Pain can have a huge impact on your quality of life no matter how minor or significant it may be. Pain can make it difficult to sleep, work, engage in exercise and even enjoy quality time with family and friends. Pain management can help alleviate both acute and chronic pain conditions.

Pain management involves the application of science to relieve pain in patients. This field of medicine covers various conditions, including postoperative pain, neuropathic pain, sciatica, and many more.

For decades, Irish doctors have turned to pain management techniques to both control and reduce the pain their patients experience. Patients can apply some of these methods at home, but others may only be executed by a GP, physician or anaesthesiologist especially if it involves pain medication.

This guide aims to enlighten you on the types of pain, what conditions typically qualify for adequate pain relief solutions and the best pain management techniques available on the Irish market.

Here at Meaghers, we want to support our patients in understanding the options for pain management available to them. Our aim is to cover some of the fundamentals on how you can overcome some of life’s most challenging pain afflictions with the right guidance and support.

Types of Pain

Classifying pain into categories can be challenging because some forms of pain can fall into more than one category. 

However, distress can be classified based on the duration it lasts in the body and the body part they affect. Your medical practitioner must first identify the type of pain to determine which type of treatment suits you.

Based on the duration any aspect of pain lasts in the body, pain can either be classified as acute or chronic. So what’s the difference?

Acute Pain

Acute pain is the kind of pain that kicks in suddenly, and it is usually sharp. Acute pain can result from muscle strain, a cut, burn, a surgical incision, or a broken bone. 

In most cases, acute pain is mild and should only last for a day or two. Some patients might experience sharp pain for weeks or months. As a general rule of thumb, if the pain exceeds six months, it ceases to be acute pain and becomes chronic pain.

Acute pain is mainly related to temporary illness or soft-tissue injuries. The pain should subside as soon as the wound or injury heals or the condition ceases.

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is the kind of persistent pain that lasts for more than three months. Unlike acute pain that stops after you heal, a chronic pain condition can persist years after the injury. As such, you can imagine the effect chronic pain can have on your mental health and day-to-day life. Mayo Clinic

If you are a patient living with chronic pain, failure to treat chronic pain can adversely affect your overall health and have a profound impact on your life and the lives of those around you.

Some of the leading causes of chronic pain include cancer pain, fibromyalgia, back problems or spinal pain, migraines, nerve damage, infections, surgeries,  arthritis and other historic injuries.

Physicians may recommend acupuncture, physical therapy, pain medicine, and relaxation therapy to control chronic pain.

Based on the body part affected by the pain, chronic pain can be classified into one of four categories: neuropathic pain, functional pain, nociceptive pain and inflammatory pain, per the Virginia Spine Institute.

Neuropathic Pain

This is the kind of pain that occurs due to a disruption to the nervous system or nerve damage. Neuropathic pain feels like a shooting or burning sensation in the affected area. It is the kind of pain resulting from an impairment to the nervous system or nerve damage.

Neuropathic pain can appear as a shooting or burning sensation in the affected area however it can also affect sensitivity, where a patient is unable to perceive hot or cold trends. It can be intermittent or severe, it may lead you to have difficulty in performing daily tasks. The pain can also affect regular everyday movements, thus leading to mobility issues.

Neuropathic pain includes conditions including radicular pain, trigeminal pain and neuropathy. For instance, radicular pain occurs when the spinal nerve is compressed (pinched) or inflamed.

If you suffer from radicular pain, you are likely to experience some of the following conditions: muscle weakness, tingling, and numbness.

Functional pain

Functional pain is the type of pain that does not have an obvious origin. Examples of conditions that fall into this category include irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia. 

The exact pain format emanates from the organ system displaying the predominant symptoms, for instance, the clinical treatment of patients with musculoskeletal pain in fibromyalgia and visceral pain in irritable bowel syndrome.

Nociceptive pain

Tissue injury causes nociceptive pain. Nociceptive pain ensues in the bones, tendons, skin, muscles, and joints.

Some common types of nociceptive pain include mechanical back pain, surgical pain (such as cancer pain) and arthritis pain.

Inflammatory pain

Abnormal inflammation is the inappropriate response by the patients' bodies' immune systems. 

Patients experiencing health conditions like rheumatoid arthritis are said to be suffering from inflammatory pain.

Pain Management Techniques

When managing pain there are a number of therapies you can explore in consultation with your doctor and other healthcare professionals. Some excellent options include pain-relieving medicines, physical therapies (such as cold or heat packs, exercise, hydrotherapy, massage), mind and body treatment techniques, non-medical treatment techniques such as acupuncture as well as relaxation techniques.

