Living with chronic pain can be debilitating in so many ways, and not only physically. Physical pain can bring you down mentally and result in depression and stress. In order to try and cope with this, many people take opioid-based prescription medication but unfortunately, this does come with a downside which is the risk of addiction.
However, there is no need to be dismayed as scientists are continually working on new developments with regard to chronic pain relief that with be safer and more effective.
Getting to the root of the problem
Many of the current treatments for chronic pain relief mask the pain but do not deal with the cause, and this is what researchers are looking for the new treatments to do. This will have a massive impact when it comes to reducing the levels of opioid overuse and will mean that doctors will no longer have to produce millions of prescriptions for these types of painkillers.
Most of these opioids are totally legal but there is always the risk that they can be over-used and that patients build up a tolerance so that they end up taking more and more; a bad thing in so many ways. This can end up creating a problem of dependency that is even worse than the original disease for which the drugs were prescribed such as severe back pain or arthritis. Cancer patients trying to deal with constant pain are also constantly impacted upon by the use of opioid drugs.
The chronic pain relief of the future
Help is at hand and here are just a few of the new ways that are, or will soon be, available to help those suffering with serious and ongoing pain:
The TENS machine uses transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, a low-voltage electrical current for pain relief. Electrodes placed on the skin in the area of the pain send electrical impulses along the nerves, resulting in the body feeling less pain.
With this in mind, researchers are looking at creating an implant composed of a tiny wireless device that will be placed under the skin, blocking pain signals within the brain. It will also trigger the release of dopamine which has an extremely positive effect upon emotional stress. Although still in the experimental stages, it looks like being a remarkable drug-free treatment that will tackle pain head-on without any side effects.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is a process which uses blood taken from the patient. This is then treated so that it forms a concentration of platelets which are injected into the site of the pain. It works incredibly well to speed up the healing process after any type of surgery and doctors are even looking at using it to help delay operations such as hip surgery.
Stem cells have been under research for a while with regard to curing disease but now scientists are looking at using the process to deal with pain. Rather than using stem cells taken from elsewhere (a topic rife with controversy) they are actually removed from the patient’s bone marrow. Still in the preliminary stages, results are looking good so far.
This involves placing a stimulator under the skin and feeding it with an electrical impulse which passes to the spine, scrambling the pain messages being sent via the nerves so that they are no longer recognised as being anything other than comfortable. Scientists have had great success in chronic pain relief using this method on patients who have lost limbs, suffering ‘phantom limb pain’ and are refining the process day by day.
Minimally invasive surgery
Patients with problems in the spine that were creating pain, used to have to experience extremely invasive open surgery, involving the surgeon making a long incision in their back. However, spine and neck conditions are now being examined to see if they can be carried out using a minimally invasive surgical technique.
Far less obtrusive, the incision used is far smaller and endoscopes are brought into play. This technology is moving forward so fast that patients currently suffering with spinal problems may be recommended to wait a few years so that they can be treated in the new and less invasive way. Recovery is so much faster and post-operative pain is far less.
This really is the thing that science fiction is made of. Nanotechnology is so minimally invasive that instruments used are minute in size; patients may even be able to swallow them, allowing them to target the areas of chronic pain.
Scientists are even looking at using this in conjunction with gene sequencing. For example, if one of your parents had to have a hip replacement and it looks like you will suffer in the same way, they may be able to deal with the condition before it even manifests.
Rehab is now being linked to pain management, thereby making it far more effective. Scientists are looking at combining therapies with well-used physical conditioning and rehabilitation methods in order to build strength and restore function, making use of biomechanics to improve movement whilst at the same time treating the problem of pain.
The way forward for chronic pain relief
These many advances in research point the way for a new future when it comes to helping patients with chronic and long term pain. Whilst at the moment many opioid drugs are issued to block the pain without treating the cause, scientists are well on the way to producing remarkable methods that will deal with pain in a far less risky way and with fewer side effects.
Going forward, sufferers will be able to make use of one or more methods of chronic pain relief that will get to the very core of the problem, not only reducing their suffering on a day to day basis but enabling them to look forward to a future where they will be comfortable, free from pain and not suffering due to depression and stress.
They will be able to return to a normal lifestyle, living and working as normal and not having to restrict themselves when it comes to everyday activities. The growing problem of opioid addiction will also be dramatically reduced.
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