Pain management methods can be divided into two broad categories: traditional pain management and alternative therapy. The ultimate goal of the therapies used in both categories is to bring the patient some type of relief and improve the quality of life, especially if the cause of the pain itself is not treatable, or will take time to accomplish. Traditional pain management methods include medicines, occupational and physical therapy, exercise, and surgery. Alternative methods include acupuncture and hypnosis, just to name a few. Choosing the right method, or mix of methods, is ultimately an individual choice.
Many individuals choose a traditional approach to pain management, which is also called algiatry. This traditional approach often involves medication to help relieve or cover the symptoms of the pain. The most common types of pain relievers sold over the counter include acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). Acetaminophen works by acting on the parts of the brain that receive pain indications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories work by reducing the hormone that is responsible for sending the message of pain to the brain.
Physical and occupational therapy pain management methods can also help relieve the pain by exercising parts of the body that are weak or underdeveloped. This is an especially popular option after certain events, such as strokes and accidents. Those undergoing therapy typically meet with a therapist multiple times a week, at least at first. While the patient may experience some discomfort during the sessions, the goal is to make the body strong enough that chronic pain is lessened or eliminated altogether.
Of all the pain management methods, surgery is likely to be the most invasive, costly, and risky. Surgery can help reduce or relieve pain by improving the situation causing the pain, such as a bad joint, or repairing the situation, such as a broken bone. In cases where surgery is used as a method for pain management, the ultimate goal may be to fix the source of the problem. In some situations, that cannot happen fully, but surgery may still help reduce pain.
Non-traditional pain management methods are called that simply because they are new to certain cultures, at least in certain situations. Some non-traditional methods, such as acupuncture, have become increasingly accepted in the mainstream. Acupuncture works by stimulating certain points in the body, which helps to reduce the pain by, theoretically, stimulating energy in the body that helps to fight feelings of pain. Hypnosis works by using the power of the brain to ignore or overcome feelings of discomfort and pain.