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Suggestions to avoid needing pain relievers

 

I have been helping residents of Murfreesboro and surrounding areas find drug-free solutions to pain for more than two decades.  I have heard many thousands of stories about how people handle pain.  Occasionally I encounter a patient that tells me sincerely that they do not use pain relievers at all.  These people are very rare.  Nearly everyone uses over-the-counter or prescription pain medication at times. 

 

Even the safest of the pain relieving drugs has numerous warnings about unhealthy and even potentially deadly side effects, yet pain relievers remain big sellers.  It would appear that we are a nation of people in pain.

 

The most common complaints of pain for which patients seek care are: back and neck pain, headaches, joint pain (including arthritis and injuries), abdominal pain and chest pain in that order. 

 

Back pain is a leading cause for patients to visit a doctor for relief.  It is reported that over 80% of adults will experience disabling back pain at some point in their life.  That is an astonishing statistic, but one that has not improved in decades.  In fact, the rate of lower back pain is increasing among adults.  Obviously, we are doing something wrong.

 

One big part of the back pain puzzle is the ratio of active versus sedentary behavior.  As a society, we spend a lot more time sitting and much less time actively engaged in work or leisure than we did a decade ago.

 

Active people tend to have fewer complaints of pain than sedentary people.  A gradual increase in your activity level will likely be a good thing for a number of reasons.

 

Neck pain and upper back pain can be associated with use of a computer, watching television, or sitting in a static posture for too long.  Using a keyboard and mouse can be especially aggravating.  This activity tends to create painful muscle spasms in the neck and shoulder area. 

 

If you are like many people and are required to use a computer for long periods of time for work or other reasons, seek professional guidance on steps you can take to minimize the problem.  Taking breaks and intentionally moving your head gently through range of motion is a good place to start.

 

Headaches can be related to the first two problems.  I have seen many people with frequent headaches related to spinal problems.  In order to relieve the headaches, it is necessary to resolve the spinal problems.  Spinal problems are such a frequent cause of headaches, including tension, sinus, and even migraine, that improving spinal function can lead to relief in many cases. 

 

Headaches can also be secondary to eye strain, digestive issues, emotional or mental stress, sinus and upper respiratory issues or other problems. 

 

It is a good idea to seek professional help in determining the cause of your headaches.  Note that recommending a pain reliever is not helping you identify and correct the cause of the headaches.  Masking the pain with drugs is not a safe or healthy choice.  Finding the cause of the headaches and resolving that problem is important.

 

One of the most interesting avenues of pain research involves the role of myofascial pain.  Myofascial pain originates from the connective tissues in our bodies.  New research is demonstrating the presence of pain-producing nerve cells in the net-like fascia that connects our entire body.  Scientists are now recognizing that myofascial pain may be largely responsible for much of the suffering from chronic and sub-acute pain.  This is one reason regular stretching can be pain-relieving.

 

Even more fascinating is the fact that the patterns of connective fascia resemble the so-called energy meridians described by acupuncturists long ago.  This is theorized as one of the reasons acupuncture can be so effective for so many types of pain and dysfunction.

 

Abdominal and chest pain should always be diagnosed by a doctor.  Even if you find that the pain is relieved by over-the-counter drugs, you should seek to find and resolve the cause of the pain rather than relying on the medication.

 

Next week:  The article about bee keepers I promised last month!

 

Thank you for reading the Murfreesboro Post and this column. 

  

Dr. Mark Kestner


Article published in Murfreesboro Post January 9, 2011.