Chronic pain changes lives – unfortunately, for worse. It not only affects the quality of life but also affects the sufferers’ self image and their relationships with others. It’s often difficult to accept and carry on the disease of chronic pain because the sheer acceptance of the chronic nature of the pain is an emotional struggle. Managing chronic pain not only needs heavy medications but also requires physical therapy, physiological treatment, and massive changes in the dietary habits.
We had a conversation with Dr. Nitika Vyas, who is a pain management expert. She helps patients with chronic pain, such as those suffering from cancer, navigate this difficult terrain.
1) You specialize in chronic pain management. What exactly does that mean?
Chronic pain is the pain that persists over 12 weeks or longer and is a result of some chronic medical conditions or some body injury. It is more complex than the regular pain because generally, it involves the central nervous system made up of the brain and spinal cord and other nerves. Acute pain, when not treated in time, can convert into chronic pain and can be more difficult to manage. Chronic pain management employs an interdisciplinary approach to pain relief to improve the quality of patient’s life.
2) Do you believe that chronic pain is poorly treated in India?
To a certain extent, yes. In our country, where the doctor-patient ratio is still very low, chronic pain management, which requires special knowledge, training and techniques, remains a specialised branch which very few have access to. There are also some issues about insurance reimbursement which make the treatment less accessible.
3) Is medication the only option in chronic pain management?
No. In fact, chronic pain management requires physical therapy and physiological treatment. Various pain management procedures like trigger point injections, nerve root block, facet blocks etc. are used to further minimise the pain. Unconventional methods like relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, and meditation also tremendously help in pain management. In fact, many people are now turning towards organic living – as organic food is richer in nutrients, freshness, and is not genetically reengineered, there are minimal health risks.
4) Coming to food, does food have any role to play in chronic pain management? Can any food items aggravate or provide relief in pain?
Yes. The right dietary choices have a dramatic effect on the pain, especially for older patients. Right diet also helps in eliminating the unpleasant side effects of some medications. Use of certain food items such as turmeric, ginger, salmon, olive oil, or red grapes helps in alleviating the pain. Studies have also shown that because of the lack of pesticides and antibiotics, organic food items are better for health than conventionally grown food items. Organic milk, which is full of vitamins A, D, B6, B12, E, calcium, beneficial bacteria, and right amount of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, is extremely useful for bones and overall health. The conjugated linoleic acid in organic milk also helps in muscle growth and immunity to diseases.