Pain Management | Symptoms, Diagnosis, Devices, Treatments

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Last Updated: May 29, 2020

Aging is a natural process. And as we age, we often start experiencing pain. This pain can be as simple as nerve irritation or as complex as a chronic pain condition that doesn’t go away. That’s where pain treatment comes in.

Pain management describes a wide range of techniques used to alleviate and treat pain so that it’s more manageable. These can include techniques such as:

  • Physical therapy
  • Chiropractic therapy
  • Acupuncture or dry needling
  • Ayurvedic medicine
  • Psychological counseling and support
  • Professional medication

Before we can figure out the best method of pain control, we have to start by evaluating the history and cause of your pain.

Signs And Symptoms Of Pain:

Physical pain varies from person to person, depending on your personal pain tolerance. One thing is for sure: whether your pain is mild, sharp, severe, or dull pain, it causes discomfort and disrupts your quality of life.

Here are some common signs and symptoms of pain.

  • Peeling skin or red skin
  • Pale and clammy skin
  • Swelling
  • Pain, weakness, tingling, or numbness in your muscles or limbs
  • Burning or constant pain in your muscles or limbs
  • Shooting or tingling pain in your muscles or limbs

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Causes Of Pain:

Many things can cause pain in your body. Common causes may include:

  • Peripheral nerve pain
  • Piriformis syndrome
  • A herniated disc
  • Sciatica
  • Peripheral nerve pain
  • Compression fractures

Being able to identify the type of pain you’re experiencing can help with pain control treatment. So let’s move on to the types of pain.

Types Of Pain:

Before we can discuss pain management treatments, we need to cover the sources of pain first.

When it comes to the different types of pain, medical professionals often categorize them into two common groups: nociceptive pain and neuropathic pain. How your pain will be treated depends on which type of pain it is.

Nociceptive Pain:

This type of pain is caused when there is damage caused to musculoskeletal tissues. Damaged tissues send electric signals through your peripheral nerves to your spinal cord, which then converts it to signals that the neural pathways in your brain interpret as pain.

Nociceptive pain is often persistent and described as a sharp, aching, or throbbing pain. It’s most common in your back, leg, and arms. There’s two types of nociceptive pain: radicular and somatic.

  • Radicular Pain: This type of pain is caused by inflammation, compression, or injury to a spinal nerve root.
  • Somatic Pain: It’s often harder for doctors to diagnose since the nerves in your body that are able to detect somatic pain are only found deep within your skin and tissues. That’s why this specific type of pain is often limited to your back or thighs.

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Neuropathic Pain:

Caused by nervous system damage or disease, this type of pain can occur randomly out of the blue. Since it stems from damage to your somatosensory nervous system, neuropathic pain may not have an obvious cause or source point of pain, which often makes it tricky to diagnose.

Diagnosis Of Pain:

There’s several types of pain management options. Before your doctor can prescribe the best option, they diagnose your pain through various tests. Here are the most common tests they may use.

  • CT Scan: CT, short for computed tomography, is a type of scan that uses X-ray and computers to produce a 3-D cross-section visual images of your body. This is the giant, doughnut-shaped device you may have seen in Hollywood shows or movies. It’s simple and painless: all you need to do is lie still on a table for at least 15 minutes while your doctor conducts the scan.
  • MRI: Magnetic resonance imaging, or an MRI, works similarly as a CT scan but without using X-rays. Instead, it uses a large magnet, radio waves, and medical technology to construct an image of the afflicted area.
  • Ultrasound imaging: Much like a CT scan or an MRT, this test produces images of your body and the affected area using high-frequency soundwaves that are recorded and transcribed into an image.
  • EMG: Your doctor may conduct an electromyogram by inserting fine needles into your muscles. This allows them to measure your muscles’ activity and response to electric signals to determine the source of pain.
  • Nerve blocks: Similar to an EMG, your doctor will insert an anesthetic into different nerve locations to identify the cause of your pain.

Other common ways for doctors to diagnose pain also include myelograms, discography, blood tests, bone scans, and other nerve studies.

Treatment of Pain:

Once your doctor successfully diagnoses your pain, he or she can recommend any of the following methods of pain control:

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medication: These are non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs that can relieve your pain. The most common pain medication options are buprofen (e.g. Advil or Motrin) or naproxen sodium (e.g. Synflex or Aleve).
  • Topical pain relievers: This pain control treatment is applied directly on your skin either through a cream, salve, or ointment.
  • Muscle relaxants: If OTCs or topical pain relievers don’t do the trick, your doctor may prescribe a muscle relaxant. Most commonly used to treat muscle spasms or muscle cramps, especially back pain control, these work by causing a sedative effect: it stops your nerves from sending pain signals to your brain. Common muscle relaxants include Zanaflex, Norflex, Robaxin, Flexeril, Lorzone, and Diazepam.
  • Injections: For more severe cases of pain, your doctor may inject a medication called cortisone to the afflicted area This is a numbing medication that will decrease swelling and inflammation around the nerve roots. Your doctor may also prescribe injectable medications for you to use at home.
  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy commonly uses pain management options and technologies such as heat, electrical stimulation, and muscle-rehabilitation exercises. The focus of these exercises is to strengthen your muscles and increase your flexibility to reduce pain and prevent it from reoccuring. Your physical therapist may also advise different types of pain management such as massage therapy, acupuncture, or yoga.

One thing’s for sure though: pain control methods will definitely make the discomfort you experience more managable. So be sure to make an appointment with your doctor if you experience symptoms of pain. When it comes to pain and treatment, it’s crucial that you resolve it as early as possible.

Have your personal information and medical information ready for your appointment, including any medications you may be on. Take note of any recent injuries, and be prepared for your doctor to ask you a number of questions.

You may or may not need diagnostic tests, depending on your symptoms and the severity of your pain.

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