Pain Medicine

Most of us will be familiar with some form of pain medicine having been given them by our parents or GPs to help overcome a range of ailments and illnesses since childhood. 

There are some of the most common pain medicine types used and approved by Irish medical bodies.

NSAIDs

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are common pain medications that are used to treat and manage inflammation and pain in patients. They are available in capsules, tablets, or gels/creams. 

NSAID’s are used successfully by many patients for a wide variety of pain issues however NSAIDs can cause stomach problems and cardiovascular issues in some patients. reference to these side effects. It is crucial for you to seek advice and guidance from your GP or pharmacist, before beginning treatment with these medications.

Most of the pain relief products we sell here at Meaghers such as Nurofen and Paralief fall under this category of anti-inflammatory drugs NSAIDs. They are common pain medications ideal for treating muscle pain, dental pain, headaches, migraines as well as other discomforts arising from surgery pain for example.

These pain medicine tablets and capsules contain an active ingredient such as Paracetamol or Ibuprofen and can also be consumed as a soluble fluid that is easier for a patient to swallow and quickly absorbs into his/her body. You can get these medications online here on our website or in your local pharmacy.

Opioid Medications

Opioids are medications used in the treatment and management of moderate to severe pain in patients. Opioid pain medicine is administered to a patient for only a short period as it can be addictive. 

A doctor or healthcare professional will only recommend an opioid pain medicine when its benefits for a patient outweigh the risks. You can read more on that on the HSE.ie website (PDF).

There is a lack of evidence on whether this treatment works on chronic pain since a patient should only use the pain medicine for a short period.

Antidepressants

Some antidepressants, such as amitriptyline, can be used in pain treatment and management.

Antidepressant pain medicine may be prescribed to relieve pain at lower doses. It is a clinical pain control aid for health conditions such as fibromyalgia and diabetic neuropathy.

Antidepressants take about 2-4 weeks for a patient to experience the full effects of the drug in his/her body. Possible side effects of amitriptyline include:

  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue 

Beta-blockers

Beta-blockers are medications that slow down the heart and they stop hormones such as adrenaline from working. Some people also use beta-blockers for migraine treatment.

A beta-blocker at lower doses is used as a pain medicine. It is used in the treatment of female patients with fibromyalgia and temporomandibular syndromes. Link MIMS/ BNF

Beta-blocker medications do not suit everyone and are only ever recommended following an in-depth pain assessment by a qualified pain practitioner. The services of health care providers, such as a GP or consultant, is essential in determining if you should use a beta block as your pain medicine.

Nerve blocks

Nerve blocks or neural blocks are medical treatment procedures used to manage and treat many types of pain. Some nerve blocks should last for a longer time period than others.

For instance, the nerve blocks for hand surgery pain treatments usually last for 6-8 hours, while a nerve block for pain after a total knee replacement can last for 12-24 hours.

Medications continuously delivered through a tiny plastic tube (nerve catheter) placed next to the nerve can last for 2-3 days.

Cannabis

Though still under review for widespread use in Ireland, medicinal cannabis, marijuana and cannabidiol (CBD) are increasingly used for the management of pain in a patient. Cannabis, like pain medicine, may ease neuropathic pain except for rheumatoid arthritis, headaches, or fibromyalgia.

However, cannabis for clinical or healthcare purposes is not legal here in Ireland. High doses of the active ingredient (THC) can trigger side effects. It is best to consult your doctor if you intend to use cannabis or CBD for pain treatment.

Mind-Body Techniques

Of course, many people prefer natural or holistic remedies as an alternative to medications in their search for sustained pain relief. 

Methods that combine both psychology and the body can help many patients to proactively manage their chronic pain levels and are excellent options for many people.

Yoga

Yoga aims to relax, strengthen, and keep the body flexible through stretching, with specific poses focusing on particular body areas.

Some studies show that Yoga does not control the patient's pain, but it helps them cope with the situation. Practitioners can gain control of how pain affects their everyday life and reduce anxiety in stressful situations. Other studies claim that Yoga effectively reduces pain in a patient.

Yoga is a safe and accessible pain management technique that lends itself nicely to an active lifestyle; you can try it at home using online videos or in a class with an instructor.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

Psychological treatments for chronic pain will require you to take therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Psychological behaviour therapies aim to reduce the negative impact of chronic pain on a person's mental health.

CBT benefits by reducing pain immediately after treatment when compared with using no therapies at all.

However, there is no evidence that CBT can reduce long-term pain. The psychological technique helps reduce anxiety around pain and for improving the quality of life.

We highly recommend seeking help with the impact that pain can have on mental health.

