By Yolanda Smith, BPharm
Patients that are living with chronic pain experience significant changes to their physical and psychological health, which can lead to a reduction in quality of life. It is important that they have a management plan in place to help the to improve their life quality and continue living life to as full an extent as possible.
Physical and Psychological Effects
A reduction in quality of life is one of the most pressing worries for individuals that suffer from chronic pain. The pain can have an impact on the daily life of patients and inhibit them from partaking in activities as they usually would. In turn, this can have an effect on the psychological health of patients as they deal with the changes that this can bring.
It is common for patients to feel frustrated or angry, particularly when they are unable to partake in normal daily activities as usual. This can also stem into their social life and they may have difficulty creating and maintaining relationships with their loved ones.
To address these issues, it is important that patients have access to a strong support network where they feel comfortable to talk about and work through any issues. The involvement of a psychologist experience in the effects of chronic pain can be helpful in promoting mental and emotional health.
Taking Pain Medications
There are several pharmacological treatments that are available to help relieve chronic pain.
Simple analgesic medications, such as paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin are the first-line choice for most cases of chronic pain. For more severe cases, prescription opioid drugs can help to provide sufficient pain relief. For patients suffering from neuropathic pain, antidepressant or antiepileptic medications such as amitriptyline or gabapentin can help to reduce pain.
All of these medications can easily be taken in an oral formulation, which is easy for patients to take. Some patients may have concerns about the need to take these medications on an ongoing basis and, in this case, decisions should be made about the benefit of improved life quality weighed against risk of drug tolerance and possible dependence.
Other Coping Techniques
There are non-pharmacological techniques available that can be used to help relieve chronic pain and improve overall quality of life. These include:
- Distraction therapy
- Hot or cold packs
- Relaxation exercises
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
Most patients find medications are able to provide more effective pain relief than these techniques, but there is a very low risk of adverse effect with these non-pharmacological techniques. In many cases, both pharmacological and non-pharmacological management techniques are combined to provide suitable relief of chronic pain.
Coping with Stress
Persistent pain is closely linked to increased stress levels and it is important that patient with chronic pain are able to implement techniques to manage stress as well as pain. There are several steps that can help to reduce stress and, simultaneously, help to manage pain, including:
- Eating a nutritious diet
- Getting adequate sleep
- Keeping physically active
- Thinking positively
- Engaging in enjoyable activities
- Finding support from other people
- Consulting with a counselor
Each individual will find that some techniques are more helpful than others in helping to manage stress related to chronic pain and should experiment to discover which is best for them.
Last Updated: Mar 6, 2016