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General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Pain relief outside the pill bottle – Harvard Health Publications

Pain relief outside the pill bottle – Harvard Health Publications

Excerpts from the 18 June 2012 article

When you feel pain, do you automatically reach for a pill? Maybe it’s time to rethink that reaction. The idea that pain relief resides only in a bottle of pills is a common misconception, Harvard Medical School experts say. While medication often plays an important role in quelling pain, there’s a large arsenal of drug-free pain-relief therapies and techniques.

The Institute of Medicine estimates that 116 million adults experience chronic pain each year. It has called for “a cultural transformation in how the nation understands and approaches pain management and prevention.” Improved pain management should include a combination of therapies and coping techniques, the institute said. And a recent New York Times investigation revealed that the use of strong pain killers used too early and for too long can delay a person’s return to work and drive up the cost of treatment….

In studying pain and how to modify it, researchers and doctors often think in terms of the “gate control” theory, said Diana Post, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. This concept holds that pain impulses can be dampened in a part of the spinal cord, called the dorsal horn, before they reach the brain. When an injury or other painful stimulus activates tiny nerve fibers, it opens the “gate” so a pain signal is sent to the brain. But if other sensory signals are coming in from other parts of the body at the same time, neurons in the spinal cord effectively disconnect the pain message and close the “gate.”  Here’s a practical example: Pediatricians often try to reduce the pain of inoculations for children by rubbing the child’s skin immediately after giving the shot to offset, or garble, the original pain signal.

Other pain-relief therapies abound, Post said. These include:

  • biofeedback
  • ice
  • heat
  • exercise
  • psychotherapy
  • acupuncture
  • hypnosis
  • massage
  • mind-body relaxation techniques
  • chiropractic
  • physical therapy
  • and occupational therapy….

June 19, 2012 - Posted by | Consumer Health |

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