Don’t let medication become your go-to pain-reliever

By Sinead Nolan

Physiotherapist at Life Ready Physio + Pilates Warwick

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Pain is an unpleasant experience, but is an important alarm system in the human body. The purpose of pain is to alert us to potential tissue damage or injury, so that we can react and protect ourselves. However, pain can sometimes persist after the initial cause has been resolved. In comparison to acute, short lasting pain in response to injury, long lasting pain loses its protective function and can greatly affect a person’s quality of life.

Tackling your pain can be an important factor in ensuring that medications don’t begin to take over your life. Pain-relieving medication can be useful and important in managing acute injuries and acute pain, but when it comes to ongoing or persistent pain, there are other options to consider. Non-pharmacological approaches such as physiotherapy for pain management, exercise and massage can be used as an effective, healthy means of relief from aches and pains. 

 

EXERCISE

It is a well-known fact that exercise is beneficial in the promotion of health and cure of diseases. What is less well-known is that exercise has been proven to have a pain-relieving effect. This is known as “exercise-induced hypoalgesia”. 

Exercise is so beneficial for health and wellbeing that some researchers even suggest it should be considered a drug! When exercising at a sufficient intensity, for a sufficient period of time, our bodies release a substance called beta-endorphin. This increase in beta-endorphin has been linked to numerous physiological and psychological responses including an improved mood state, an altered response to stress hormones, and perhaps most interestingly, altered perception of pain. 

In considering exercise as powerful as a drug, it is vital to consider the exact dosing of exercise, as it is noted that over or under exercising may have unfavorable side effects. This is where physiotherapy for pain management comes in. If you are unsure of where to start, what type of exercise to be doing, or how much, physiotherapists can assist you in formulating a plan specific to your needs.

 

MASSAGE

Another non-pharmacological pain management strategy is massage, the effects of which have been studied in relation to many types of pain, including low back pain, neck and shoulder pain, pain from osteoarthritis of the knee, and headaches. Through reducing stress and anxiety, relaxation of sore and tight muscles and increased blood flow, massage can be effective in the management of pain.

Depending on your individual presentation, different types of massage may be suitable to help with your pain. Deep tissue massage is helpful for those with chronic muscular pain and inflammation-related pain, such as that caused by arthritis and tendinitis. Myofascial release helps to relieve muscular tension, while trigger point therapy is effective in the treatment of specific myofascial pain.

It is no surprise that we look for a quick escape from the unpleasant experience of pain. If you are finding that pain is affecting your day-to-day life, we are here to help you discover new options and coping mechanisms. Through detailed assessment, we will help you to devise a plan specific to your needs, to ensure that pain and medication do not take over your life. Learn more about the services we offer, such as physio for pain management, and how they can help you here

If you’re ready to book a session, reach out to us and we’ll put together a program that helps relieve your pain.

 

References:

Goldfarb, AH and Jamurtas AZ (1997), “Beta-Endorphin response to exercise. An update.” Sports Medicine, Auckland NZ. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9257407)

Kelly M. Naugle, Roger B. Fillingim, and Joseph L. Riley III, (2012), “A meta-analytic review of the hypoalgesic effects of exercise.” J Pain. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3578581/pdf/nihms411606.pdf)

J Vina, F Sanchis-Gomar, V Martinez-Bello and MC Gomez-Cabrera, (2012), “Exercise acts as a drug; the pharmacological benefits of exercise,” British Journal of Pharmacology. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3448908/pdf/bph0167-0001.pdf)

Geneen LJ, Moore RA, Clarke C, Martin D, Colvin LA, Smith BH. Physical activity and exercise for chronic pain in adults: an overview of Cochrane Reviews. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2017, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD011279. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD011279.pub3. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5461882/pdf/CD011279.pdf)

National Center fir Conpletmentart and Integrative Health, (2019), “Massage Therapy: What you need to know.” (https://nccih.nih.gov/health/massage/massageintroduction.htm)