Conservative medical pain management basically refers to non-surgical treatment for pain. Non-invasive or minimally-invasive treatments like medication or physical therapy are generally considered safer than surgical procedures, as they do not entail risks like bleeding or infection. In many cases, doctors will only recommend surgery as a last result when other treatments have failed. Conservative medical pain management is most effective if the cause of the pain is diagnosed early, before the joint, muscle or other affected body part has sustained too much damage to respond to such measures.
Heat and Cold
We may first suggest using cold packs or heating pads to ease the pain. Both have therapeutic effects. Heat, for example, reduces muscle spasms and stimulates blood flow by dilating blood vessels. Heat therapy can be moist or dry. The moist type involves the patient either submerging the painful part in hot water or applying a hot, wet washcloth or towel. In the dry form, the patient uses a heat lamp or heating pad.
Cold therapy works by numbing the affected part and constricting blood vessels. It also reduces swelling and inflammation. Ice can be used for both acute and chronic pain, while heat is typically for chronic pain. The American Board of Rheumatology recommends using ice during the first 48 hours of the onset of pain and then switching to heat.
In many cases, we will begin treating pain by recommending an OTC medication such as Tylenol or Advil. There are several types that affect pain differently. Acetaminophen, for example, eases pain by affecting those parts of the brain that regulate body temperature and receive pain messages. It can, therefore, reduce a fever, as well as relieve pain. Acetaminophen is often used to treat headaches or arthritis pain.
Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that relieves pain by reducing the amount of prostaglandins in the patient’s body. They are hormone-like substances that irritate nerve endings and, thus, cause pain. Aspirin is an NSAID that has existed in one form or another for 2,000 years.
Exercise and Physical Therapy
Exercise has multiple benefits. As a medical pain management method, it increases overall fitness and strengthens muscles and joints. It can also increase a patient’s pain threshold and their range of motion. Exercise can also help a patient lose weight, and that reduces the pressure put on knee and hip joints.
A physical therapist or similar type of professional can evaluate the patient and advise them on which exercises might help them – and which ones they should avoid. For example, running is often not recommended because of the immense pressure it puts on joints. Swimming and other exercises in the water, by contrast, put little pressure on the joints.
These are just some of the common treatments for conservative medical pain management. You can learn more about your options during a consultation at Innovative Medicine in Lafayette. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and get started.