Combating chronic pain

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Approximately two million Dutch people suffer from chronic pain. Annoying pain is the second cause of absenteeism due to illness. Headaches, muscle and joint pain as well as back pain are particularly common. As many as one million painkillers are taken every day. Unlike acute pain, chronic pain usually does not have a warning function, but can become a disease in itself. How can you effectively combat that agonizing pain?

Chronic pain

Pain primarily has a warning function, with the intention that we do not get injured or worse. It is an indispensable mechanism of nature to save us, and other animal species, from extinction. But if the pain persists for a long time, or recurs again and again, it is actually of little use as a warning system. Instead of benefiting from it, it only causes you discomfort, sometimes reaching intolerable proportions. It is not clear what nature intends with such constant meaningless pain stimuli. If the pain lasts much longer than would be expected due to the original cause, we call it chronic. Unlike acute pain, chronic pain is often difficult to treat. This is usually because the cause of the pain cannot be traced and/or cannot be removed. But that means it can ruin your life through exhaustion, stress and anxiety. It is estimated that 1 in 5 Dutch people suffer from chronic pain.

Pain relief through medication

If it is not possible to remove the cause of pain, pain relief is the best option. The first step here is the so-called peripheral analgesics. These have an inhibitory effect on the transmission of pain signals. Paracetamol has the fewest side effects and is therefore preferred. Ibuprofen and diclofenac also have an anti-inflammatory effect. The disadvantage of these drugs, however, is that they can cause intestinal and stomach complaints and also have a blood-thinning effect.

When regular painkillers don’t help

If the known products do not help, they can be combined with a weak opiate, for example paracetamol with codeine. Codeine is a morphine-like substance, but much less strong. Unfortunately, these remedies are not powerful enough for severe pain and they also cause constipation. Morphine and similar drugs have a particularly strong analgesic effect. They are therefore only used for severe pain. Morphine is not addictive provided there is a clear cause for the pain. In case of an unclear cause, restraint is desirable. Morphine also causes constipation.

Moderate pain

You can take an occasional painkiller occasionally for moderate pain. But if you do it too often, you can become dependent on it or develop a drug-dependent headache. In case of chronic or severe pain, always consult your doctor. In any case, stronger painkillers should only be used in consultation with a doctor.

Pain relief by blocking nerves

When there is pain, the nerve in question sends a signal to our brain. If this nerve is blocked, the signal can no longer be sent and you will no longer experience pain. Usually a test block is done initially, during which the nerve is only anesthetized. If there is no more pain, it is clear that it is the correct nerve and a permanent block can be carried out. Unfortunately, not all chronic pain complaints can be treated in this relatively simple way. For example, if the pain area is too large or if the pain is caused by abnormalities in the brain or spinal cord. The nerve that causes the pain can also be felt less through a special device (TENS) that delivers an electrical current to the surrounding thicker nerves. The TENS can be taken anywhere and can be operated by the wearer himself.

Shockwave therapy

In physiotherapy, the shockwave is sometimes used for long-term pain complaints. Typical chronic complaints that can be treated with such a shockwave treatment head often have to do with calcification, such as: tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, heel spurs, shoulder and knee complaints, or a painful Achilles tendon. This shock wave therapy can be reimbursed by the health insurer, with the correct supplementary insurance.


Pain patients can also benefit from this. It is mainly used for headaches, musculoskeletal complaints, lumbago, stomach pain, inflammatory pain, abdominal cramps, shingles and gynecological complaints.


Also known as weed or marijuana. It is a soft drug that is also a pain reliever. The medicinal cannabis is provided by the pharmacy upon prescription. As a result, the active ingredient cannabidiol (CBD) can be high while the level of the substance that causes psychological side effects is kept low. In other words: medicinal cannabis will not get you as high as the stuff from the coffee shop. Medical cannabis is not simply allowed in all countries. Cannabis can help with nerve pain, facial pain, phantom pain, shingles. MS patients also benefit from it.

Pain clinic

If nothing else helps, you can go to a pain clinic or pain center. These are usually departments of hospitals. The advantage of such centers is that doctors from multiple disciplines are present, such as psychologists, neurologists, physiotherapists, rehabilitation doctors, etc. The pain can therefore be tackled from various sides and a joint treatment plan can be drawn up. Complete recovery is often not possible, but if you can leave the clinic at some point with less discomfort, you are often already where you want to be. For example, pain can be reduced by learning to deal with pain psychologically, in addition to specific pain treatment. Because the more the focus on pain, the greater that pain becomes. They also learn to dare to move again, without fear.