How to get rid of pain

Irish Sunday Mirror - - YOUR HEALTH - With Dr Dawn Harper GP and doc­tor on TV’S Em­bar­rass­ing Bod­ies

NEARLY half of adults suf­fer from chronic pain – that’s peo­ple liv­ing with an ache that lasts more than three months.

Most see their GP about back pain, mus­cu­lar and skele­tal pain and headaches.

Dr Dawn Harper, star of TV’S Em­bar­rass­ing Bod­ies, en­coun­ters pa­tients in pain at lit­er­ally ev­ery surgery.

She says: “We ask peo­ple to de­scribe their pain as a burn­ing pain, an aching pain, a sharp pain, be­cause that helps us to dif­fer­en­ti­ate what might be go­ing on.

“Pain thresh­old is re­duced when you’re sleep de­prived, when you’re tense or when you’re down. Ev­ery­body’s ex­pe­ri­ence of pain is very dif­fer­ent.”

Eat­ing and sleep­ing well, stay­ing ac­tive and main­tain­ing a healthy weight can help to stave off pain. But if you suf­fer, vis­it­ing your GP is a must, says Dr Dawn.

She adds: “They will want to know when it started, did some­thing trig­ger it, can you de­scribe the pain and whether it moves any­where. Are there as­so­ci­ated symp­toms?”

Here Dr Dawn talks us through the most com­mon types of pain and how to tackle

them.

Mus­cu­lar and skele­tal pain

When you sprain a mus­cle, your brain knows it hurts and tells you not to use it.

If the pain is due to an in­jury from a par­tic­u­lar ex­er­cise, then I ad­vise rest.

But if you’ve in­jured your leg, for ex­am­ple, you can still do up­per body work. And swim­ming is non-weight­bear­ing.

Peo­ple will of­ten get mus­cle pain with some­thing like flu.

But if you’ve got flu you wouldn’t even think about ex­er­cis­ing.

It to­tally wipes you out – so rest, drink plenty and take sim­ple painkillers.

Headaches and migraines

Ten­sion headaches and migraines are the com­mon pains. They can be re­lated to pos­ture and sit­ting in an awk­ward po­si­tion. Eye strain can cause headaches – so think about get­ting them tested. De­hy­dra­tion will give you a headache, par­tic­u­larly at this time of year, so stay well hy­drated. Check the colour of your urine – it should be straw or cham­pagne coloured. But headaches are of­ten stress re­lated. I get pa­tients to write down all the things that stress them out.

It’s about iden­ti­fy­ing those trig­gers and work­ing out the best way to deal with them.

We pre­scribe milder painkillers if we can as the stronger ones that con­tain opi­ates are ad­dic­tive.

Over-the-counter painkillers are very ef­fec­tive, par­tic­u­larly parac­eta­mol and ibupro­fen, which also re­duces any in­flam­ma­tion.

Neu­ral­gic pain

This is where pain fi­bres are kick­ing off and telling your body there’s some­thing wrong when ac­tu­ally it’s just the nerve end­ings mal­func­tion­ing.

It causes a burn­ing sen­sa­tion and it is chal­leng­ing to treat.

We can use dif­fer­ent fam­i­lies of drugs rather than just painkillers – for in­stance, an­tide­pres­sants to try to damp down the nerve end­ings, or anti-epilep­tic drugs.

Pe­riod pain

This is a re­ally com­mon prob­lem and I tend to treat it with sim­ple painkillers in the first in­stance.

There are some pre­scrip­tion an­ti­in­flam­ma­to­ries specif­i­cally tar­geted at the uterus. They re­duce blood flow which can help be­cause monthly pains are as­so­ci­ated with heav­ier pe­ri­ods.

A hot wa­ter bot­tle placed on the lower ab­domen is also quite ef­fec­tive.

And we know that women who ex­er­cise tend to have less pe­riod pain.

Back pain

Putting your back out is such a com­mon prob­lem. Na­ture would have us on all fours – your back’s nat­u­ral po­si­tion. So from the minute you get out of bed in the morn­ing all the deep mus­cles in your back and your neck are work­ing all day to keep you up­right against grav­ity. When it goes wrong it can take quite a long time to re­cover. The most com­mon cause is me­chan­i­cal pain, mus­cu­lar and skele­tal, and we also see lot of disc prob­lems. We ask a pa­tient if there’s any al­ter­ing of sen­sa­tion – numb­ness or tin­gling – and what makes it bet­ter and what makes it worse. Is it bet­ter or worse walk­ing around or ly­ing down? We look at the range of move­ment too. As soon as we know there’s noth­ing sin­is­ter go­ing on we cover up with painkillers to al­low peo­ple to keep mo­bile. It’s im­por­tant to main­tain your core sta­bil­ity so we do en­cour­age peo­ple to move around. Pi­lates en­cour­ages core sta­bil­ity – and os­teopa­thy, chi­ro­prac­tic treat­ment and acupunc­ture are also ef­fec­tive.

Joint pain

Arthritic pain is com­mon, par­tic­u­larly in knees, and ex­cess weight will put more strain on your joints. Ex­er­cise be­comes dif­fi­cult if, for in­stance, you have a pain­ful knee. But this is where swim­ming re­ally comes into its own – the wa­ter takes all the strain off your joints while keep­ing them mo­bile. The most com­mon arthri­tis we deal with is os­teoarthri­tis, which can ease as peo­ple be­come more mo­bile through­out the day. We have pain man­age­ment clin­ics where a specialist will take a de­tailed his­tory of your con­di­tion and try a range of things. These in­clude med­i­ca­tion, vi­bra­tion ma­chines which dis­tract the pain from the brain, pain re­lief in­jec­tions un­der ul­tra­sound guid­ance and psy­cho­log­i­cal ther­apy. If we can’t stop chronic pain, we can teach peo­ple how to con­trol it.

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