Nobody likes to suffer pain. An unpleasant sensation, pain is a reaction of the body to physical illness, injury, or mental disease. Pain is generally divided into two categories: acute and chronic. The former occurs suddenly because of injury suffered by a tissue. The injury can be inflicted by anything that damages body tissue, i.e., surgery, trauma or cancer. Heart rate and blood pressure usually rise in acute pain. But once the cause of the pain is eliminated, the pain normally goes away. Chronic pain, usually linked to a chronic disease, persists longer and lacks a clear cause. Chronic lower back pain, chronic headaches, or cancer pain belongs to this category.
A pain management strategy usually depends on the nature of the pain, i.e., whether it is acute or chronic. Pain is generally managed by using medical methods, psychological methods or alternative therapy approaches. In the case of short-term acute pain caused by a trauma, standard medications available over the counter, herbal or natural remedies and alternative medicines can be used. Chronic pain is harder to tackle, as it lasts longer and is more complex.
Medical approaches can be divided into two main methods: drug treatment and surgical intervention. Analgesic drugs can reduce or eliminate pain without affecting consciousness. Psychotropic drugs act on the brain, influencing the patient’s emotional state. One should, however, be careful about their long-term effects. Another method used is nerve blocking, in which a drug is injected around the appropriate nerve to prevent the pain message from reaching the brain.
The rationale behind the surgical division of nerve pathways is that if the pathway is broken, the pain message cannot get through. Although not surgical in the true sense, Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) stimulates the skin area over the site of the pain with the help of an electric stimulator and replaces the pain messages with a tingling sensation.
Although useful in some cases of acute pain, acupuncture may not prove very effective in chronic pain. Some advocate the use of hypnosis to reduce pain, as well.