People deal with pain in different ways. A lot depends on how you were brought up, your background, and your own personality. But most of us have two very wrong beliefs about pain. The first is the extremist view of pain, namely, you either have a lot of pain or you have no pain. There is no middle ground. To an extremist, any pain treatment that does not completely eliminate pain is a failure. That’s not only a mistaken notion, it can severely handicap you in terms of getting real pain control.
The second wrong belief about pain is that you can always effectively treat pain with one approach. In this view, if you have pain, you should be able to get rid of it with a pill or some other treatment. The idea is that pain is simple and one thing should put an end to it.
The fact is that pain is complex and that pain relief does not always come in 100% increments. That is why a multimodal approach to chronic pain is important. Multimodal means multiple modalities or more than one approach. Instead of just taking a pill or using a cream, you try a variety of things to help you. And instead of expecting these things to provide 100% relief, you look for whatever relief you can get.
For instance, let’s say you suffer from moderate chronic pain. You may get a prescription from your physician that gets rid of about 50% of your pain. An extremist might say that the pill didn’t work! But the pill works quite well; it just needs some more help.
So let’s say you started to get some massage therapy and you found that massage helped your pain levels about 10%. Does that mean you should give up massages? No! You now have two remedies that, when combined, can get rid of about 60% of your pain.
You may start exploring some other therapies and find out that water aerobics improved your pain levels another 10%. An extremist might think: why bother? But you know that if you add this to your multimodal repertoire, you now have 70% pain reduction.
In multimodal pain therapy, you keep trying to find things that relieve your pain, even if they do not completely eliminate it. You may get help from diet (including things like eliminating artificial sweeteners, sugar, white flour), exercise, acupuncture, massage therapy, physical or occupational therapy, music therapy, walking, hot baths, aromatherapy, prescription drugs, or relaxation. You may find that keeping regular sleeping hours (getting up and going to bed the same time every day) and getting sufficient sleep helps a lot. Getting enough water, eliminating junk food, and taking a few “outdoor” breaks to breathe some fresh air and get some sunshine are all helpful.
The goal of multimodal pain therapy is to reach 100% pain relief, even if you need to do a variety of different things to get that 100% relief. Multimodal therapy also means understanding that for some people, 100% pain relief is not going to happen. Some people with chronic pain may have to live a long time with some degree of pain. The goal is to decrease that pain as much as possible. But it can be unrealistic to expect the pain to go away completely forever.
Many pain physicians are big proponents of multimodal pain therapy, but you do not need a physician to try to find the many big and little ways you can help decrease your pain levels. Think of things like these:
- Sufficient sleep
- Fixed bed time and wake time, every day
- Eliminate junk food
- Eliminate artificial sweeteners
- Eliminate sugars and white flours
- Get lots of water every day
- Take relaxing baths
- Massage therapy
- Taking time out to relax every day (music therapy, quiet time)
- Chiropractic treatments
- Prescription medicines
- Topical creams or essential oils
- Getting to and maintaining a normal weight
- Muscle-strengthening exercises
- Therapy, counseling, reflection
- Cold compresses, ice therapy
- Heating pads
You may be able to add to that list. Of course, not everything will work for everybody. The best approach is to keep an open mind, give different modalities a fair chance, and then keep the ones that work and discard the ones that do not.