Understanding and treating pain

lifestyle August 27, 2013 00:00

By Special to The Nation

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Pfizer recently marked its 55th anniversary in Thailand by inviting members of the public to its "Know Your Pain" workshop during which experts explained the mental and physical effects of pain and stressed the importance of prevention and treatment befor

The company’s medical director Dr Phichai Kanitcharaskul pointed out that pain not only affects the sufferer but can also have a severe impact on the economy. 
In England, for example, almost eight million people suffer from chronic pain but only two per cent of them ever consult a doctor for treatment. Back pain is the second biggest cause of sick leave and renders its sufferers incapable of performing a normal job.
Dr Pradit Prateepavanic, a rehabilitation physician and consultant to Siriraj Hospital’s Pain Clinic, explained that pain along the waist and lower back is second only to the common cold in reasons why ordinarily health Thais consult a doctor.
Many of the consultations are for back pain, muscle pain, spinal pain, herniated disc and bone spurs.
“Stress and wrong back posture are also the cause of pain but both of them are usually overlooked. If pain lasts more than three months, it may well be chronic,” he said.
While technology has eased lives, it has also affected health, especially in office workers who remain in similar – and wrong – postures for many hours during the day and eventually end up suffering from what is today known as the office syndrome.
Acute and chronic back pain need to be differentiated as the treatment is different, Dr Pradit says. “It depends on the degree of pain. If it’s unbearable, we might have to use morphine. But any medication should be short-term.”
Drugs used in the treatment of chronic pain often have negative effects on the stomach, liver and kidney. Using morphine for an extended period may cause addiction. “So we try to use as little morphine as possible and avoid it wherever we can. 
Good back posture and regular exercise are the keys to the successful treatment of chronic back pain.
The campaign “Know Your Pain” will be held countrywide throughout this year to make Thai people aware of what causes pain and how to treat it. Four main activities are planned: visiting schools, hospitals and office buildings and training specialists at quality drug stores.
Pain and reactive prevention 
1. Get a diagnosis: Find out the causes of pain to ensure appropriate treatment.
2. Adjust equipment and furnishings: Adjust computer screen to eye level and the table and chair height accordingly. Find a place to rest your feet.
3. Adjust body posture: Adjust regular posture. Don’t raise shoulders while typing, and keep the hips and legs at a 90-degree angle while sitting.
4. Adapt your lifestyle: If you sit in front of a computer for many hours, you should take breaks to change your posture and move. Go for a walk or rest your eyes and do some stretching at your desk.
5. Exercise regularly to adjust your body posture: Do easy stretching exercises to enhance muscles’ potential and flexibility, especially those muscles in the neck, shoulder, shoulder blades and low back.