According to a PubMed article published on the National Institute of Health (NIH), acute pain is provoked by a specific disease or injury, serves a useful biologic purpose, is associated with skeletal muscle spasm and sympathetic nervous system activation, and is self-limited.
Basically, when you are in an acute pain state, your body is trying to protect itself….it is our biological make up.
Chronic pain, in contrast, may be considered a disease state. It is pain that outlasts the normal time of healing, if associated with a disease or injury. Chronic pain may also arise from psychological states, serving no biologic purpose, and have no recognizable end-point.
Finally, the NIH reports both acute and chronic pain are an enormous problem in the United States, costing 650 million lost workdays and $65 billion a year.
The treatment of acute pain is aimed at treating the underlying cause and interrupting the nociceptive (aka pain) signals. The treatment of chronic pain must rely on a multidisciplinary approach and should involve more than one therapeutic method.
This is paramount to long-term effectiveness and accountability. Doctors, Nurses, Occupational therapists, Physical therapists, Dieticians, and Psychologists all have the education to help those dealing with the effects of chronic pain; however, they must all be willing to see the person as a WHOLE and not compartmentalize them based on their knowledge or area of expertise.
Along with the assistance of healthcare professionals, there are many steps you can take following an acute onset of pain, as well as make chronic pain more manageable.
To help you address acute pain and lower your risk for chronic pain onset, try these 6 quick and effective pain relieving tips.
Try to determine what is causing your pain
Focus on your pain location (and make note that the cause of pain could be coming from somewhere else, commonly called referred pain).When does the pain occur- during an activity, after sleeping, sitting at your desk, etc? If you can’t seem to pinpoint a physical injury, look deeper.
Perhaps you are experiencing a stressful situation that is causing you to breath abnormally or tighten your muscles. We often hold tension in our neck, jaw, or hands without realizing it.
Limit using the painful area, however do not STOP moving
When you are first feeling pain, or are in an acute state, it is important to listen to your body. Often we stop moving or modify our movement in abnormal patterns. Let your pain guide you with activities.
Don’t follow the no pain, no gain theory. Think of going to the pain not through the pain with movement, however try not to anticipate the pain as that can make you tense unknowingly.
Apply moist heat or ice packs
Reduce the inflammation immediately if possible by applying ice. There is no hard evidence that cold changes the inflammation; however, cold can numb the painful nerve endings making the pain more tolerable.
If you have been experiencing pain for over 2-3 days; often contrasting moist heat with cold can significantly help reduce pain and stiffness. Try it for 10-15 minutes each, 2-3 times per day.
Gently massage the area
This can help lessen the tenderness to touch, relax any muscle spasms, increase lymphatic flow, and improve circulation. GENTLE massage is the key word here; no need to cause more pain with aggressive massaging.
Can’t reach the sore area? Use a small ball or massage tool to target the area.
Gently stretch or move the area
It is important to listen to your body and as they say “let the pain be your guide.” Once you have limited using the painful area (as noted in #2) and pain has decreased. It is time to begin gentle range of motion and stretching.
There is a difference between stretching and moving. Stretching involves holding an end range of motion and movement involves moving an area through its full range. BOTH should be pain free.
This will help reduce stiffness and tightness that sets in after an injury or onset of pain. Again GENTLE is key.
Minimize use once the area feels better
Avoid going right into your normal routine as this may inflame the area quickly and cause increased healing time needed.
It may be time to become aware of how you move, sit, stand, lift etc to avoid further exacerbation of pain. Be mindful of your movements and your body positioning throughout the day. A few little modifications to the way you move throughout the day can be enough to minimize your pain.
Once you have noticed a significant decrease in your pain; it is time to add more movements and begin a light strengthening program to prevent re-occurrence.
Some quick self-care tips, gentle movements, and a little mind body awareness can get you on the right track to more pain-free days.
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