From nerve blocks to physical therapy, discover what your options are.
The National Center for Health Statistics reports that 41% of adults have experienced chronic pain, or pain that lasts more than a year.
Back pain is the most common complaint, followed by migraine, joint, abdominal and soft-tissue pain. Pain is a growing health issue, and one that's not going away anytime soon.
The pain problem
There are two types of pain: Acute and chronic. Acute pain is short-lived. It is usually caused by injury, surgery or illness. Chronic, or long-lasting, pain usually is caused by disease, nerve damage, stress or repetitive injuries.
Finding relief for chronic pain is complicated. The simplest tools for managing chronic pain are over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen, acetaminophen or aspirin. Stronger prescription, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories like Celebrex and Voltaren, or opioids such as Vicodin and Percocet, are the next step.
You should be aware that there's a risk of addiction when you take prescription opioids. Talk to your doctor about your risk of addiction and to determine whether opioids are the right treatment for you. Learn more about opioids.
If strong prescription drugs don't cut it, doctors may try nerve blocks. Nerve blocks inject local anesthetics, steroids or opioids near nerves to prevent pain signals from reaching the brain. These treatments are almost always used with physical therapy.
Using complementary and alternative treatments to manage pain is becoming more common. Acupuncture, chiropractic and massage therapy are big players in the war on pain. Learn how to access complementary and alternative medicine using your health plan.
Put your body into it
The American Pain Foundation says that meditation also eases tension and fatigue, and teaches us we can choose how to pay attention to pain and diminish our negative chain of psychological responses to it. Instead of responding unconsciously to pain, we become aware of our habitual and automatic responses.
Yoga also is particularly effective at treating back pain by providing stress relief, improved joint range of motion, muscle tone, flexibility and circulation. Be careful to choose a supervised program that's safe for your injury. You don't want to get stuck in a downward dog you can't get out of.