You bang your knee on a coffee table, and feel a sharp, shooting pain. It hurts, but the throbbing quickly goes away. That’s acute pain. Chronic pain is a completely different story. Whether it’s a backache courtesy of a long-forgotten car accident or constant soreness caused by arthritis, cancer or another condition, chronic pain persists. And it can be very difficult to cope with. It’s frustrating, tricky to treat and can even lead to depression.
Aching for relief
The first step to overcoming the agony is making sure your healthcare provider knows how you feel. Tell him or her everywhere you hurt, exactly what it feels like (Is it burning? Throbbing? Tight? Shooting?), how bad the pain is on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the worst pain imaginable), how often it occurs and what makes you feel better or worse. This information can help your doctor determine the root of your problem and treat it.
Lena Beste, an Hennepin County Medical Center alternative medicine provider at the Golden Valley Clinic says, “There’s no magic pill when it comes to treating chronic pain, so your healthcare provider may suggest several therapies, including some that do not require medication or surgery.”
•Exercise. Low-impact activities such as walking or swimming can help release endorphins, your body’s natural pain relievers. Staying active can also help you get stronger and improve flexibility, sleep and energy. And by helping you maintain a healthy weight, exercise can take some of the stress off your joints. Ask your healthcare provider which exercises are appropriate for you.
•Soothing soaks. Taking a hot bath with Epsom salts can relieve arthritis pains or spasms; cool baths can help reduce swelling and inflammation.
• Meditation. Whether its deep-breathing exercises, guided imagery (for example, visualizing a pleasant scene), prayer, tai chi or yoga, thinking better can help you physically feel better.
• Hands-on care. Massage, acupuncture (using needles) and acupressure (applying pressure to specific points on the body) may help you relax, ease aches and work on muscle or structural injuries that have not responded to medication or other interventions and therapies.
Lena Beste is a licensed acupuncturist who has been practicing acupuncture since 2009 and joined the Hennepin team in 2014. Additionally, she has done extensive training with the Sexual Violence Center in victim/survivor advocacy and counseling and has been an active participant in the local social justice and sexual health and education communities for over 15 years.
Her areas of interest are pain management, sleep disturbances and dysfunction, digestion issues and mental health. Lena also has a specific interest in LGBT health care issues with a particular focus on Transgender health care. She practices at the Golden Valley Clinic. Call 612-873-6963 to make an appointment.