This month is Drug-Free Pain Management Awareness month. In the article below, Physical Therapist Ashley Absmeier-Koppenhafer discusses ways that you can handle pain without being prescribed pain medications.
Ashley Absmeier-Koppenhafer, PT, DPT
Pain can be debilitating both physically and mentally. There are two types of pain: acute and chronic. Acute pain, if untreated, can lead to chronic pain. Treated, acute pain usually only lasts a few days at most. Chronic pain does not go away within a few days. It will take some time for it to subside, and it may even come and go over time. There are many ways to treat either type of pain that do not include pain medication.
Acute pain is the first pain felt after injury. It is due to the inflammatory process that occurs within the first few hours after you hurt yourself. This process causes pain and can take hours to a few days to stop. It is important to use the RICE technique to treat this pain.
R=REST. Rest after injury by sitting or lying down. Do not try to push through the pain.
I=ICE. Apply ice to the area within the first 72 hours. This helps to decrease the swelling which greatly contributes to pain.
C=COMPRESSION. Wrap the area tightly with an ACE bandage or support belt.
E=ELEVATE. Elevate, if able, the area that was injured above the level of your heart.
Following these four items will help to reduce the inflammatory response and alleviate pain.
Chronic pain is more difficult to treat as it is most likely secondary to some dysfunction within your musculoskeletal system (your bones and muscles). Exercise greatly helps to alleviate symptoms of chronic pain. It helps to keep your joints moving that combats arthritis. It keeps your muscles strong which supports your bones. Exercise boosts your mental health and helps to combat depression and anxiety that often result from chronic pain. It helps to decrease your weight to help alleviate stress on your joints. Finally, exercise releases endorphins which is a natural painkiller. Exercise can include stretching, strengthening and cardiovascular activities. It is important to find the type of exercise you enjoy the most so it is something you look forward to doing. Chronic pain will not go away overnight, but over time, you will feel less pain and overall a lot better.
Pain can come and go depending on the type of it, but there are ways to treat it without a prescribed pain medication. It is important to treat acute pain quickly to avoid chronic pain. If you are experiencing pain, talk to your physical therapist. They can help you treat your pain and also identify areas that may cause pain in the future.