One of the most frustrating aspects of having been in an auto accident is the occurrence of chronic pain. At first the pain is acute and doctors are quick to prescribe drugs, often opiate analgesics. As the pain becomes chronic, many doctors don’t know when to stop the highly addictive pharmacotherapy and turn to other forms of pain relief. For chronic pain, there are non-medical approaches that work well.
Some patients manage well with TENS units, which are electrical devices that send impulses to the painful area so as to override the impulses being sent up from the painful area. TENS units are especially good for low back pain and extremity pain. They can be turned up or down depending on the level of pain.
Patients can be taught biofeedback training. This involves using the power of mind and concentration in order to block pain signals. At first, the person needs a device that can tell them their heart rate and pulse rate so they can train the brain to block out the noxious stimulus. Related to this is relaxation training that teaches guided imagery and breathing techniques that can block pain signals. These are free or basically free ways of diminishing chronic pain without side effects and without addiction potential.
Hypnosis with the use of a trained hypnotist can reduce the incidence of chronic pain. The hypnotist works with the patient to get into a hypnotized state and let the pain float away both during the hypnotic session with a post hypnotic stimulus that allows for pain relief after the hypnotic session is over with. The patient can learn how to hypnotize themselves for a long lasting pain relief without having to see the hypnotherapist.
The reason these secondary pain relief mechanisms are so important is because pain following a motor vehicle pain is often lifelong. The person can have chronic neck pain, even if they never had a fracture. There can be chronic low back pain with or without a fracture. Ligaments can be damaged and cannot repair themselves.
Using opiate pain relief is problematic for three major reasons. First, it can impair the person’s ability to drive a vehicle or think clearly. This tends to get better with time but is still a possibility. Secondly, there is almost always tolerance with opiate pain relievers. Tolerance means that you have to take more pain reliever over time in order to achieve the same affect. This can lead to accidental overdose. Thirdly, opiate pain relievers are addictive. The user must continue to take the medication repetitively in order avoid withdrawal symptoms. They can be effective for the short haul but when a person has prolonged pain from a motor vehicle accident, it is time to step away from opiates toward the use of non-traditional therapies that are effective yet not addicting.
For complex pain or addiction issues, it is a good idea to consider seeing someone at a pain clinic who can manage pain without using addictive medications and can help patients get over problems they may already have with addiction to painkillers.