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Managing Chronic Pain

Finding Chronic Pain Relief

Chronic pain has many causes and possible treatments—no single treatment works best for everyone. Even two people with the same kind of pain may need different treatments. It is important to find a doctor who specializes in pain management. Pain specialists can help you find a treatment that gives you the most relief. 

Pain management doctors, or pain specialists

Pain specialists have advanced training in diagnosing, treating and rehabilitating people with chronic pain. They often work as part of a team with nurses, physical therapists and mental health professionals. 

Types of pain therapies

The treatment your pain specialist recommends for you will depend on your condition and your response to previous treatments. Typically, a pain specialist will try a progression of therapies until your pain is sufficiently relieved. Below are examples of pain therapies that your pain specialist may recommend.

Behavioral therapies

  • Exercise: Light exercise, such as walking, stimulates the release of the body’s natural pain relievers called endorphins. Exercise also promotes flexibility, strength and endurance and helps reduce stress. It can strengthen unused or weak muscles to compensate for an overworked muscle that is causing pain.
  • Rehabilitative therapy: Techniques such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, massage therapy and chiropractic therapy can help reduce pain and increase function. Rehabilitative therapy is often combined with other treatments, such as medications.
  • Cognitive and behavioral modification: The way you respond to pain depends on your personality, culture and past pain experiences. These therapies can help you learn new ways to deal with chronic pain, such as relaxation techniques and visualization exercises. 

Pain medications

  • Over-the-counter pain medications: Aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen work to reduce pain and inflammation in the body.
  • Opioids: Opioids are powerful pain medications often prescribed when chronic pain does not respond to over-the-counter pain medications. 
  • Nerve blocks: A procedure that involves applying a local anesthetic or steroids directly to the nerve that is causing the pain. Nerve blocks may relieve pain temporarily by having a numbing effect or by decreasing the swelling of tissues around the nerve. 

Surgical procedures

  • Neurolysis: A procedure that uses chemicals or extreme temperatures to stop a nerve from sending pain signals to the brain. 
  • Surgery: A procedure to correct an anatomical defect or defect due to an illness or injury. 
  • Radiofrequency therapy: A procedure that blocks nerve pathways to the brain by using a targeted treatment to inhibit the ability of the nerve to transmit a pain signal. St. Jude Medical provides specialized equipment to doctors for performing radiofrequency (RF) therapy procedures. To learn more about RF procedures, watch our video.

Nerve stimulation 

  • Neuromodulation: A therapy that influences the signals sent to the brain through the use of an implanted device. This can be done through the application of electrical signals with neurostimulation, or through the direct delivery of medication with the use of a drug administration system.
  • Transcutaneous electrical stimulation (TENS): In TENS therapy, electrical pulses are applied to nerve endings through electrodes placed on the skin over the painful area. Researchers theorize that these pulses temporarily interrupt the transmission of pain signals from small sensory nerves at the site of the pain.

Your physician or pain specialist will recommend whether any of these pain therapies are best for you and your condition. 

Learn more

Discover what receiving neurostimulation therapy can involve.