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Controlling Pain So It Doesn’t Control You

Everyone experiences pain at some point in their lives – in fact, pain is the most common reason why people visit the doctor or require health care services.

What type of people must deal with pain?

  • 80% of hospitalized patients
  • 37% of cancer patients in long term care facilities
  • 55% of home health patients
  • Heart attack sufferers: 1.2 million
  • Those with headaches: 5 million
  • People with acute lung diseases: 4 million
  • Dental problems: 3 million
  • Digestive problems: 10 million
  • Musculoskeletal disorders: 6 million
  • 26 million people between 20 and 64 years of age that suffer from back pain
  • 80% of people over 65 are affected by arthritis and musculoskeletal pain
  • 1 American in 6 has painful arthritis

In some instances pain is a natural part of life that you can control with over-the-counter painkillers, meditation, or other methods. For others, such as those suffering from arthritis, pain is an everyday occurrence, and can be quite severe and more difficult to manage.

There are three main types of pain:

Somatic pain: Occurs in the skin, muscle or bone. Ever felt an aching, throbbing or feeling of pressure? Then you have probably experienced this type of pain.

Visceral pain: Affects the body’s internal organs and cavities. This is a pain that creates a gnawing, cramping or sharp sensation.

Neuropathic pain: Results from damage to the nervous system. Can be experienced as a burning, shooting, or pins-and-needles feeling.

Pain can be characterized as mild, moderate, or severe. Pain categories are used to help physicians select the most effective pain medication.

Mild (BPI rating of 1-4): aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), or NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Motrin and Aleve.)

Moderate (BPI rating of 4-6): tramadol (Ultram), codeine, hydrocodone (Vicodin), or oxycodone (OxyContin)

Severe (BPI rating of 7 or above): morphine, hydromorphone (Dilaudid), or fentanyl (Actiq).

Pain management is important if you want to live each day to its fullest without unnecessary suffering. Pain can negatively affect all aspects of your life and inhibit your ability to carry out simple tasks, such as eating regular meals. It can impact your sleeping patterns, drain your energy, alter your mood and make it difficult or impossible to accomplish daily chores and responsibilities.

Pain management, if done right, makes it possible to lessen or eliminate pain and suffering. The best way to achieve this is to treat the cause of the pain, through the proper use of pain medication. Other pain relief techniques, such as relaxation, can be used in conjunction with medicine to achieve the best results.

Often, doctors prescribe more than one medication to achieve adequate pain relief. Combining two different pain medications is an effective control method because you can give the patient a good dose of medicine, thus providing optimum relief, without administering too much of one drug. Just remember: it’s always best to deal with pain as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to control, so make sure you communicate well with your physician and/or caregiver to attain the best results.

How you handle pain and medication depends on your personal physiology, so caregivers are never 100% certain what method of pain control will work for you. Medication may not be able to rid your body of pain entirely, but if it significantly alleviates the amount of pain you experience, enough to allow you to eat, move, and breathe easily, that is considered successful pain management.

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