Coping with chronic pain can be an ongoing battle for many of us with rheumatoid arthritis. If we are unable to put our RA in remission, we will likely continue to battle chronic pain for a long time.
Chronic pain is defined as pain lasting for three or more months. As many as 100,000 people in the US cope with chronic pain every day
Many funded studies have identified viable treatments for people coping with chronic pain. These studies have identified some viable non-drug solutions that alleviate or eradicate chronic pain.
Chronic Pain Studies that Identify Non-drug Solutions
- A study published in Germany in 1975 found that pain is the result of many factors. A person’s psychological development, level of anxiety and psychological coping style all have to be evaluated. This study suggests salicylic acid is best for mild pain. Salicylic acid in combination with a tranquilizer is best for moderate pain, and a combination of phenothiazine and an antidepressant is best for severe pain. Researchers also suggested that methadone is often more successful at reducing pain than narcotics. This study even introduced biofeedback and acupuncture as possible treatments for pain in the future.
- Later a study conducted in 1992 surveyed 157 chronic pain patients to try to determine the type of treatments that work best for patients with chronic pain. They found that patients who tried both conventional and complementary medicine treatment achieved more pain relief than patients who just used conventional drug treatment. Researchers concluded that when patients are more active in developing solutions for their chronic pain, they have better results. Patients need to be actively involved in their treatment plans.
- Another study published in 2012 in the European Journal of Pain compared three different interventions for lower back pain:
- Spouse -assisted coping skills training program for pain
- Conventional patient-oriented multidisciplinary pain management program
- Standard medical care
Researchers concluded that the best solution for people coping with chronic pain is a combination of a spouse-assisted plan and a conventional patient-oriented multidisciplinary pain management program.
- In 2016, a Mindfullness-Pain Management Program was evaluated. Researchers recruited 20 patients for the control group and 50 patients to receive mindfulness training, The patients receiving the mindfullness training experienced a reduction in depression, anxiety and pain when compared with the control group.
These studies all identify alternative treatments for chronic pain.
Scientists like Dr. James Dillard have also discovered a biological reason that some alternative therapies improve chronic pain. They have discovered that acute pain is present in areas of the brain that are connected to tissue damage, but chronic pain resides in the memory part of the brain (the prefrontal cortex and limbic system). The memory of pain can last long after the original cause of the pain has healed. Many alternative therapies can be used to retrain the memory (prefrontal cortex) part of the brain to ease chronic pain.(13)
Solutions to Coping With Chronic Pain You Can Access Today
Most experts believe that there are many alternative treatments that can help people who are coping with chronic pain. This is not to say that drugs may not be necessary, but a multidisciplinary approach to chronic pain is far superior to conventional drug treatment alone. As a result of these studies, there are many treatment programs available to us.
- Many hospitals have developed inter-disciplinary chronic pain rehabilitation clinics. Mayo Clinic, The Cleveland Clinic, The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and many other institutions have developed these programs. They provide outpatient multidisciplinary pain management training. The pain management team is made up of: the patient, physicians, nurses, physical therapists, recreational therapists, the patient’s significant others, pharmacists, social workers, volunteers, occupational therapists, vocational counselors and nutritionists. Each individual patient is evaluated by the training team. The appropriate disciplines form a team to teach the patient and his/her significant other(s) to manage pain. These plans put the individual patient at the head of the team and develop a pain treatment plan that is specific to that patient’s needs and lifestyle. The plan is reviewed regularly by the multidisciplinary team and altered as the patient progresses through the training.
- If you are coping with chronic pain and are interested in finding a multidiciplinary team that provides a chronic pain management clinic you should look for a pain management team that has the following characteristics:
- Puts the patient at the center of the team and includes the patient’s significant others in the training
- Creates common treatment goals with input from all members of the team
- Develops treatment plans based on your individual needs
- Monitors your progress toward goals regularly
- Provides you with regular feedback
- Provides follow-up evaluations after you have completed your training
- There are also many individual alternative treatments that are successful in helping people coping with chronic pain. Those suggested by AARP Magazine (5) include:
- Movement-based therapies like yoga and Thai chi
- Nutritional and Herbal Remedies
- Mind-body Medicine like guided imagery or biofeedback
- Energy Healing like relaxing the body and the mind, acupressure or biofeedback
- Physical Manipulation like chiropractic medicine or osteopathy
There are very few of us with RA who do not have to deal with some chronic pain. I have to admit that I had no idea how many alternative treatments for chronic pain are available. Good news for us! We have many choices.
I Wish All of You a Healthy, Pain-free 2017.
Disclosure: The link below is an affiliate link. This means that if you click on the link and purchase an item, it will not cost you more but I will receive a small commission.
If you are interested in purchasing Dr. James Dillard’s book, The Chronic Pain Solution you can purchase it from Amazon here (affiliate).