Pain medicine, also known as algiatry, is used to help manage long-term pain or chronic pain that occurs from illness, diseases, and other conditions. Although doctors create comprehensive pain treatment plans, there are several pain management procedures commonly used that are grouped into one of three categories: non-invasive non-drug, non-invasive with medications, and invasive. These categories of management procedures help doctors choose procedures that suit each patient. Included in these categories are common medical treatment options such as nerve blocks, therapeutic injections, and electrical stimulation. Physical therapy and surgical procedures are also options.
Non-invasive non-drug pain management procedures are generally chosen when patients have mild pain, such as back or neck pain. Massage therapy is one procedure and can reduce the pain, swelling, and other physiological symptoms through massaging of the affected area. Physical therapy is another common option, and it involves exercises designed to help improve mobility and function. Electrical stimulation, called electrotherapy, uses low-voltage levels of electricity to stimulate the nerves of an affected area. Cutaneous stimulation is the cooling or warming of the skin to help calm nerve signals and reduce swelling or inflammation.
Another version of non-invasive pain management procedures involves using various types of medications in conjunction with basic procedures like physical therapy. Prescription and over-the-counter pain relievers are combined with other medications, if necessary. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as naproxen, can be taken for long-term pain management without the risk of organ damage or addiction. Muscle relaxants are often prescribed to stop muscle spasms. Narcotic pain relievers are prescribed sparingly because they are addictive and patients need to be closely monitored.
Invasive pain management procedures are generally used for patients with severe chronic pain or when patients do not have success with other efforts. Nerve blocks involve injections of substances that numb the nerves that are producing pain. Therapeutic injections, such as cortisone, are delivered directly to the affected site and can relieve the causes of pain sensations without going through the whole body first. Surgical procedures, such as implantation of electrotherapy devices or a medication pump, can be used to reduce pain for patients with limited mobility and suffering from extreme levels of pain.
Pain management procedures are chosen after considering several aspects. A patient’s previous and current health history, age, and cause of pain are large factors. Doctors must also consider progression of a condition and how well a patient responds to other treatments.