Exploring alternative approaches to pain management

Pain Management

by Richard Vera, MD

Feb 5, 2024

If you’re living with pain, conventional treatments often involve medication and surgeries. But in some cases, there may be different approaches to consider. In my role as medical director at Baylor Scott White Center for Pain Management — Dallas and Baylor Scott White Center for Pain Management — Grapevine, I work with individuals to provide a comprehensive, personalized approach to pain management that looks at alternatives, beyond surgery or medication.

Through a combination of physical therapy, mental well-being and lifestyle adjustments, we empower individuals in their pursuit of pain relief, so they can get back to feeling their best.

Understanding the different types of pain

To successfully manage someone’s pain, we first have to identify if it’s acute or chronic.

Acute pain

Acute pain is most associated with sudden injuries or conditions. At first, we will gather detailed information to gain a full understanding of the pain, such as what happened to cause the condition, the location, the intensity of discomfort and any aggravating factors. With acute pain, our care team will initially focus on conservative measures like physical therapy and activity modification (such as rest or elevation). Interventional measures, including procedures or injections, may be considered based on the individual's response.

Chronic pain

Chronic pain is defined as pain that persists for more than three months and often involves an underlying condition. When individuals come to see us with chronic pain, it requires a more comprehensive approach with multiple treatment options tailored to their needs and lifestyle, incorporating physical therapy, education, counseling, biofeedback and relaxation training.

Alternative approaches to pain management

Medications and surgery are well-known methods for managing pain, but there are many alternative approaches that your healthcare provider may consider to be a good option for you.

Physical therapy

Physical therapy is often one of the primary approaches for managing both acute and chronic pain. Physical therapy is particularly effective for musculoskeletal issues impacting your bones, muscles and joints. It encourages your body to heal and maintain functionality through exercises tailored to your condition.

Movement-based therapies

As part of your pain management, your health care team may recommend activities like yoga or Pilates to enhance your core strength and body’s ability to move. These movements are low impact and suitable for all levels of experience.

Mental and emotional well-being

Looking after your mental and emotional well-being is a vital part of your care routine while living with pain. Practices such as meditation, breathing exercises and cognitive behavioral therapies can offer huge relief, particularly in cases of chronic pain issues that impact your quality of life. With this approach, your health care team may encourage a psychological evaluation as part of your treatment plan.

Lifestyle modifications

Lifestyle changes are healthy habits that individuals can implement in their daily lives. These small changes can make a huge impact on discomfort and can help address potential underlying causes of pain. For example, improving your posture can reduce neck pain, while a well-balanced and nutritious diet can have anti-inflammatory effects, contribute to weight loss and relieve stress on your joints. Maintaining a healthy weight can also manage conditions such as osteoarthritis

A positive mindset

People living with chronic pain may feel as though they have exhausted conventional options before seeking our help. A positive mindset and a desire to recover from any condition are crucial for someone’s health journey.

Pain management is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Our commitment to exploring alternative paths and integrating physical, mental and lifestyle components, reflects our dedication to providing individuals with a holistic and empowering approach to managing pain. In the pursuit of relief, there is hope, and our comprehensive strategies aim to guide individuals toward a more comfortable and fulfilling life.

Need help living with chronic or acute pain? Find care near you. 

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