We’ve all felt acute pain: the recovery from a broken limb, a pulled muscle after a workout, the pain that comes from a burn while cooking. It’s a pain that comes on suddenly, doesn’t last long, and is actually a sign intended to protect you from further harm.
“Acute pain is a sign that your body is feeling distressed and that you have an injury. Your body is supposed to send signals like that,” explains William Burkett, OTR/L of Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital’s pain management program. “When pain becomes a problem and it persists for more than a few days or weeks, it’s considered chronic in nature.”
Unlike acute pain, chronic pain usually lasts more than three months; and, for many patients, is the result of past injuries. If you’ve been suffering from issues like low back pain, headaches, or arthritis pain for more than three months, you could be suffering from chronic pain. Unfortunately, turning to the medicine cabinet alone won’t always help.
“Most people who have chronic pain have already tried medication,” says Burkett. “To really find long-term relief, they need to go beyond that and look for other treatment options.”
Treatment for chronic pain
When medication and physical therapy aren’t enough to treat your chronic pain, a pain management program can help. Options include:
- Physical/occupational therapy and exercise
- Medical management to identify appropriate procedures and treatment options, including pharmacological, interventional or alternative procedures and techniques
- Aquatic therapy to increase muscle strength and mobility and decrease pain
- Psychological treatment to reduce dependent behavior as a result of your pain and help with adjustment to injury issues
- Biofeedback, a technique to improve your health by using signals from their own body for pain control and stress reduction
Although any of these treatments can be beneficial, every patient’s treatment plan is customized according to their personal health history and an initial evaluation performed by a physician or a therapist.
“No matter what therapy or combination of therapies is determined to be right for you, the goal of a pain management program is to minimize your pain and teach coping methods for how you can deal with it,” says Burkett. “We want to allow our patients to get back to their usual activities.”