujittra Tongprasert, MD, an anesthesiologist with the University of Louisville Hospital in Kentucky. "To put it simply, pain is the perception of unpleasant sensation with the associated feeling of discomfort and/or suffering.” You may not have actual tissue damage, adds Tongprasert. That doesn't mean that the pain isn't real, just that the type of pain and the severity of pain a person feels depends on the individual.
Simply put, pain is your body's way of warning you that you are in danger and that you need to pay attention to what you're doing. "Pain is in fact the warning system for the body to prevent it from damage. When we touch a hot pan, the burning sensation will signal an automatic response to drop the pan, therefore avoiding or minimizing the burn injury," notes Tongprasert.
Though pain is truly both a physical and an emotional experience perceived and processed by the brain, it's a real health problem as well.
"Chronic pain is now considered by the experts as a disease," says Tongprasert.
We all experience pain to greater or lesser degrees at various points of our lives. It is said that pain is the most common reason patients seek medical attention. But, each of us perceives a given pain stimulus in our own unique way. Our individual pain perception can vary at different times, even in response to the identical stimulus. For example, an athlete during competition may not be able to feel the tissue injury of a cut or a bruise until the competition has finished. We may feel more or less pain depending on our mood, amount of rest/sleep, stress, hunger, or activity.
What about treatment for pain?
Pain is typically classified as either acute or chronic. Acute pain is of sudden onset and is usually the result of a clearly defined cause such as an injury. Acute pain resolves with the healing of its underlying cause. Chronic pain persists for weeks or months and is usually associated with an underlying condition, such as arthritis. The severity of chronic pain can be mild, moderate, or severe.
The treatment of pain depends on its cause and the overall health of the individual affected. Other factors to consider are how severe the pain is, how it affects your life, and how frequently you find yourself dealing with pain. “Generally, the most effective treatment of any medical condition is to get rid of the offending cause," says Tongprasert. "For pain, especially chronic pain, this method might not be possible."
Most of the time, the goal of treatment is to decrease the intensity of your pain and make you feel better. For acute pain, this goal is often met successfully. But chronic pain — pain lasting for at least three months or more — has a different effect on the nervous system and needs to be treated differently.
Using a combination of pain management treatments and techniques, non-medical and medical, is often the most successful way to manage chronic pain.
Conventional western medicine utilizes prescription and/or over-the-counter drugs, possibly along with physical therapy, psychological counseling and surgery, for treatment of chronic pain. The treatment may also include doctor recommendations for rest, stretching, exercise, weight reduction, and heat or ice applications. No single medication has been found to be appropriate for all forms of pain.
Alternative treatments may include the same non-medical treatments as listed above such as rest, stretching, exercise, weight reduction, heat or ice applications as well as the following treatments:
- Far Infrared
- Magnetic/Energy Devices
- Nutritional Supplements
The Wolfe Clinic offers various effective and proven approaches to pain relief. A few include:
Far infrared: Known as the "healing heat" and includes sauna domes, mats, and heating pads.
Apothe Cherry: For relief of pain associated with arthritis, gout, and more. To learn more about this dynamic product, read our article "Tart Cherries - Instead of NSAIDs".
Essential Oils: A special blend "Pain Free" plus others such as Cedarwood, Marjoram, Thyme…for all kinds of pain. See "Essential Oils Introduction".
Cesium/DMSO: For relief of pain associated with cancer and inflammation.
MSM Crystals/Lotion: For relief of headaches, backaches, muscle pain, injuries, burns, arthritis just to name a few.
Oligotherapy Creams: For pain relief of all kinds including cartilage, burns, muscle strains, migraines, sprains, arthritis and more.
Migraid: Formulated especially for headache pain.
Magnesium Oil & Minerals: For relief from neuromuscular problems, migraines, headaches, cramps, restless leg syndrome, all chronic pain.
Magnetic/Energy Devices: Corrects energy field disturbances for relief of pain and stress in the body.
The above list is not all inclusive, but it does provide a good cross section of some of the approaches in the treatment of pain.
An important factor that can never be overlooked with any illness or health issues is a person's outlook. There is a saying that goes like this, "If you think you can’t be healed, then you're right." Whatever a person thinks influences the result of every approach to attain homeostasis. The mind is a very powerful thing and exerts great control over our body as well as all aspects of our lives. It is truly "mind over matter." So, get rid of any "stinkin' thinkin'" and see yourself well, happy, and enjoying life – PAIN FREE!
Pain Can Be Treated and Controlled
It is very rare for any of the techniques mentioned in this article to be successful if used alone in chronic pain. A combination approach is the most appropriate and effective treatment strategy.
It's important to approach pain management the right way. Just like diabetes, hypertension, asthma, and other chronic diseases, chronic pain needs to be addressed and treated as a serious condition.
Because the right approach to pain is different for each individual, a cookie-cutter treatment plan isn't the answer.
"To presume that one strategy would work for every individual with the same pain syndrome is over-optimistic. Each person is unique in the response to the chronic pain state. The most effective way to treat chronic pain is to adjust the strategy to suit each pain syndrome individually," says Tongprasert.
Wishing you the best in health,
The Wolfe Clinic