Pain and pain management – adults
Studies suggest that a person’s quality of life is influenced by their outlook and by the way they cope emotionally with pain.
Causes of pain
The most common causes of pain in adults include:
- medical conditions (such as cancer, arthritis and back problems)
How pain affects the body
Pain is a complex protective mechanism. It is an essential part of evolution that protects the body from danger and harm.
The body has pain receptors that are attached to two main types of nerves that detect danger. One nerve type relays messages quickly, causing a sharp, sudden pain. The other relays messages slowly, causing a dull, throbbing pain.
Managing pain without medicines
Many non-medicine treatments are available to help you manage your pain. A combination of treatments and therapies is often more effective than just one. Some non-medicine options include:
- heat or cold – use ice packs immediately after an injury to reduce swelling. Heat packs are better for relieving chronic muscle or joint injuries
- physical therapies – such as walking, stretching, strengthening or aerobic exercises may help reduce pain, keep you mobile and improve your mood. You may need to increase your exercise very slowly to avoid over-doing it
- cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) – this form of therapy can help you learn to change how you think and, in turn, how you feel and behave about pain. This is a valuable strategy for learning to self-manage chronic pain
- acupuncture – a component of traditional Chinese medicine. Acupuncture involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the skin. It aims to restore balance within the body and encourage it to heal by releasing natural pain-relieving compounds (endorphins). Some people find that acupuncture reduces the severity of their pain and enables them to maintain function. Scientific evidence for the effectiveness of acupuncture in managing pain is inconclusive
- transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy – minute electrical currents pass through the skin via electrodes, prompting a pain-relieving response from the body. There is not enough published evidence to support the use of TENS for the treatment of some chronic pain conditions. However, some people with chronic pain that are unresponsive to other treatments may experience a benefit.