Painkillers – part 3

Advertisement feature by by Helen Mumby-Croft, of Aspire Health and Wellbeing Spa, The Crescent, Spalding

I have talked about painkillers that you take by mouth in the last two parts. There are some very strong painkillers which you can wear as a patch – these help people who have pain 24/7, because it gives a slow continuous dose of the painkiller.

These patches are usually a type of morphine and are very strong, prescribed only for the severest type of pain. There are also some painkillers which are topical – this means you rub them into your skin.

You can buy things over the counter that either heat up or cool down, and this works because your body is set up to give priority to certain sensations in order to protect you from harm.

Therefore heat, cold, vibration, are all messages which take priority, and can therefore override pain messages that are more chronic.

This is the way TNS (transcutaneous nerve stimulators) machines can help – they do not treat the pain, just distract you from the pain.

A TNS machine only works while it is on, and never at night when you sleep because if you cannot feel it, you cannot be distracted.

Sometimes muscle relaxants like diazepam can help by reducing muscle spasm. Muscle spasm in itself is not the problem, muscle spasm occurs as a defensive spasm to limit movement when you hurt yourself, a bit like putting a plaster cast on a broken limb.

The problem is diazepam is very addictive, because it alters your sleep pattern. It gives you something called rapid eye movement sleep, which is the second stage of sleep, but it stops you having deep sleep, the first and most refreshing sleep phase – so you might sleep, but not have good quality sleep so you crave more drug to help you sleep better.

Diazepam should only be used when you have spasm, and not as a regular painkiller.

The rule of thumb is, use your painkillers as prescribed, no more than recommended, as you could be making your pain worse.

Painkillers are not designed to cure you, nature takes care of that mostly, but it will help you keep mobile and carry on so you do not get problems from being immobile, like blood clots.

Take painkillers early, they work best when your pain is just starting, rather than when your pain is at its worst.

Use anti-inflammatories to treat your problem rather than just as a painkiller.

Reduce your dose of medication as soon as you can. If you need more medication than you have been prescribed, go back to your doctor, do not just take more