One hundred million Americans have some level of chronic pain. Helping patients to become active, assertive participants in managing their chronic pain is a primary goal of the program. One of the challenges for patients is that it is often hard to know where to start. In the end, it doesn’t really matter where you start, as long as you fill your Pain Management Toolbox with a wide variety of tools that are helpful for you.
While you are at the hospital, you will work with your therapist to get some resources and referrals in place, but this will be just the beginning of gathering your “Pain Management Team” together. As you move forward in managing your pain, it will be your responsibility to try the many different treatments that can help, to see which are possible, and which work for you. This will mean asking lots of questions, doing lots of research, making lots of phone calls, and asking providers to refer you to other treatments to build your “Team”.
When researching resources outside the hospital, there are a variety of factors that may affect what tools are available to you. Some of these variables include:
- Where you live
- Insurance coverage
- Financial resources
- Transportation capabilities
- Scheduling and availability
Acupressure/Acupuncture – Can help reduce pain, reduce stress, and improve your body’s ability to heal and function. Hopefully, you had some experience at the hospital with these treatments to help you decide if they are right for you.
Apps – Apps are available for almost every possible activity, from sleeping to cooking, organization and biofeedback. See what you find. Most are free or low-cost.
Biofeedback programs – There are many types of biofeedback. They can be helpful for pain, anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns. Some therapists are certified in biofeedback, and there are also clinics that specialize in biofeedback.
Biomechanics and movement therapies – Movement methods like the Alexander Technique and the Feldenkrais method can help with muscle tension, postural problems, and reducing stress and improving awareness.
Books about Chronic Pain – There are many good books available. The more active you are in managing pain and the more you know about pain management, the quicker you will re-claim your life from pain.
Chiropractic- Can help in pain relief, guarding, improving nervous system functioning, and posture. Chiropractors can work not just on the back and neck, but on other joints as well.
Exercise, Stretching and Strength Training – An ongoing exercise routine is important for your body, mind, and spirit. Find a local gym or develop a routine to do at home. Get support from physical therapists, trainers, or other qualified professionals when you need it.
Hypnosis – Many people find that using self-hypnosis or working with a therapist with a specialty in hypnosis can provide significant pain relief and increased well-being. Working with a therapist who is licensed and has at least a Master’s Degree is recommended.
Massage- Massage can reduce pain, reduce stress, help with guarding, increase flexibility, and accelerate healing. It may or may not be covered by insurance.
Medical and Surgical Interventions – Below are some of the possible interventions. Consult with a doctor; ask lots of questions about side effects and complications, long-term pain relief, pain relief percentage, and how often the pain returns later.
- Nerve Blocks, Radiofrequency Ablation, TENS Therapy, Trigger Point Injection, Pain Pacemakers, Spinal Drug Pumps
Meditation and Mindfulness Resources – There are many groups, formal and informal, that offer meditation and mindfulness training and practice times. Some are affiliated with a religion, some are not. Often free.
Nutrition/Cooking- The food we eat has an ongoing and important role in our health, and Chronic Pain is a “Whole Body” issue. Eating and cooking real food is a great way to take control of your health.
Pain Management programs – Pain management programs can vary widely in their area of focus. When talking to these programs, ask what treatments they offer, who are the providers (doctors, therapists, physical therapists, etc.), and how long you might be working with them. An interdisciplinary program has different providers all working together, and is most likely to be beneficial.
Physical Therapy – Can help in reducing pain, retraining proper muscle and joint function, and increasing flexibility and strength. A referral from your primary doctor may be needed.
Recovery Programs – AA, NA and SMART Recovery groups are usually available in most areas, and always free. These groups can be an important source of social support and involvement.
Sleep Hygiene- Many people can improve their sleep dramatically by experimenting with the skills they learn at the hospital. If you have ongoing difficulties, consider a sleep clinic to explore the issue further.
Therapists with Chronic Pain expertise – Family issues, past traumatic events, patterns from our childhood, and other mental health issues can have a powerful effect on our experience of pain. In seeking a therapist, ask about their experience with chronic pain.
Yoga/Tai Chi- Most local gyms or recreational centers have a Yoga class of some kind. Remind yourself that you are managing chronic pain, and so the pace and intensity of how you do yoga may not be the same as others.
Pain-related Organizations and Websites