VANCOUVER – Pain management is a branch of medicine aimed at reducing patient suffering and boosting quality of life. While some experts distinguish between pharmacological and non-pharmacological approaches to treating pain, Dr. Fiona Campbell, a pediatric anesthetist based in Toronto and the incoming head of the Canadian Pain Society, breaks the strategies into three areas: pharmacological, physical and psychological. Marc White, a medical researcher and president of the Canadian Institute for the Relief of Pain and Disability says there is good evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of these alternative options for treating some subsets of the population.
Pharmacological: The drugs and medications available over the counter or through a doctor’s prescription. These methods tend to receive the most research funding and better coverage within Canada’s medical system, making them easier to access for people who don’t have private health insurance. Examples of the drugs include anti-inflammatory drugs, acetaminophen, narcotics.
Physical: These interventions range from behavioural modifications, such as exercise or physiotherapy, to more invasive procedures, such as surgery or steroid injections. Examples for the intervention include steroid injections, exercise, physiotherapy, massage, acupuncture, heat/cold application
Psychological: Mental techniques tend to focus on a person’s relationship with pain, engaging with the behaviours, feelings and thoughts that accompany physical suffering. Techniques include psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness, meditation, hypnosis, relaxation techniques
Sources: American Psychological Association, American Chronic Pain Association