Pain Relief For Acute and Chronic Conditions

December 04, 2017

Pain Relief for Acute and Chronic Conditions 

When headache, muscle aches and pain or joint pain surface, it is common practice to reach for pain relief of some description. Different types of over the counter pain relievers are available. General analgesics fall under the banner of anti-inflammatory, opioid or paracetamol. Other types of pain relief include topical preparations, hot and cold treatment, massage, TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) machines, acupuncture and physiotherapy.

 Over the Counter 

Many types of frequently used pain relief medications can be purchased in supermarkets or over the counter at the pharmacy. Paediatric medicines are usually only available at chemists. The pharmacist needs to advise parents or carers of the correct dosage for children based on their age and/or size as their organs are smaller and cannot handle the same dosage as an adult.

Paracetamol works by blocking the prostaglandins (natural chemicals that are released into your body when you are sick or injured). When released, prostaglandins make the nerves at and around the site of the injury sensitive to pain so you are aware that you have been hurt. Paracetamol is one of the most frequently purchased medications for pain relief. This includes fever, period pain, headaches, toothache and pain associated with cold and flu infections. It is also offered as a post-operative relief medication and as a prophylactic to prevent pain when children are immunised. There are children’s paracetamol available at supermarkets which can be given to babies from about one month old. 


Ibuprofen, the generic name for medication such as Nurofen and other medications like Voltaren (diclofenac sodium), operate the same way that paracetamol does but is a bit stronger. They block the prostaglandins which can not only cause pain, but also make tissue inflamed and swollen. In the case of flu or other viral infections, the body can undergo general inflammation and soreness. Anti-inflammatories are useful in combination with other methods of pain relief including hot and cold compresses and TENS machines, particularly for sports injuries.


Some opioids are available over the counter but their availability restricted. These include codeine, oxycodone and endone type medications. They work on stimulating the opioid receptors in the brain and nervous system, promoting a flood of chemicals through the body that evokes feelings akin to euphoria. For this reason, opioid pain relievers are restricted to prescription use only due to their addictive qualities. 

There are much stronger controls and restrictions on opioid prescriptions due to a strong link between opioid use and serious health problems when use is prolonged. Medications should only be used as an adjunct to other lifestyle modifications to manage acute or chronic pain.

Hot and Cold Compresses 

For most people, however, a simple analgesic combined with hot and/or cold compress applied to the affected area, provide temporary/complete pain relief for example headaches or migraines.

It is important to ensure that any hot or cold compresses are wrapped in a suitable insulation to ensure that skin burns from heat or cold are prevented. The wrapped compress should be placed wrapped in a towel or other type of cloth several times and be comfortable to the touch.

Hot and cold compresses can be used on their own or alternated; you may find one will work better than the other on different areas for different pain. Sports injuries usually have the first aid recommendation of ice, compression, rest and elevation; variations of this procedure can also be applied for non-sports related pain.

Adjunct Pain Relief 

Some pain relief may require a little more than a tablet and a compress. For persistent pain consult, with a physiotherapist or an integrative or holistic medical practitioner. This will give you access to acupuncture, targeted exercise, massage and TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) machines.  

TENS machines work by using electrical currents to stimulate the nerves. This helps to relieve pain and increase circulation in a localised area to promote healing. Portable TENS machines are available and when used correctly, are a non-invasive and safe method of healing that allows a patient to significantly reduce the amount of over the counter or prescription medication taken.  


Physiotherapy, Acupuncture and Chiropractors

Physiotherapy, acupuncture and chiropractors have numerous treatment modalities for relief of pain. 

Physiotherapists can offer specialist exercise and lifestyle modifications for injuries acquired from sports participation or from general wear and tear. These can address issues related to things like posture, gait or ways to temporarily or permanently modify activities to relieve pain. Physiotherapists can also perform massage and give instruction on exercise and stretches that will enable the body to engage its own systems of healing. They may have ultrasound technologies that can be used to provide pain relief and stimulate a localised area to assist with the healing process.

Acupuncture and electro-acupuncture provide ways to significantly relieve pain by electrically stimulating the nerves, realigning the body’s nervous system and stimulating the release of the body’s natural pain killing hormones.

Chiropractors can prove effective in resolving persistent problems due to musculoskeletal injuries.