What is pain?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary; pain is the physical feeling caused by disease, injury, or something that hurts the body.
Why is pain important?
A pain signal is sent to the spinal cord or the brain and tells the body that something is wrong and there is tissue being damaged. For example, the decision to remove your hand from a hot surface is made by the spinal cord in a matter of milliseconds. Impressive; the pain signal didn’t even have to go to the brain! In short, pain signals tell our bodies to STOP damaging tissues.
What should we do about our pain?
Step 1: Listen to it! – For example, if lifting something heavy is painful, stop lifting it.
Step 2: Localize/Characterize the pain. Is this something severe? Is this an emergency? – If this is not an emergency situation, continue to Step 3.
Step 3: RICE – Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate. – Rest is self-explanatory (see Step 1). Ice should not be placed directly on the skin. To avoid tissue damage (pain) from ice, do not use it longer than 20 minutes at a time. Remove it and allow the skin to return to its normal temperature before reapplying. Compressing the area of pain will activate mechanoreceptors, which will distract the brain from feeling the pain. Elevation is for managing blood flow and inflammation.
Step 4: If the pain continues, make an appointment with your doctor. – Chiropractors for muscle, joint, and nerve pain; Osteopathic and Medical doctors for lacerations, suspected fractures, and other more severe injuries.
Step 5: If all else fails; you may want to consider pain medications or anti-inflammatory medications.
Why should pain medications be our last resort?
Pain is a symptom. Pain medications mask the symptom by blocking the pain signal from reaching the spinal cord and brain. The pain is still there, you just can’t feel it. Tissue is still being damaged, more so now that you can’t feel it and listen to it. This leads your body to try to stabilize the area of pain, to remove the stimulus by creating scar tissue, calcifying ligaments and tendons, splinting joints with inflammation and muscle to spasms, and eventually leading to degeneration. Some medications cause tissue damage in other areas of the body (not originally the site of pain/tissue damage). Ibuprofen and naproxen sodium commonly cause digestive issues like ulcerations. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is actually a toxic substance to both the brain and liver; it causes damage in these areas after it depletes the body of glutathione (the most powerful antioxidant in the body). Steroid injections cause localized osteoporosis (with long-term use) which predisposes you to fractures. Need I say more?
It is important to address the cause of the pain, rather than focusing on the symptoms.
*It is important to read the side-effects on the medication labels or ask your pharmacist how these pain medications can affect you. Also, drugs.com is a good resource to use.
*This post is not recommending or prescribing medications in any way and is meant for educational purposes only.