Tai-Chi

Tai Chi (also known as 'shadowboxing') is an ancient Chinese martial art and exercise therapy involving slow, continuous fluid movements combined with breathing and relaxation techniques. The method is gentle on your joints and muscles.

Also classed as a psychological technique that can improve strength and joint stability, the concentration it requires can prove a formidable asset in boosting moods and improving mindsets.

Tai Chi is effective in managing chronic pain; its psychological technique enhances pain improvements, especially osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and lower back pain.

Physical Techniques

Various physical therapies can help you relieve pain. They include massage, hot and cold therapy, acupuncture and physical therapy.

Massage

Massage therapies are forms of soft tissue manipulations and come in a range of formats such as deep tissue, Thai, Swedish and Sports massages, depending on the desired intensity and sensation.

People benefit from these therapies, primarily when used with other pain management treatments such as pain medications and physical therapies. 

Some of the benefits of massage for pain management include:

  • Increased flexibility
  • Relaxation
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Improved posture
  • Reduced stiffness
  • Improved circulation

Massage is effective for lower back pain. However, there is mixed evidence on its effectiveness on other chronic pain types.

Hot and Cold Therapy

Hot and cold therapies are most commonly used as a safe technique to relieve pain. Heat relaxes the muscles and dilates the blood vessels. It promotes healing after an injury. On the other hand, cold therapy minimises blood flow. The therapy also reduces the inflammation that causes you pain. Cold therapy treatment normally involves applying an ice pack that is wrapped in a towel to the skin. 

Some popular topical gels and creams can also aid a hot/cold treatment regime. 

Over-the-counter products such as hot and cold packs can assist with short-term pain relief and topical ointments such as Voltarol Emulgen or Deep Heat can offer localised and targeted pain relief, especially during the physical therapy pain management process. 

If you talk to your local pain medicine consultant about pain signals around your neck or back, he/she will likely recommend Voltarol. Inflammation of your muscles after surgery will make you feel pain. Voltarol is an ideal solution to help you cope in more comfort.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture entails the clinical application of thin needles at precise points in your body. The injections help with short-term relief from pain in the neck, lower back, knee, and osteoarthritis.

Acupuncture can have the following benefits for pain patients: 

  • Reduced muscle spasms
  • Relaxation
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Pain relief

Generally, acupuncture is performed using sterile needles by a trained practitioner such as a nurse.

Physical Therapy

An advanced physical pain care programme entails patients undertaking structured physical exercise to strengthen and stretch the muscles and joints. It may relieve pain throughout your body, with specific methods varying according to the particular body part. 

Training may have long-term benefits for chronic pain, like helping people to cope better with the effect of pain. They include customised pain management exercise plans, massage, and red light therapy exercise, among other solutions.

Wearable Pain Technologies

A breakthrough technology in the field of pain management and the first of its kind here in Ireland, NuroKor BioElectrics develop easy-to-use, portable, and drug-free portable physiotherapy technology to manage pain relief, aid rehabilitation, optimise recovery, and improve performance through bioelectric therapy.

Their device range is suitable for all ages and can assist with a wide range of acute or chronic body-wide pain ailments, health conditions, and sport induced injuries, as well as with muscle strengthening and conditioning.

The Mibody device helps manage acute pain after surgery and anti-inflammation treatment for sprains, joints, bruises, sprains, and other clinical, surgical pain signals. It facilitates you with a strong performance and conditional training. 

As more and more innovative tech solutions emerge in the field of advanced pain practice, we fully expect Norukor to lead the way in the pain-relieving wearables space for many years to come.

Check out our ‘all you need to know about Nurukor’ guide for more information.

Relaxation Techniques

Dealing with chronic pain is stressful for several reasons, such as not feeling in control of your discomfort. Relaxation techniques can help ease muscle tension, pains, aches, and muscle spasms. They help the body to release endorphins, which are the natural pain killers of the body. 

Reducing stress through relaxation can help ease most of the burden of chronic pain and better sleep. 

Relaxation techniques for chronic pain include:

  • Deep breathing techniques: slow and relaxed breathing methods like box breathing enables you to relieve tension.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and relaxing each muscle group in turn, for 10 seconds each, from the head to the toes.
  • Thinking calmly: set aside time for relaxing activities such as having a warm bath, reading a book, or crafting.

What Conditions Qualify for Pain Management?

In any Irish pain treatment hospital or specialist pain treatment service, several types of conditions qualify for advanced pain care. The conditions may range from acute to chronic pain.

