Chronic Pain

There is more than one type of pain, and chronic pain is one of them. This article helps define the difference between acute pain and chronic pain. Keep reading to discover what prescription drugs, pain killers, and treatment options and are available for chronic pain.

In many cases, pain is a useful, biological tool. It can signal that we need to stop doing something immediately, as when we touch something too hot. It can indicate that a slower approach is needed, as when we try to do the splits without sufficient stretching. And it can tell us what needs the majority of our attention, as when we fall down the stairs and, among some minor bruises and bumps discover that we’ve likely sprained our ankle. But pain can become chronic, going on and on, in which case, it is no longer fulfilling that function of making us aware. This article provides an overview of chronic pain.

What Are the Types of Pain?

Pain can be divided into two types: acute and chronic. Acute pain is most often caused by injury, illness, or inflammation. It often appears suddenly and usually resolves when the underlying condition is resolved. Chronic pain may either develop from an instance of acute pain or develop along with a medical condition that has no cure or that will prove fatal. The way that acute pain can become chronic pain is this: untreated pain causes nerves to transmit pain signals more effectively, and with continued signals, the brain becomes more sensitive to the signals.

Chronic pain can have two elements. Ongoing pain of a certain severity can be accompanied by “breakthrough” pain. Two different pain killers may be used to address the two types of pain.

Types of Chronic Pain Relief

There is now a wider array of tools for chronic pain relief than in the past. The first group includes over-the-counter (OCT) medications like acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs, like ibuprofen. These include Tylenol, Advil, and Motrin IB. There are also pain relief creams, some of which contain salicylate, some of which contain capsaicin, and some of which have camphor, menthol, or eucalyptus oil. Skin patches have been approved for the specific case of nerve pain stemming from shingles. Acupuncture has also been found to be helpful.

New to the pain-relief tool box are anticonvulsants, developed to prevent seizures, and antidepressant, developed to stabilize the mood. It is not completely clear how either of these work, but anticonvulsants like Lyrica, Tegretol, and Neurontin, and antidepressants, like Cymbalta, Elavil, Norpramin, and Pamelor, are being used for pain relief.

Narcotics are some of the strongest drugs used to treat chronic pain. The narcotics used are opioids, including codeine, morphine, oxycodone, and fentanyl. Narcotics have potential side effects but they are very effective in the treatment of chronic pain. There are some findings that the amount of narcotic can be reduced when it is used in combination with an antidepressant.

Some people are concerned that use of opioids for people with chronic pain could lead to addiction. The research says that if the people do not have a substance abuse issue to begin with, addiction is highly unlikely, with one study showing that less than a tenth of 1 percent of people who were not addicted and needed opioids became addicted after using them. In addition, some argue that particularly when it comes to end of life issues, speaking about addiction is not sensible. It is important that a patient and health care provider see eye-to-eye about this issue. There are also new drugs that imitate opioids but are non-narcotic, like Ultram ER, which don’t seem to be addictive.

Some new surgical procedures have been developed to address chronic pain. One procedure is a nerve block created by injecting a local anesthetic. Though mostly used for acute pain, they can help prevent chronic pain. Radiofrequency ablation involves heating a small section of nerve tissue to lessen its ability to carry pain signals. The improvement lasts 3 to 6 months. A pain pacemaker is a device that is implanted in the body and sends electrical signals to nerves to help prevent pain signals from getting through to the brain.


Related Article: What are Painkillers? >>