A Comprehensive Guide to Pain Management
As people live long and active lives, pain management grows increasingly important.
According to the National Institute of Care Excellence (NICE), some 30 to 38% of the population experience chronic pain of some kind, rising with age.
Similar statistics are observed worldwide, and pain is considered the number one reason why people seek healthcare advice.
Pain management as a field of healthcare and medicine has evolved over the years, encompassing more medications, lifestyle interventions and other management techniques than ever before.
Why Pain Management Is Important
Pain can significantly impact people’s quality of life. While acute pain typically signifies an issue that needs immediate attention, persistent or chronic pain can linger for months or even years and is often challenging to treat.
If chronic pain is left unchecked, it can lead to health complications like chronic inflammation, high blood pressure or a weakened immune system.
Studies have also linked physical pain in various forms to worsening mental health, especially if it limits someone’s daily activities and social life.
The cumulative society-wide impact of pain leads to lost productivity. One US study found that pain resulted in lost productivity of some $61 billion (£32.34 billion) annually.
Assessing Pain Levels
Pain is tough to measure and define, as it’s highly subjective. There are many methods for assessing pain, and these vary globally, but some of the most common include:
- Numeric Pain Scale (NPS): Probably the most commonly used pain scale. The NPS uses a simple numerical scale upon which patients rate their pain from 0 (no pain) to 10 (usually described as “the worst pain imaginable”).
- Visual Analogue Scale (VAS): This visual assessment uses a 10 cm line upon which the patient marks their pain level, with one end defined as ‘no pain’ and the other as ‘worst pain imaginable’.
- Brief Pain Inventory: This measures pain severity and assesses how pain affects mood, sleep and daily activities.
How Pain Management Works
Pain management has become more holistic, combining multiple treatments such as lifestyle changes, care plans, physiotherapy, medication, etc.
Pain treatment often involves a team of physiotherapists, occupational therapists, nurses and other healthcare professionals who collaborate.
Patients are encouraged to manage their pain to promote independence, and regular reviews ensure the treatment remains effective and adjusts based on their evolving needs.
Types of Pain Management
Pain management consists of medication, lifestyle interventions and more advanced procedures.
Medication is often considered the first line of defence against pain and is often combined with other therapies.
Pain medications offer symptomatic relief and reduce inflammation. Paracetamol (also called acetaminophen) is one of the cheapest and most widely available painkillers, whereas NSAIDs like ibuprofen are generally used for inflammation and musculoskeletal-related pain.
Opioids like codeine and morphine are another class of more potent painkillers for chronic pain, though they can be addictive and are generally only used for the short term.
Less commonly, antidepressants and anti epileptic drugs like amitriptyline are combined with other medications for more severe pain.
There’s been an increased focus on encouraging lifestyle changes for holistic pain management:
- Exercise, Diet and Sleep: Regular movement can help strengthen muscles, improve joint functionality, and enhance overall well-being. Moreover, eating nutritious food can reduce inflammation, and a regular sleep schedule is essential for recovery and pain management.
- Physiotherapy: It’s a method used to restore mobility through exercises and manual therapy. Physiotherapists can also advise on proper posture and ergonomics.
- Mindfulness and Meditation: Techniques such as guided imagery or deep breathing exercises can be instrumental in managing pain by diverting the focus and reducing stress.
- Ergonomics: Simple changes, like using a support cushion or ensuring computer screens are at eye level, can prevent strain and pain.
Injections, Stimulations and Surgical Interventions,
For persistent pain, more direct interventions may be recommended:
- Nerve Block Injections: Involve injecting anaesthetics or anti-inflammatory medicines around specific nerves.
- Electrical Nerve Stimulation: Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) involves attaching electrodes to the skin to deliver mild electrical pulses, disrupting pain signals.
- Radio-frequency Ablation: This procedure uses heat to affect nerve function, relieving chronic pain, especially in the lower back or neck.
- Spinal Cord Stimulation: An implanted device sends low-level electrical signals to the spinal cord, reducing pain signals reaching the brain.
Explore Pain Management with Masters
As a global pharmaceutical company masters understands the multifaceted nature of pain and its profound impact on an individual’s life. We are expert pharmaceutical drug suppliers that support healthcare providers and science partners worldwide, helping everyone access the pain management tools, medications and therapies they need.
Masters specialises in bringing medications to emerging markets, connecting patients to science and democratising access to effective pain management through collaboration with life science partners.