“But his flesh upon him shall have pain, and his soul within him shall mourn” (Job 14:22). This is an ongoing series about dealing with pain and medications for pain. This month, we’ll begin to explore things other than medicine to treat pain.In the United States, we have been trained to think we must use medication to control pain. The truth is, there are many ways of dealing with pain. The next articles in the series will explore some things that will help manage pain, even if they won’t totally relieve it. If you are able to overcome pain without medication, how much healthier might you be? The methods discussed here have relatively few side effects compared to the medicines we’ve been discussing.
First, let’s look at something we all “know” with our common sense:
one of the best treatments for pain control is touch. Remember when you skinned your knee or banged your shin as a child? What
did you do? You went running to your mother. Her response was a comforting word and almost always a touch of some sort. She would rub it, pat you somewhere else, give you a hug to take your mind off it, or even offer to “kiss it.” These things were not pain relievers, per se, but they helped!Medical professionals have been learning that touch still helps adults with pain control. This may be a directed, medically-trained massage that relieves pain by dealing with spasms or decreasing pain by changing nerve functions in a painful area of the body. Massage therapy has long been used for sprains, spasms, and strains.
It doesn’t have to be so formal: this could even be a simple rub by a spouse or family member. For instance, a shoulder rub has been known to alleviate a headache or backache. This might work by releasing hormones called endorphins that act like pain relievers. Touch also probably helps by focusing the brain’s attention on another part of the body. Although the pain problem might be no different, the brain may perceive it as being lessened by shifting the focus away from the painful area or adding a different sensation to the same area.
We all realize this at some levels. Warm soaks are used to help muscles; ice packs help the pain of acute injury; itching areas are treated with scratching because a mild pain like an itch is overwhelmed with the more pointed pain of a scratch.
This “touch” phenomenon has actually been found to work so
well that people have been trained to give touch support that is not actually massage. Some hospitals have used “therapeutic touch” teams to support patients with pain after surgery or injury or even for people with severe cancer pain. These people may even be on call for use like certified therapists.
We can use touch to help alleviate our own pain. Tapping, rubbing, bracing, icing, warming, stretching, massaging, and other methods can help our bodies to lessen our perception of pain. This can be used for sudden pain such as injury but also for long- term (chronic) forms of pain.
Next month, we’ll look at stimulation methods as ways of helping pain control.«
The information contained in these articles is of an instructional nature for general information only. it is not intended to give medical advice or treatment. Before making changes in medication or other habits, consult with your health care practitioner.