Some common conditions that may benefit from pain management include the following:

  • Back pain
  • Arthritis
  • Abdominal pain
  • Chronic postoperative pain
  • Chronic migraine and headaches
  • Chronic cerebrospinal fluid leaks
  • Complex regional pain syndromes
  • TMJ and chronic facial pain
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome
  • Post-herpetic neuralgia
  • Preoperative pain management
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Pelvic pain
  • Neck pain
  • Musculoskeletal pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Complex regional pain syndromes
  • Chronic postoperative pain

What to Expect in a Pain Management Clinic

In a quality pain care clinic or hospital, pain experts may administer medicines, intravenous or joint injections, and all sorts of services to help you to manage your pain. Most clinics will offer you pain management programmes and additional procedures (medical and non-medical) for bespoke treatment of your own specific form of chronic pain.

The specialist pain modules within such programmes are ultimately designed to allow you to live with chronic pain by helping you learn how to deal with the disabling effects and distress from pain. They may also incorporate adaptive coping strategies via talks and practical sessions where pain experts give advice and consultations.

In these clinics the team also endeavour to help the patient learn how to exercise safely and build up activity levels to live a more active, healthy life. Multiple pain management services are used for pain management programmes.

They include:

  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy
  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy

Of course, as each individual differs physiologically, some people will naturally respond better than others to specific treatments or techniques, so it’s important not to give us hope should one form of treatment fail to yield the desired results as quickly or as effectively as you hope.

What Does a Pain Management Doctor Do?

A pain management doctor is a specialist who is a dedicated authority in pain, these experts will examine your pain and are able to treat a wide range of pain problems. The doctor is qualified to administer advanced interventions to treat sudden pain problems such as headaches and many long-lasting, chronic pain such as lower back pain or cancer-related pain.

Patients are seen in a pain clinic or hospital and can go home on the same day. Pain management doctors offer a mix of medication-based treatments and procedures to stop the pain at its source.

The types of pains treated by a pain specialist doctor are classified into three categories: the first group is pain due to direct tissue injury, such as arthritis. The second type of pain is a nerve injury or a nervous system disease such as stroke. The third category of pain is a mix of tissue and nerve injury, such as back pain.

How to Find a Pain Management Clinic in Ireland

Ask your GP for a referral if you reside in Ireland. 

You can also do the following:

  • call your local hospital or medical centre
  • get help from a local pain support team
  • contact one of our pain management specialists here online or in your local Meaghers Pharmacy

You should look for a clinic or hospital with a consultant specialising in your specific kind of pain. Ask if the doctor has had special training and is fully board-certified within their respective colleges of pain management.

Some of the places you’re most likely to be referred to by your GP for pain-related treatment and consultation include:

  • Beaumont Hospital, Dublin
  • Mater Private Hospital, Dublin
  • Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Dublin
  • St James’ Hospital, Dublin
  • Tallaght Hospital (Adelaide and Meath), Dublin
  • St. Luke’s Hospital, Dublin
  • St Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin
  • The Beacon Hospital, Dublin
  • St Columcille’s Hospital, Dublin
  • Cork University Hospital, Cork
  • Mercy Hospital, Cork
  • Naas General Hospital, Kildare
  • University College Hospital, Galway
  • Sligo General Hospital, Sligo
  • Midwestern Regional Hospital, Limerick
  • Waterford Regional Hospital, Waterford
  • The Midland Regional Hospital, Laois

As with other doctors and specialists across each variety of health disciplines, you should also try to find someone you feel comfortable with and can trust. 

Your dedicated pain management specialist will treat your pain and coordinate other care, including physiotherapy, rehabilitation and counselling, where necessary.

The Meaghers Verdict

There are a broad variety of ways to manage both chronic and acute pain here in Ireland which are accessible and easy to use. Most pain management techniques aim to reduce chronic pain or increase your coping strategies.

As well as traditional pain relief found in Pharmacies major breakthroughs have been made in the area of wearable technology that helps with pain. Link it again Here in Meaghers we urge you to speak to one of our pharmacists about the alternatives to pain medication for chronic pain.Link to contact us again

Some pain management planning approaches such as acupuncture injection therapy, physiotherapy, and Yoga are best performed with a professional therapist to ensure that you can safely practice them.

We urge all our patients to speak with their doctors before beginning any new medication. This is to make sure they are safe, do not worsen pain, and interact with any other drugs that they may be taking.

Contact Us to Discuss Your Pain Management Needs

We’re hopeful this guide has equipped you with adequate guidance towards better understanding the various solutions available for managing pain and the options available to Irish patients for overcoming all common forms of pain. It’s important for you to know that you’re not alone on this journey and that help is on hand should you require it.

If you’ve got any questions for our team on the topic of pain management or any of the treatments or remedies referenced throughout this guide, please contact us today and we’d be happy to assist you and provide you with all the information you need to make a more informed choice to help manage your pain more effectively.