Physical pain is an uncomfortable sensation that most of us prefer to avoid. However, pain is how our body tells us that something is wrong. (Did you know that it is th brain which tells us that we are in pain?) If we didn’t feel pain, we would end up damaging our body unwittingly. For instance, we immediately recoil when a body part comes in contact with a hot object. If we didn’t feel the burn, we wouldn’t withdraw instantly and end up with a severe skin burn. Pain, for the most part, is triggered by external events or a physiological condition. To deal with the pain in the right manner, it’s important to understand the underlying causes and treat them accordingly.
Types of Body Pain and Causes
Depending on how severe or frequent the sensation is, pain can be divided into three types.
Acute Pain: Acute body pain is caused by a disease or an injury or surgery. The onset of this type of pain is sudden and stinging but it subsides or goes away completely on its own. Though acute pain can last for days or months, it will completely stop within six months with the proper treatment and care. On the other hand, if ignored or neglected, the pain will develop into the more severe variety, called chronic pain. Acute pain can be caused by:
Surgery or Operation
Labour and childbirth
Chronic Pain: A damaged tissue or nerve damage could cause chronic pain. It is a nagging condition that may also be linked to a long-time illness, injury or muscle weakness. In some cases, it has no perceptible cause. You will continue to feel it even after an illness or injury has been completely healed. Chronic pain can last for years. This is because the pain signals in the nervous system continue to stay active for years. Even with no visible injury or body condition, chronic pain may refuse to go away. Conditions that trigger chronic pain are:
Those with chronic pain may find it difficult to sleep or carry on their routine activities normally. Chronic pain responds poorly to medical treatment. Therefore, the pain is stressful to the body, as well as mind. Physically, chronic pain may cause tense muscles, restricted mobility, lethargy, and a lack of appetite. Psychologically, it could lead to depression, temper tantrums, anxiety, and paranoia. Such a mental state can affect the patient’s ability to recover and return to the daily grind.
Episodic Pain: Nearly one-third of the people who experience chronic pain and are undergoing medication may experience sudden flashes of pain, despite the pain-killers. These episodes of pain are called episodic or breakthrough pain because they come on quickly at irregular intervals and are excruciating. The pain comes on suddenly because the effect of the medication has worn off or there has been an accidental body movement. Episodic pain may be triggered by an injury or disease. Headaches, joint pain, injuries, carpal tunnel, back pain, tendinitis, and muscle and nerve pain related to shoulders, neck and pelvis are all linked with episodic pain.
While acute body pain management is usually direct medical intervention, chronic and episodic pain require proper treatment and care.
How should you treat pain?
Rest: Giving the part of the body that is hurting a break from your daily activities is absolutely important to speed up recovery. However, prolonged immobility could lead to stiffness. Therefore, perform some light movements even during your rest period to remain active and flexible. Striking the right balance between activity and rest, known as pacing, is essential to manage pain.Short breaks of 5-10 minutes every 1-2 hours to sit and rest your joints can aid recovery. Ensure you get a good night’s sleep because a fitful sleep can slow down the recovery process. Practising meditation for a few minutes every morning and evening can help alleviate the anxiety and fear associated with chronic pain.
Cold/Heat Therapy: Most people are confused about whether to use heat or ice for pain relief. A simple rule to remember is that in case of acute pain, caused by muscle soreness, sprain, broken bone or swollen tendons, it’s best to apply an ice pack for immediate relief. Icing the area will temporarily numb the area and reduce inflammation. In case of chronic pain associated with low back area or muscle spasms, ice whenever the symptoms show. Ice packs or a cold compress, such as SandPuppy Coldstrap, should be applied for not more than 20 minutes at a stretch every 3-4 hours within 24 hours after the onset of the injury or pain. Heat can be then applied after 36 to 48 hours to improve blood flow to the injured area and restore mobility. Heat packs or pads, such as the SandPuppy Strappr, are useful to relieve both acute and chronic pain, such as sprains, strains, tendonitis, muscle spasms, and arthritis. As with cold packs, heat should not be applied to the injured area for more than 20 to 30 minutes, or else it will burn the skin and tissues. Alternating between cold and heat therapy is an excellent healing method for chronic pain.
Stretching and Exercise: When in pain, It is tempting to altogether stop moving to protect the painful area. This practice can be dangerous because it will decrease joint mobility, endurance level, and body balance. Therefore, consciously adopt a light and effective exercise routine that is not too stressful. Exercising regularly will help improve strength and increase flexibility. Take the help of a physiotherapist to ensure you are maintaining a good posture and working out accurately. Be careful not to exercise through the pain though. Stop when you have to as it can damage your body further.
Healthy Diet and Hydration: A few natural foods are known to prevent sore and swollen muscles. Consume antioxidants such as vitamin C and a good amount of protein. Those working out may find relief by taking in protein after an intense session.
Pain Relievers: In case of chronic body pain, it may be required to have over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or aspirin. These can ease body pain effectively to a great extent. However, it’s recommended to avoid prolonged usage or use without consulting a medical practitioner.
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