Andie V. Melendez, MSN, RN, CHTP, HTCP, HSMI, RM
Director, Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses (AMSN)
Pain management during a global pandemic presents many challenges to both health care providers and patients, including care access, infection prevention and control, and mental health concerns related to controlling the level of discomfort.
Delays in treatment, canceled appointments, financial burdens and lack of access to exercise facilities present new challenges in effective non-pharmaceutical management practices. Identifying methods that effectively reduce pain is vital for the patient to achieve a high quality of life.
In an era of opioid addiction and dependence, it is imperative that we explore all aspects of pain and ways to effectively improve life quality.
Aspects of pain management
Pain management includes medicines, therapies, and activities that decrease or resolve discomfort from injury, surgery, or illness. Effectively managing pain promotes rest, healing, and improves quality of life by allowing for maximum enjoyment of the activities of daily life.
Pain can be multidimensional, and failure to control pain can alter sleep, appetite, energy levels, mood, and outlook. Thus, managing pain promotes life balance, affecting mind, body, and spirit.
It is important to recognize there is no textbook or standard approach that will work for everyone. Your healthcare provider will provide diagnostic tests (X-rays, scans, ultrasounds, etc.) to determine any underlying issues that may require surgical or rest intervention.
Your physician may order medications to address your specific pain issues. They will identify the physical cause of your pain, and whether you are suffering from acute pain (starts suddenly related to trauma or surgery, and usually resolves in a short time), or chronic pain (pain that becomes long-term or lasts for months after recovery from an acute condition, or is caused by degenerative diseases like joint disease or osteoarthritis).
You may be given narcotic (opioid) or muscle relaxant oral medications for pain, or be directed to use over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen. There is also great success for nerve-related pain by using antidepressant, anticonvulsant, and steroid medications to work on the nerve transmission of pain.
In addition to these medications, you might want to consider complementary modalities to increase your comfort and enhance your activities of daily life.
Locating your pain
Finding what works best for you requires taking an individualized approach, exploring all contributing factors that affect your comfort and well-being.
Identify what the pain feels like. See if you can tie the pain to an event or activity like eating, bending over, or sitting too long. Some of the discomfort may be relieved by changing position, taking pressure off of certain body points, walking or exercising, and changing your dietary practices.
Once you have identified characteristics of your pain and you have assured there is no contraindication, you might consider some complementary therapies to reduce your discomfort. These may include yoga, acupuncture, acupressure, massage therapies, therapeutic/healing touch, Reiki, and biofeedback therapy and meditation, to name a few.
Guided meditations, as well as art and music therapies, are easily accessed and free on YouTube and many relaxation/stress management sites. These therapies reduce anxiety and promote relaxation, which alone may decrease discomfort and improve your well-being.
Stress management also plays a vital role in reducing pain and should be considered when exploring ways to improve well-being and life quality. Many people discover that effective life balance reduces pain and discomfort, and they no longer require as much pharmacological support.
Mobility is key
Immobility causes stiff joints and issues with effective body organ function (effective breathing, digestive issues, etc.). First and foremost, develop an effective exercise regimen that fits your lifestyle and ability. Walking is the best low-impact exercise and requires no equipment, gym membership, or travel.
Pain management during a pandemic presents many challenges we never considered before. But that doesn’t need to stop you from identifying ways to enhance the quality of your life and decreasing pain and discomfort.
Always consult your physician when you experience unexpected pain, long-standing pain that gets worse, or have a traumatic injury that reduces your ability to enjoy your life to the fullest.
Remember, pain is not always physical in nature, and we need balance both mentally and physically. As we work our way past this pandemic, consider including holistic therapies and modalities for not only managing pain, but for balancing your life to enhance your internal harmony in mind, body, and spirit.