Pain disorders are explicitly defined by pain, which causes significant impairment or distress, and is of enough severity to justify clinical attention. According to DSM-IV, two types of pain disorders can be identified in patients: pain disorder associated with psychological factors and a general medical condition, and a pain disorder associated with just psychological factors. Regardless the subtype, psychological factors are believed to play a significant role in the onset, severity, and maintenance of the disorder. The primary difference is that in the following diagnosis, both medical factors and psychological factors contribute to the incipience and exacerbation of the pain. Several recurrent pain conditions in children would receive this diagnosis (for instance, chest pain, frequent headaches, or abdominal pain).
What Types of Pain Disorders Exist?
Everyone hates being in pain. But what most people don’t know is that pain is a natural and beneficial nervous system response. This response is intended to have protecting effects on the body. For instance, the pain you feel when you hold your hand over a fire, or a hot surface causes you to pull your hand back. Because of this natural reaction, you won’t get burned. Musculoskeletal pain can lead you to rest an injured knee to allow it to heal.
However, there is one particular type of pain disorder, known as neuropathic pain, that doesn’t have the same protective purpose. Neuropathic pain has no identified benefits. It may be the consequence of misread signals between the body’s nerves and the brain, or due to intrinsic nerve damage. The brain reads these signals from the nerves as pain. Examples of this pain type include shingles neuropathy, scarring, carpal tunnel, and diabetic neuropathy. Finding adequate pain relief requires you to recognize the source of the pain.
7 Natural Treatments for Pain Disorders
Most pain disorders are more than just a sensation of minor to extreme discomfort. It’s a contributing factor to many severe conditions, including many forms of anxiety and depression. Specialists often refer to “degree of pain” as the “fifth vital sign.” That’s because pain can be a clinical barometer for what’s going on with your health.
Curcumin and Turmeric
Turmeric is widely known as a powdered spice used to give foods color and flavor – something similar to curries. The natural turmeric extract contains a chemical compound called curcumin. Clinical trials showed curcumin to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Research indicates that turmeric and its components can potentially alleviate arthritis inflammation and pain. With curcumin accounting for only 3% to 5% of turmeric, consumers are unlikely to get enough from diet alone. That’s why most specialists recommend a dietary supplement to help boost levels.
Most people are already familiar with fish oil. However, krill oil is much more than that. It possesses antioxidant activity that is 48 times higher than regular fish oil. Clinical trials have revealed that krill oil can help to decrease inflammation in the body, including inflammation associated with osteoarthritis.
Krill oil contains large amounts of the Omega-3 fatty acids DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) in a phospholipid form, which is more easily absorbed than the triglyceride form of the Omega-3 usually available in fish oil.
The best food sources of DHA and EPA are shellfish and fish. However, if you have difficulties reaching the recommended dose of 2 to 3 serves of fish per week, or need some extra dietary support, consider a krill oil supplement over a typical fish oil supplement to help increase your Omega-3 intake.
Ginger root has been used in Asian medicine for centuries. The plant has been shown to have COX-2 inhibitors such as celecoxib and anti-inflammatory properties similar to the prescription drug ibuprofen. Studies have shown that ginger extract reduces inflammation and decreases joint pain in people with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, by decreasing the production of certain chemical substances that are responsible for joint inflammation.
Before using a ginger-based supplement, however, talk to your healthcare professional as ginger is known to interfere with blood thinning medications.
The glucosamine in your body produces natural building blocks for maintenance, repair, and growth of cartilage – the rubber-like tissue that cushions bones at your joints. However, as you get older, your glucosamine levels begin to drop. This leads to a gradual degradation of the joints, which will result in joint pain.
Clinical research has discovered that glucosamine supplements (often combined with chondroitin) appear to improve joint function in osteoarthritis, reduce stiffness, and alleviate pain. There aren’t any natural food sources of glucosamine, so consider choosing a quality dietary supplement to help increase levels in the body.
Feverfew has been used for millennia to treat toothaches, stomach aches, and headaches. Nowadays it’s also used for rheumatoid arthritis and migraines. Additional research is needed to confirm whether feverfew is genuinely effective, but a feverfew-based supplement may be worth trying since the plant hasn’t been associated with severe side effects. Mild side effects include irritation of the tongue and lips and canker sores. Feverfew is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women.
Capsaicin is derived from hot chili peppers, and it may be useful for some individuals in relieving pain. According to David Kiefer, MD, assistant clinical professor of medicine at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, “[…]capsaicin works by depleting substance P, a compound that conveys the pain sensation from the peripheral to the central nervous system. It takes a couple of days for this to occur.”
Devil’s Claw is another herb that has been used for centuries to treat pain. There is some scientific evidence that supports the effectiveness of this South African herb may in managing lower back pain and arthritis, but further research is required. On the plus side, Devil’s Claw is believed to be safe to use, and adverse effects are very rare if taken at a therapeutic dose for the short term. Just as with Feverfew, Devil’s Claw is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women and those with gallstones or stomach or intestinal ulcers.
8 Fantastic Pain Relief Techniques That Actually Work
In many situations pain has a purpose – it can alert us that we’ve sprained an ankle, for example. But in some instances, the pain can last for weeks or even months, causing needless suffering and impeding the quality of life.
If your pain has overstayed its welcome, you should know that you have more treatment options today than ever before. Here, we’ve listed eight techniques to control and reduce your pain that doesn’t require an invasive procedure – or even taking a pill.
Cold and heat
These two tried-and-true methods are still the cornerstone of relieving pain for certain kinds of injuries. If a homemade hot or cold pack doesn’t do the trick, try asking a physical therapist or chiropractor for their versions of these treatments, which can penetrate deeper into the muscle and tissue.
Physical activity plays a vital role in interrupting the “vicious cycle” of pain and reduced mobility found in some chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia and arthritis. Try mild aerobic activities such as cycling, swimming, or walking.
Occupational therapy and physical therapy
These two specialties can be among your greatest allies in the fight against a pain disorder. Occupational therapists help you discover how to perform a range of daily activities in a way that doesn’t exacerbate your pain. Physical therapists guide you through a series of exercises designed to conserve or improve your mobility and strength.
Mind and body techniques
These techniques, which include breathing exercises, mindfulness, and meditation, help you restore a sense of control over your body and turn down the “fight or flight” response, which can worsen pain and chronic muscle tension.
Tai chi and yoga
Tai chi and yoga incorporate gentle movements, meditation, and breath control techniques, specially designed to strengthen and stretch muscles. Many studies have shown that practicing tai chi and yoga can help people fight pain disorders caused by a host of conditions, from arthritis to headaches to lingering injuries.
This technique involves learning breathing exercises and relaxation with the help of a biofeedback machine, which turns data on physiological functions (such as heart rate and blood pressure) into visual cues such as a blinking light, a graph, or even an animation. Watching and modifying the visualizations gives you a degree of control over your body’s response to pain.
Studies have shown that music can help relieve pain during and after surgery and childbirth. Classical music has proven to work especially well, but there’s no harm in trying your favorite genre — listening to any kind of music can distract you from pain or discomfort.
Not just an indulgence, massage can ease the pain by working tension out of muscles and joints, relieving stress and anxiety, and possibly helping to distract you from pain by introducing a “competing” sensation that overrides pain signals.
For more on treating common pain conditions and learning about other mind-body solutions, buy Pain Relief, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.