Strategies for Managing Chronic Pain After a Serious Injury
Injury is the third leading cause of disability and death in all age groups, causing acute or chronic pain.
Pain that lasts for more than three months is considered chronic—and over 100 million Americans experience it, as reported by the Institute of Medicine.
A tailored pain management strategy is vital for coping with pain to avoid self-treatment with opioids and alcohol. The chosen method depends on what type of injury is sustained, with many kinds of pain responding well to holistic approaches such as rest, yoga, physical therapy, alignment, and over-the-counter pain relievers.
Managing Long-Term Pain Caused by Trauma
Trauma-related pain can be caused by work accidents, vehicle crashes, and falls. And when they involve the severe spine, spinal cord, or brain injuries, they are known as ‘catastrophic injuries.’
These tend to be long-term, and they can involve the loss of vital functions. They often require the assistance of catastrophic injury lawyers when ill intent, negligence, or similar actions are involved since they can also interfere with a person’s ability to make a living.
Treatment can be lengthy and involve various types of therapy. Moreover, traumatic injuries cause PTSD and other types of mental distress.
Doctors usually recommend that patients take a combined approach involving physical therapy and prescription medication. The latter can include NSAIDs, acetaminophen, antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs, and opioids. Because opioids can cause dependence, addiction, and overdose, they should only be prescribed as a last resort or treat acute pain that lasts for five days or less.
Non-Opioid Pain Management
Patients should discuss non-opioid-based pain management to avoid dependence on these drugs. A few therapies found in numerous studies to be helpful include acupuncture, cold and heat, exercise, massage, and therapy (occupational, physical, and rehabilitation).
More novel approaches include radiofrequency neurotomy, which targets specific nerves and temporarily switches their ability to send pain signals.
Additional approaches include extracorporeal shock wave therapy (used to quell the pain associated with musculoskeletal problems) and high-intensity laser therapy, which has anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.
Embracing Trauma-Centered Yoga
Yoga has been incorporated into many medical and psychiatric therapies, with recent research showing that it can help those experiencing trauma and chronic pain.
There is a yoga specialism called trauma-centred yoga catered for those with PTSD and chronic pain. This specialty recognizes that people who have been through trauma have lost their sense of control over their bodies, and Trauma-centered yoga enables them to feel more in control.
One study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that yoga helped women who had been through trauma tolerate physical and sensory experiences related to their harrowing experiences.
The Power of Mindfulness-Based Interventions
Yoga is just one of many “mindfulness-based interventions.” Studies have shown that it can be particularly powerful when used alongside similar approaches like meditation.
In one 2021 study involving participants with mild TBI, researchers found that meditation, yoga, and other mindfulness-based interventions resulted in a significant improval of overall symptoms, cognitive performance, quality of life, and other markers.
Participants saw a massive improvement in fatigue and depression.
Breath-Focused Practices Can Boost Focus
After a TBI, people can feel groggy or have ‘brain fog’ and have trouble concentrating; pranayama breathing can potentially help them feel more centered.
Scientists have established a link between mediation, ancient breath-focus practices such as pranayama, and the ability to focus on tasks.
Pranayama breathing, frequently practiced with yoga postures and meditation, aims to clear the body of physical and emotional obstacles. It seeks to allow breath (and prana, or energy) to flow freely through the body.
Research undertaken at Trinity College Dublin has found that these activities hone the ability to focus, reduce mind wandering, create more positive emotions, and decrease emotional reactivity.
Scientists found that breathing affects the levels of a natural brain chemical called noradrenaline, which is released when we are focused or emotionally aroused.
When human beings are stressed, they produce too much noradrenaline, and they cannot focus. When they are sluggish, on the other hand, they produce too little, and once again, concentrating on a task becomes difficult.
Controlled breathing enables people to alter their level of arousal, attention, and emotional control by helping to keep noradrenaline at optimal levels.
This activity can help people in everyday life, but after trauma, it can be a crucial tool that can help people maintain their steadiness of mind.
Managing Burn-Related Pain
Sometimes, pain is caused by burn-related injuries. In addition to taking over-the-counter medications such as NSAIDs, patients are generally advised to rest since stress can increase pain as muscles begin to tighten.
Controlled breathing, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation can help reduce stress and improve energy levels and mood. Burns take time to heal and require frequent cleansing and dressing changes to avoid infection.
This process in itself can be painful, but it is necessary to bandage the burn loosely to keep air and bacteria off the affected area.
Lots of Americans live in chronic pain today. Generally, over-the-counter medications are recommended, since more potent drugs such as opioids can cause addiction.
Novel approaches such as radiofrequency neurotomy are also proving popular, owing to their ability to quell even severe pain temporarily.
Mindfulness-based activities such as yoga and pranayama breathing, meanwhile, can potentially be helpful when it comes to reducing stress and sharpening focus.