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A review in the National Library of Medicine explains that from a strictly biological perspective, “pain is an activation of the sensory nervous system’s nociceptive and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and has been described as an aversive sensory and emotional experience typically caused by or resembling that caused by, actual or potential tissue injury.” The two main types of pain are acute pain and chronic pain. Acute pain comes on suddenly, is caused by an identifiable source (e.g., injury, surgery, illness, trauma, painful medical procedures, etc.), lasts for a short period of time, and typically disappears when the underlying cause has been treated or has healed. Everyone will experience pain at some point in their lives, which is why it is advantageous to arm yourself with a variety of healthy ways to manage pain. Consider the following strategies to help you more effectively manage pain when it arises: 

  • Physical techniques:
    • Message therapy: is a type of soft-tissue manipulation that involves using different pressures, movements, and techniques to manipulate muscles and other soft tissues in the body.
    • Hot and cold therapy: Heat therapy works by improving circulation and blood flow to a particular area and the increased temperature helps relax and soothe muscles and heal damaged tissue. Cold therapy works by reducing blood flow to a particular area, which can reduce inflammation and swelling that causes pain, and can temporarily reduce nerve activity, which can also relieve pain.
    • Physical therapy: involves an array of physical techniques to strengthen and stretch the muscles and joints which can relieve pain throughout the body. 
    • Acupuncture: involves a practitioner inserting very thin needles through your skin at precise points on your body.
  • Psychological techniques:
    • Meditation: a set of techniques that are intended to encourage a heightened state of awareness and focused attention.
    • Relaxation methods: practicing relaxation tactics (e.g., listening to music, journaling, deep breathing exercises, etc.) can reduce pain by decreasing muscle tension and alleviating body aches. 
    • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): a highly structured, short-term, goal-oriented form of psychotherapy that can help you learn to change how you think and, in turn, how you feel and behave about pain.
  • Medication: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points to evidence suggesting that certain pharmacological treatments (e.g., nonopioid medications, nonpharmacological therapies, etc.) are safe and can provide relief to those suffering from acute pain.

Unlike acute pain, chronic pain is typically defined as pain lasting at least 3 to 6 months or that which persists past the time for normal tissue healing. Chronic pain is a highly common condition, affecting an estimated 20% of people worldwide. It can occur as the result of several issues ranging from a potential underlying medical condition or disease to inflammation of injured tissue, to neuropathic pain. The complexities of chronic pain require a multidisciplinary approach to pain management. A customized treatment plan that considers an individual’s unique circumstances and is tailored to address his or her nuanced and distinct needs is essential to the efficacy of treatment.  

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