Haims: There are many avenues to manage chronic pain, not just pills (column) | VailDaily.com

Haims: There are many avenues to manage chronic pain, not just pills (column)

Judson Haims
Special to the Daily

As we all know, pain is uncomfortable. Often it is short-lived and people manage to make it through the day with little change to the daily routine. However, what about when pain is not short-lived and it becomes chronic?

When pain becomes chronic, it can have a profound effect on a person's daily life. In addition to draining a person of energy, motivation and fortitude to complete daily tasks, pain often leads to psychological issues and, unfortunately, addiction.

As such, we too often read about opioid overdoses. The subject matter has made the forefront of both our written media and nightly news. Managing one's pain and easing the burden of suffering is one of the fundamental obligations of medical professionals. On the other hand, managing and oversight of the misuse and addiction of pain medication is complicated and challenging.

Back in the 1960s, Ronald Melzack and Patrick Wall developed the Gate Control Theory of Pain. It is only recently, though, that the healing community began to realize how significant the Gate Theory might be in the treatment of chronic pain. This philosophical change is something that could help millions of people who suffer from chronic pain.

Pain is a difficult theory to grasp: It is part psychological and part physiological. The two major systems that make up the transmission of pain are the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system.

How does Gate Theory work?

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When you cut your finger, for example, pain messages are sent along the periphery nerves to the spinal cord and are then carried to the brain via the central nervous system. However, the Gate Theory says that these pain messages encounter some sort of gate system when they enter the spinal cord. At times, these gates are open and we might feel intense pain, depending on the seriousness of the wound, or we might feel very little pain.

Nerve fibers carry the pain messages to the brain at different speeds. The Gate Theory suggests that by using different stimuli at different times during the transmittal of the pain to the spinal cord, one might soften the effects of chronic pain. For example, the use of massage or acupuncture could reduce the amount of pain the brain receives by closing the gates and not allowing the full pain message to reach the brain.

Try to think of it this way: When you fall off of your bike and you scrape your knee, it most likely is bleeding and the pain is often intense. But by rubbing the area around the injury, the pain seems to immediately lessen from intense to a dull throb. This is the Gate Theory in practice.

Try to avoid medication

When experiencing back, shoulder or any pain — even headaches — consider a chiropractor or acupuncturist. You may find it works and your exposure to medication side effects and addiction will be far less.

Step outside the Western style of medicine and thought that there is a pill for everything, and realize that there are many options for managing pain. By incorporating a mix of an Eastern philosophy of pain management whereby the focus is to assist the body in mending itself, we expand our options that collectively reduce pain with greater efficiency than just a single approach — one that could do all of us a world of good.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. Contact him at 970-328-5526 or visit http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns.

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