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Treating Mild & Simple Pain

Mohommed Essop-Adam
Reviewed by Mohommed Essop-AdamReviewed on 30.10.2023 | 5 minutes read
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Everybody will experience some form of physical pain from time to time. Pain can be short-term like a simple headache, cuts and bruises, or long-term due a condition like arthritis. It is our body’s way of signalling injury, or that something isn't quite right and tells us to protect the injured area from allowing recovery.

We feel pain when our pain receptors (called nociceptors) detect tissue damage and send a signal along your nervous system to the brain, which then translates this signal to the sensation of pain. There are different types of pain, some of which respond better to specific treatments. Below we have outlined some of the most common types of pain and the best way to treat them.

Managing Pain Without Medicines

Many types of pain can be managed without the need to take medicines. A combination of treatments is often more effective than just one. Treatments you may wish to try are:

  1. Apply Heat - This can be effective when treating muscle or joint injuries, especially if they are chronic. This gives off a soothing effect and helps increase oxygen to the area, therefore helping bring nutrients to support the recovery.
  2. Apply Cold – Using ice packs immediately after an injury reduces swelling and inflammation, reducing some pain caused by the increased pressure in the area. It is recommended that the most effect is found in the first 48 hours. Compare heat vs cold packs with an article written by one of our clinicians.
  3. Massage – This is best suited for soft tissue injuries and muscle pain. It should be avoided if the damage is in a joint or suspected to be deeper, e.g., a fractured bone. It is also not recommended as a long-term therapy. Massages offer a release of tension and muscular knots. This supports recovery.
  4. Exercise & Physiotherapy – Walking, Yoga, stretching and aerobic exercises can be very beneficial in treating and preventing pain. It increases your strength and resilience to injury and improves your overall well-being and mood. It is important to begin slowly and gradually increase to not overdo it.
  5. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) - This therapy is helpful for chronic pain as it teaches you to think and behave differently about the pain you are experiencing.
  6. Acupuncture – It is believed that this form of therapy reduces pain by increasing the release of endorphins, chemicals that block pain. Tiny needles are inserted into specific points of the body, stimulating nerves and muscles to signal the brain to release endorphins. This is some evidence that acupuncture can work for particular conditions. However, its full effectiveness is unproven.

Managing Pain with Medication

Sometimes pain medication is required alongside non-drug treatments highlighted above to manage pain effectively. When deciding what medication to use, a range of factors should be considered, such as the type of pain (muscle, joint, headache, physical injury etc.). However, the “Pain Ladder” is a practical general guide to step up your treatment in response to your pain.

For over-the-counter treatment of mild to moderate pain, the pain ladder goes as follows:

  • Paracetamol or Ibuprofen
  • Paracetamol with Ibuprofen
  • Co-codamol (Codeine & Paracetamol)
  • Co-codamol with Ibuprofen
  • Co-dydramol (Dihydrocodeine & Paracetamol) - brand is Paramol
  • Co-dydramol with Ibuprofen

Specific pain types

Some specific sources of pain respond better to particular types of painkillers.

Muscle & Joint Pain - These types of pain respond best to an NSAID medication due to their anti-inflammatory properties. NSAID creams and gels can be applied directly to the site of pain, reducing the risk of side effects. NSAIDs can be taken in combination with Paracetamol if required.

Mouth Ulcers – Pain associated with ulcers best responds to local topical anaesthetics applied directly to the ulcer, such as Lidocaine and Benzocaine.

Nerve pain – e.g., post-shingles pain, nerve damage and peripheral neuropathy. These types of pain can be tricky to treat as the nerve itself is signalling that there is damaged tissue even when there isn’t any. Over-the-counter pain relief often does not treat this type of pain effectively. Neuropathic pain best responds to specific medications that do not belong to the specific painkiller group. These are prescription-only medications and require doctor supervision.

Migraine – This type of headache can be debilitating, and often over-the-counter pain relief is not enough to manage it. A class of medication called Triptans can be used to relieve a migraine but you should speak to your pharmacist or doctor to ensure this treatment is suitable for you

When to see your doctor

If your pain persists or worsens or you suspect a more severe injury, you should see your doctor for further assessment. They may suggest different treatments or prescribe alternative medication to manage your pain better.

Help from the pharmacy

If you are unsure what is the best treatment to manage your pain, speak to your pharmacist, who can provide you with advice and make recommendations.

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Mohommed Essop-Adam
Reviewed by Mohommed Essop-Adam
Reviewed on 30.10.2023
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