About chronic pain
We know everyday tasks are a struggle, but there are treatment options to manage your pain and help regain your quality of life.
Abandoned hobbies. Strained relationships. Impacted careers. Pain can steal much of what makes you YOU.
Chronic pain is defined as continuous and long-term pain lasting for more than 6 months.
It can occur anywhere in the body, and it can persist for months or even years and can be very difficult to treat.1
Types of pain
Different pains need different treatment options
Pain is initially categorised into two types, both of which can be mild, moderate, or severe:
The treatment option that will work best for you depends on the source of your pain and how it is impacting your functions. Trying to understand what treatments options are available for you can be overwhelming. Here we try to simplify it for you.
Your doctor can help you determine if you are a good candidate for specific pain treatment options. Pain management specialists are doctors who specialize in treating all kinds of pain. Pain doctors receive years of advanced specialised training in pain management and focus on treating patients with severe pain. If you do not currently have a pain management specialist, use the Pain Centre’s Locator to locate one near you.
Your doctor will follow a treatment plan that begins with basic therapies and progresses to more advanced solutions, depending on the type and severity of pain. Each person is different so your doctor may choose some therapies over others.
The most basic of these don’t require a prescription and can usually be done at home with or without help from a healthcare professional. These are treatments that do not include injections, implants, or other surgical procedures.
- Rest and diet changes
- Exercise and physical therapy
- Acupuncture, massage, and spinal adjustment
- Anti-inflammatory drugs (eg, Ibuprofen)
- Cognitive and behavioral modification
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
Other non-interventional treatments are used as a first step when there are no improvements from basic treatments such as medications prescribed by a healthcare professional to treat persistent or severe pain, prescription pain killers, muscle relaxants, antiseizure drugs, and some antidepressants.
These are typically outpatient treatment options that can provide long-term pain relief. They are less invasive and have a quicker recovery time than most surgical procedures and are often used when non-interventional treatments fail.
- Epidural steroid injections (ESI) or nerve blocks
Injection of an anaesthetic, steroid, and/or anti-inflammatory into the pained area.
- Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)
RFA is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure that uses thermal energy to interrupt pain signals at their source. RFA can be used to treat pain in the back, hips, knees, shoulders, feet, and neck, and can provide months – or even years – of relief.
- Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS)
SCS therapy can help manage chronic neuropathic pain of the lower back and limbs by using mild electrical impulses to interrupt pain signals. Boston Scientific's SCS Systems offer more therapy options in a single device than any other system, which provides a greater chance of finding effective, long-term relief for each person's individual pain. Although a minimally invasive treatment, SCS may also be used to help manage pain that is unresolved or even caused by more invasive surgical procedures.
These are more invasive procedures that may be necessary to correct structural damage or to relieve pain that does not respond to other treatments.
Surgical treatments such as laminectomy and spinal fusion may be needed when structural problems occur within the spinal column. These treatments often require prolonged postoperative hospitalisation and rehabilitation.
- Implantable drug pumps
Pumps deliver pain medication directly to the space surrounding the spinal cord. The pumps delivering the medication need frequent specialised care.
- Other surgical procedures
Often used as a last resort when other therapies fail, some surgical techniques permanently destroy nerves and tissue that conduct pain. These procedures are most often used to relieve pain due to cancer or other incurable diseases.
1 Brunton S. Approach to assessment and diagnosis of chronic pain. J Fam Pract. 2004;53(10 Suppl):S3-10. Accessed at: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0689/is_10_53/ai_n6249279/?tag=content;col1
2 Societal Impact of Pain, 2016. Abstract & Background Booklet. https://www.sip-platform.eu/sip2016booklet. Last Accessed: 09 March 2017
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