Pain therapy is the term used to describe all treatment measures designed to relieve acute and chronic pain. The therapy of acute complaints is part of the basic treatment provided by every doctor. Chronic pain, which usually has no physical cause, can only be treated using individually adapted methods.

Different pain therapies

Depending on the intensity and type of pain, different treatment approaches are pursued, which can be combined to meet the needs of the patient:

Medicinal pain therapy: Various painkillers (so-called analgesics) can be used to relieve the symptoms. They act either centrally on the nervous system in the brain and spinal cord or locally at the site of the pain.

Physiotherapeutic pain therapy: Exercise therapy strengthens muscles and joints and painful blockages in the body are released. Physiotherapy includes massage, physiotherapy and cold and heat treatment.

Psychotherapeutic pain therapy: Anxiety and depressive moods caused by the symptoms can be overcome through psychological individual therapy or in group discussions.

Anaesthesiological pain therapy: Pain is relieved by local treatment of the nerves, such as an anaesthetic, a blockage or stimulation of the nerves.

Neurosurgical pain therapy: After a test phase, neuromodulation systems are implanted which can inhibit pain in the transmission. This allows the posterior spinal cord strands to be stimulated and painkillers to be dispensed via medication pumps in response to specific events.

Patient education: This therapeutic approach aims at increasing the patients' self-control. Special relaxation techniques and movement exercises can reduce the sensation of pain.

Social counselling: If the pain is aggravated by social tensions in the personal or professional environment of the person affected, these can be addressed in counselling.

Electrotherapy: Special forms of current irritate the nerves and relieve pain. In addition, muscles are mobilised and swelling in the tissue is reduced.

Use of herbal products: For chronic pain, herbal remedies and medicinal hemp products can be used as supplements to relieve the pain.

Information and preparation

Chronic pain and possibly aggravating factors can be identified in a detailed consultation with the doctor and various physical examinations. On the basis of this diagnosis, an individual treatment plan is drawn up and presented to the patient in an informative discussion.

During pain therapy, other drugs that the patient is already taking must be adjusted, discontinued and checked for interactions.

Requirements and risks

The following requirements must be met in order for pain therapy to be carried out sensibly:

  • The pain is permanent or recurrent for more than three months and affects the daily life and quality of life of the person affected.
  • There is no physical or psychological cause for the pain that can be treated in any other way.
  • Individual therapies carried out so far have failed.

Individual methods of pain therapy involve a certain, albeit low, risk for the patient. For example, surgery can lead to bleeding, infections, nerve damage and delayed wound healing.

Pain-relieving medication can lead to side effects. Furthermore, there is a risk of habituation if used for too long. If the drugs are injected, they could be accidentally injected into the vein. Seizures and heart rhythm disturbances are possible consequences. However, these complications are extremely rare when treated by an experienced medical practitioner.

Pain therapy procedure

Outpatient or inpatient pain therapy depends on the individual pain disorder, its intensity and the risk factors present. Accordingly, the elements of the therapy are put together on a case-by-case basis. The procedure - full or partial inpatient - also depends on the respective clinical picture.

The treatment of chronic pain is a lengthy process that can sometimes take months or years. Quick results are not to be expected. But even if the pain cannot always be completely eliminated, pain therapy can significantly improve the quality of life.

Behaviour after pain therapy

After pain therapy, it is important to retain learned strategies for avoiding pain attacks in order to maintain a lifestyle that is as pain-free as possible. These include stress management, relaxation exercises, physical training and nutritional methods.

Painkillers - including over-the-counter painkillers - should not be taken after the pain therapy has ended. Otherwise, a habituation effect may occur, which would make subsequent treatment more difficult.

Long-term use of painkillers from the morphine group requires regular check-ups either by the family doctor or the pain therapist.