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Long-Term Future Management for Patients with Musculoskeletal Pain
It all starts with a painful small knot. It goes away when you knead it, and comes back to stay for another day. And another, until it compromises your quality of life.
Sitting long hours at your cubicle, lifting things beyond your capacity, and plain bad posture can lead to musculoskeletal pain. These activities primarily affect your trapezius muscles, which forms an inverted triangle that starts from your neck, and runs down to your shoulders and the area between your shoulder blades. The muscles weaken and atrophy as you age, or may tug at bones they are attached to harder, displacing these bones and causing pain.
The same is true to the rest of the muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones of the body. Strain your muscles, work them too hard, and they will get injured. Work these parts too little, and they will still get sore.
So what is a person like you supposed to do? Here are tips on how you can deal with musculoskeletal pain.
The Economic Burden of Musculoskeletal Disorders
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that around one million people took time off from work in 1999 due to musculoskeletal disorders. The agency also reports musculoskeletal problems accounted for 70 million clinic visits, and another 130 outpatient, hospital and emergency room visits yearly.
Business costs from musculoskeletal disorder are estimated between US$45 and $54 billion annually, according to data from the Institute of Medicine. Separately, research from insurance giant Liberty Mutual, showed injuries stemming from overexertion cost US employers some $13.4 billion per year. Indeed, the financial burden of musculoskeletal disorders is not cheap; and rising healthcare costs is not going to make things easier for people suffering from musculoskeletal disorder.
New Technologies in Pain Management
Therapies employing the use of novel technologies in pain management have proven well in easing the burden of musculoskeletal disorders—if not completely successful in alleviating them. According to The New You magazine, some of these technologies include:
Ultrasound Guided Barbotage. Bone spurs (new bone growths) form around joints as a symptom of osteoarthritis. They occur when cartilages wear out and result into more bone-to-bone contact. Bone spurs are painful and cause a lot of inflammation around the treatment site. The ultrasound guided barbotage machine delivers shockwaves to destroy these bone spurs, which will be vacuumed out using the same equipment.
Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy. This therapy involves injecting the patient’s own lab-processed platelets into the treatment site to attract stem cells and growth factors, which both jumpstarts the tissue growth and repair process. Kobe Bryant and Tiger Woods were among the many athletes who have undergone this treatment.
Heat Compress: An Old Wives Tale?
Heat therapy, which involves the use of hydrocullators and hot compresses, is a popular remedy against localized body pain associated with osteoarthritis and other musculoskeletal disorders. Although undeniably effective in reducing pain, the downside of using hydrocollator heat pads and hot compresses is that they cause superficial burns and are not easy to use, especially to the elderly.
Thanks to technological advancements, the humble heat compress had come a long way, now modified to provide patients with osteoarthritis a safe and cost-effective way to manage pain. Thermal-Aid, a company engaged in designing and manufacturing all-natural therapeutic heating/cooling treatment packs, has conducted a study on the efficacy of heating/cooling treatment packs when compared with hydrocollators.
According to Thermal-Aid’s study, mono therapy with the use of the heating/cooling treatment packs, which are made natural from natural corn products packed in a pliant cotton twill bag, have helped geriatric patients aged 60 to 95 significantly reduce pain by 35.3 percent. Geriatric patients who used hydrocullators, on the other hand, reported a moderate 15.6 percent improvement from their treatment.
The treatment packs were heated in the microwave for at least three minutes prior to application. The participants were required to apply the Thermal-Aid packs or hydrocullator heat pads to the treatment site twice daily for a span of 20 to 30 minutes. Participants were allowed to request for acetaminophen and NSAIDS for pain management in conjunction with heat therapy.
Results of the study also showed that there was a significant decrease in the pain medication intake among Thermal-Aid patients than those among the hydrocullator control group. The use of acetaminophen has dropped by 21.8 percent in the Thermal-Aid group, as opposed to a 4.1 percent decline in the hydrocullator group. As for NSAIDS, there was a 21.3 percent decline in the demand for NSAIDS from the Thermal-Aid group; the hydrocullator control group only reflected an 8.8 percent decline in the use of NSAIDS.
The role of ergonomics training cannot be ignored in long-term future pain management. As some of you may know, most healthcare workers, particularly nurses, suffer from chronic low back pain due to repetitive movements, heavy lifting, and physical stress associated with their jobs. However, results of a study published on the U.S. National Library of Medicine website, revealed that ergonomics training (“Back School”) has helped these nurses significantly reduce the intensity of their chronic backpain over a six-week period. The nurses’ body posture also tremendously improved according to the University of Pecs supervised study. Follow-up evaluations involving biomechanical postural analysis over a one-year period also showed significant positive results, although slightly reduced.
By contrast, the Back School program has proven to be more effective than passive physical therapies like ultrasound treatment and massage in pain management and improving the posture of nurses. The study recommends the incorporation of ergonomics training for the treatment of workers suffering from chronic back pain, and should be adopted as a primary basis for the creation of occupational healthcare regulations and procedures.
Other Significant Treatment Modalities
WebMD recommends the use of nonsteroidal and anti-inflammatory medications, acetaminophen, and opiods in reducing muscle inflammation and pain for patients with musculoskeletal disorders. In the case of patients with fibromyalgia, a musculoskeletal disorder that causes chronic pain all over the body, medications that boosts the body’s serotonin and norephinephrine (neurotransmitters that regulates the body’s sleep, pain and immune system response) levels also help. Prescription sleep medications such as Ambien, Lunesta and Rozeram are also recommended for people afflicted with musculoskeletal disorders to help them make the most out of their sleep.
Other effective treatment modalities in helping patients manage pain are anti-inflammatory or anesthetic injectibles; exercises that are heavy on resistance training and stretching (i.e. Pilates, Yoga); physical or occupational therapy; meditation and biofeedback; alternative therapies like acupuncture and acupressure; chiropractic care; and massage.