Pain is a very common condition. The incidence of pain rises as people get older and women are more likely to be in pain than men. The most effective pain management strategy for pain relief with little or no side effects is massage.
Studies suggest that a person’s outlook and the way they emotionally cope with long-term (chronic) pain can influence their quality of life. Massage can help support to manage the physiological effects of chronic pain.
How pain affects the body
There are two types of pain depending on how long a person has it. Acute pain is a normal response to tissue injury, which starts suddenly and is usually short lived. Chronic (ongoing) pain persists beyond the normal time of healing and generally lasts for longer than three months. The vast majority of people with chronic pain have it for more than a year. This type of pain is usually the result of an injury (for example, a sports or work accident), illness or other health problem. The cause is unknown in around one-third of cases.
The body’s reaction to unrelieved pain includes:
Increased heart rate and blood pressure.
Changes to blood gases, namely reduced oxygen and increased carbon dioxide.
Higher levels of stress hormones including cortisol and adrenaline.
Gastrointestinal problems such as slowed digestion.
Musculoskeletal problems such as tension and fatigue.
Emotional problems such as anxiety and depression.
People can lower their levels of felt pain by learning self-management skills, such as coping with depression and stress. Some studies have shown that medication can undermine the value of developing these skills. It is important to learn the skills you need to cope with your pain and not rely on medications alone to do this.
Some non-drug pain-management strategies include:
Heat or cold – heat packs can aid relief of chronic musculoskeletal injuries and associated pain. An ice-pack can be used to help reduce swelling immediately after an injury.
Physical therapies – walking, stretching and strengthening or aerobic exercises may help relieve pain, depending on the cause. Physical activity can also help you stay active and improve your mood.
Massage – this is better suited to soft tissue injuries and should be avoided if the pain originates in the joints.
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