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UK HealthCare expert discusses non-pharmacological pain management

Pain management
Blog

/ by UK HealthCare

September is Pain Awareness Month.

Established in 2001 by the American Chronic Pain Association, the goal of Pain Awareness Month is to foster widespread understanding of chronic pain in an effort to reduce the stigma attached to the condition and aid the effort to effectively treat it.

We recently spoke with UK HealthCare’s Barbara VanDerveer, chair of the non-pharmacological nursing education pain management task force and nursing manager for acute pain service.

What is non-pharmacological pain management?

Any pain management that does not involve pharmacologic agents like prescription drugs.

Everyone has probably used this method at some point. A simple example: your parent probably used it when you had a splinter as a child. They placed an ice cube on the splinter for a bit, then removed it – that was using localized temperature control or cold therapy.

You may have used a heat pack for a muscle strain after playing basketball or working in the garden. That is another example of using localized temperature control therapy.

Other methods we may use every day are relaxation, listening to music, distraction or even aromatherapy. Some techniques may require training to learn how to properly use them, such as music therapy, massage, biofeedback and tai chi.

What are some of the main techniques/approaches used in non-pharmacological pain management?

The main techniques/approaches are usually divided into physical and psychological.

Physical (sensory) methods might include temperature control, massage, tai chi or progressive muscle relaxation.

Psychological methods might include distraction, music listening or therapy, guided imagery or biofeedback.

What type of patients are the best candidates for the practice?

Non-pharmacologic methods can help anyone who is experiencing pain, whether it is acute or chronic in nature. Many of these methods, such as music therapy and massage, have been used for babies who were extremely premature as well as patients who were in their 90s or older. Many methods can be used whether you are in the hospital, clinic or at home.

If you have questions about whether a method is for you or your child, you should always discuss it with your healthcare provider.

What non-pharmacological pain management services does UK HealthCare offer and how should interested patients seek our help?

Many of the methods can be utilized by our nurses at the bedside such as cold/hot therapy, music listening and aromatherapy. Our nurses might also instruct the patient in methods of distraction and/or assist with downloading mobile phone apps focused on relaxation

Other methods require consultation with providers in UK Integrative Medicine & Health. Their services include acupuncture  acupressure, animal-assisted therapy (pet therapy), art therapy, massage therapy, music therapy, narrative medicine, reiki, tai chi and yoga.

Physical Therapy/Occupational Therapy may also help with non-pharmacological methods of pain reduction. They can often help with positioning, tone and strengthening as well as desensitization of painful areas. They may suggest therapies such as exercise, cold/heat or even transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulations (TENS).

Pastoral Care is also available to assist with emotional support.

Is there anything else you'd like people to know about non-pharmacological pain management?

Non-pharmacologic methods can be used alone or in combination with pharmacologic methods to relieve pain or reduce the amount of opioids needed to relieve pain. For more information, have a conversation with your nurse or primary care provider.

To contact the UK HealthCare department of Interventional Pain Medicine, call 859-323-7246.

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