Common Treatment Methods for Chronic Pain

12 Dec 2017

What is Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain causes excruciating, debilitating pain for months and in some cases, years, affecting nearly 28 million people in Britain alone – more than those who have diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined.

Chronic pain may occur as a result of injury, an ongoing cause such as illness or there may be no clear cause at all. Health issues that commonly accompany chronic pain are fatigue, sleep disturbance, decreased appetite, and mood changes. The condition may also limit a person’s movements, which can reduce flexibility, strength, and stamina. This difficulty in carrying out even the most mundane of activities can cause sufferers to lose their careers and independence, often pushing them into a self-imposed exile which puts strain on their relationships with friends and family. Click here to read more about how chronic pain conditions can effect the claimants everyday life.

Treatment Options

There are a range of different treatment options which may be effective in managing and treating the symptoms associated with chronic pain that can be recommended and prescribed to the claimant by their GP. The most common methods of treatment consist of oral medication such as:

  • Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) – There are many different types of NSAIDs, some of which may be obtained over-the-counter like ibuprofen. NSAIDs can be very effective for acute muscular and bone pain as well as some types of chronic pain syndromes. However, when taken for an extended period of time or in large quantities, they may have negative effects on the kidneys, clotting of blood, and gastrointestinal system.
  • Tricyclic Antidepressants – Some of the older categories of antidepressants may also be very helpful in controlling pain; specifically, the tricyclic antidepressants. The pain-relieving properties of these medications are such that they can relieve pain in doses that are lower than the doses needed to treat depression. These medications are not meant to be taken on an “as needed” basis but must be taken every day whether or not the claimant is experiencing pain. Side effects may include sedation, which can be managed by taking the medication at night and dry mouth, which can be treated with drinking enough fluids.
  • Anticonvulsants (Anti-seizure medication) Much like anti-depressants, anticonvulsants must be taken every day in order to be effective. This form of medication can treat the tell-tale symptoms of Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) such as burning and shooting pain sensations located in the affected area. Common side effects include drowsiness, which can improve over time as the body adjusts to the medication, and possible weight gain.
  • Opioids – The mainstay approach to treating chronic pain syndromes is opioid therapy. When used appropriately, opioids can be very effective in controlling pain. One of the most frequent side effects is constipation which may require treatment through other medications. Drowsiness is another common side effect which much like with the use of anti-depressants, can improve over time.

Due to the various severities of chronic pain, it can be hard to determine which treatment is most suitable for the patient – for this it is best to instruct a pain expert who can assess the individual and produce a tailored treatment plan best suited to their symptoms.

Dr Christopher Jenner and Dr Ivan Ramos-Galvez are recognised to be leading clinicians in Pain and Anaesthesia and as medico legal experts, by their peer group and their patients. If you have any queries surrounding the topic of chronic pain, do not hesitate to contact us.