Saturday, June 18, 2011

Dealing with Pain: Acute

In the continuing series on pain, this week’s post is on dealing with acute pain.

Acute pain is usually described as occurring less than 30 days. It can be the result of an injury, surgery, an underlying health problem, dental work, medical treatment etc. The pain itself can be sharp and localized, a dull ache or pressure, or a burning, tingling sensation. It may be constant or come and go.

People with acute pain may worry and fear:
• Becoming addicted to drugs
• Developing a chronic pain problem
• Whether there is an effective way to control their pain.

If you are having/had surgery, or are being treated for cancer, know that pain can be managed. Talk to members of your care team before surgery or treatment. Put a plan in place sooner rather than later.

Understand the source of your pain. Different situations call for different treatment approaches. If you’re in pain but don’t know the reason, see you medical provider, or even go to the emergency room if you have chest pain, a severe headache and/or stiff neck and/or pain accompanied by weakness or numbness.

In trying to identify what the source of pain might be, think about changes you may have made in exercise, diet, shoes, clothing, or habits. Keeps in mind that not doing regular exercises or not eating the right diet can cause headaches, knee aches and more. In WebMD’s Slideshow on “Surprising Reasons You’re in Pain” the solutions are often obvious but easily overlooked.

In preparing for a medical appointment, you will want to make note of the following:
• Where the pain is located and what it feels like (stinging, sharp, dull, cramping, numb, throbbing, aching, shooting etc.)
• How often do you have it and if there are things that make it worse or better? For example, if you run for more than a mile your right knee hurts.
• How much does it hurt? You will be asked to describe pain intensity. On a scale of 1 to 10, with one being no pain and 10 the worst ever, how would rate the pain?
• Have you experienced something like this before? How was it treated?
• Discuss pain control methods that you have used. What’s worked, what hasn’t?
• Be sure to list all medications currently being taken. Interactions can happen, and some medications can lessen the effects of the pain treatment.

Once you pinned down the source of your pain, take action. This may include:
• Prevention measures such as controlling stress, not becoming overly tired, staying with your stretching or exercise regiment (I kinda stopped doing my hip exercises and now my knee is paying for it.) dietary restrictions etc.
• Taking medication as prescribed (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs-ibuprofen and aspirin, acetaminophen-Tylenol corticosteroids, narcotics-morphine, codeine, oxycodone.
• Treatments such as neural blocks, physical therapy, TENS units, local anesthetic
• Listening to your body-biofeedback
• RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) usually recommended for sprains, strains, muscle pulls or tears.
• Art, music, positive thinking and prayer

If you are on a pain medication:
• Take as prescribed. Don’t wait until pain becomes severe. Pain is easier to control when it is mild.
• If you are concerned about addiction, talk to your provider about what they are prescribing.
• If you are on pain medication for an extended period of time, your body may get use to it so you may need an adjustment to how much and when you take it.
• Know the side effects. You can control constipation by drinking lots of fluids (water, juice), eating more fruits and vegetables, and exercising. Your provider may recommend or prescribe a stool softener or laxative. Nausea and vomiting can be controlled with additional medication or a switch in regiment. Sleepiness is common, so do not drive or operate machinery while on these medications. If you find your breathing becomes slower, talk to your provider.

Keep in mind the following about pain:
• It is individualized. You are the best judge of what you are experiencing.
• It can cloud your thinking. This is not the time to making major decisions if at all possible.
• It can wear you down.
• Treated promptly and properly, it not only makes you feel better and heal quicker, it can also help to keep it from becoming a chronic problem.

Resources
Dealing with Chronic Pain: This post includes a list of the pain organizations.

Pain Treatment Guidelines

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