Fighting Your Pain

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Dr. Grant Draeger,  D.C. CCSP 

Pain isn’t something that waits for our permission. It comes when it wants to and will stick around if you let it. Growing up with parents who were both chiropractors definitely had its perks. I could just go to them whenever I got injured playing outside with brothers or on the court while playing sports, and they’d fix me right up. But when I got to college and sprained my back skiing, I didn’t have that option. So, I had to figure out ways in which I could alleviate my pain until I could get home again. Today, I’ll be adding to your arsenal, ways in which you can fight pain on your own. If you try these methods and they don’t reduce your pain, be sure to schedule an appointment at Integrated Pain Solutions in Mosinee, WI, today.

Chronic vs. Acute Pain 

In order to determine the best way in which to fight your pain, we first need to find out if you’re dealing with chronic or acute pain. So, what’s the difference?

  • According to the ICD 11, chronic pain is defined as “persistent or recurrent pain that arises as part of a disease process directly affecting bone(s), joint(s), muscle(s), or related soft tissue(s)
    Acute pain is defined as pain arising from the bones, joints, muscles, or related soft tissue.

Sounds pretty similar, right? The main difference between acute and chronic pain is time. In general, if you’ve had pain for more than 12 weeks it’s considered chronic. So, what does this mean for you? Once a problem becomes chronic it becomes harder to shake. And that’s because the nervous system has started to memorize the pain pattern and will eventually put it on repeat, sending signals to the brain telling you you’re in pain and signals to the surrounding muscles to tighten and guard. Once the pain has been fully memorized, it becomes a cycle of pain, frustration, and exhaustion that can sometimes be hard to break. Today I’m going to be going over different ways to treat your pain on your own, whether it be chronic or acute. And also when to seek professional services.

Heat vs. Ice 

Heat and ice can be valuable tools in alleviating your pain. But depending on if your problem is acute or chronic determines when to use heat and when to use ice. Ice can be used for both chronic and acute pain. In general, it’s best to use ice and only ice during the first 48 hours of an injury.

  • Heat should not be used in the first 48 hours of a new injury. It draws more blood to the area, which can stagnate and turn into scar tissue. Scar tissue is bad, we don’t like scar tissue.
  • Instead, use heat after the first two days of an injury in an alternating fashion with ice: for example, ice for 10 minutes, heat for 20 minutes, ice for 10 minutes — always end with ice.
  • Heat is useful for chronic musculoskeletal issues because it draws blood to the area, which is needed for the healing process. Prolonged heat to the same area can cause toasted skin syndrome, which leaves the skin looking distorted and blotchy. Stick to 20 to 30 minutes of heat at a time to be safe.





An acronym for rest, ice, compress, and elevate, this is a method primarily used for the first 48 hours of an injury. The instructions are in the acronym itself. Stay off and rest the area of injury as best you can. Ice it for 10 to 15 minutes every couple of hours to keep the inflammation down. Compress the area (if possible) to keep the swelling controlled. And elevate to keep the blood from pooling in the area too much.


Stretching can be used for both acute and chronic pain. With the right guidance, stretching can lead to a full recovery from acute injuries. This is because stretching improves flexibility and blood flow to the area. It increases the tensile strength of the soft tissues (tendons and ligaments) and helps to shut down chronic nerve pain before it can be established. Stretching will only temporarily relieve chronic pain, if at all.

The stretches will of course vary depending on the injury, so feel free to email me if you’d like a specific series of stretches for your pain.

Stretching can also be used proactively, to build injury resistance. Yoga and/or pilates are both great for building flexibility and a strong core. Here is a series of generalized full-body stretches that are a great way to start your day. You can do them all or just pick a few that you find most useful.

Creams, Gels, and Sprays, Oh My! 

In general, topicals are simply pain relievers. They don’t address the core of the issue, which is typically a combination of mechanical and neurological dysfunction. However, they still have a spot on this list because they can be very effective at what they do and are typically safer than over-the-counter pain pills.

So, which one do you go for? BioFreeze is a brand I like to throw out. It’s a numbing agent and feels similar to IcyHot. It lasts a few hours and can be used multiple times a day. Just squirt it out of the bottle and rub it in the area where you’re in pain. Other than that, I don’t have any major suggestions. You’ll have to find out what works for you. There’re options like pain patches, which are time-released, providing longer-lasting relief. There are gels and sprays and creams, all of which are pretty similar in chemical make-up but the best way to find out if it works is to try it. Try to get samples if you can and just know that if it doesn’t work the first couple of times you try, then move on to something else.

CBD topicals are the exception. While most of the time their relief is instant, it can sometimes take a few days or even weeks to fully feel the relieving effects of a CBD product.

When to Seek Professional Services 

If the problem you’re dealing with is musculoskeletal (bone, joint, muscle) in nature, seeking care with a chiropractor, acupuncturist or physical therapist will help speed up your recovery. These professions are thoroughly educated in the musculoskeletal system and when implemented early on, will help move you towards a full recovery.

My wife and I are a chiropractor and acupuncturist, and we’ve found that integrating each other’s respective fields can lead to not only a quicker recovery but a more thorough one. We usually find underlying issues that have led to the injury and we are able to correct them so it doesn’t turn into a cyclical problem.

If you do not have access to one of these professions, then try your hand at ice, heat, stretching, and topicals. The body has an extraordinary ability to heal itself and with the right direction, it can do it all on its own.

Pain isn’t something you have to live with. And it’s not always something you have to seek professional care for. Being prepared with the necessary at-home therapies will help you start the road to recovery. The sooner you start with the above-mentioned therapies, the sooner your body will recover.

If you are dealing with pain and having trouble relieving it, we can help. Schedule a free consultation at Integrated Pain Solutions in Mosinee today. We will help find the right solution to your pain.