The Evolution of Pain Management


April 17, 2019

Since the dawn of time, there is one things that has remained the same: pain. Humans have always experience pain, and we always will. There is nothing more useful and treacherous than pain. In a sense, it teaches us what is hot, sharp, poisonous, and alerts our body to injury. But pain on a daily basis is dreadful.

However, managing pain is still a relatively new topic. The field of pain management has only been around since the 1960s, but evolving at record speeds. There have been previous ways to treat pain, but historically, every method has only offered temporary relief.

Quick History of Pain Management

The 1600-1800’s – Doctors treated pain by giving their patients opium. By the 1800s, ether and chloroform were used as anesthetics for surgery. Patients thought this type of medication was a godsend. Doctors took advantage of their patients’ sedation to attempt more complex surgeries.

1900’s – Morphine and heroine were used as pain medications. This was also when doctors began worrying about addiction and wanted to improve their patients’ quality of life.

Pain had always been considered temporary – something that occurred after an injury, surgery, or from an illness. The idea that pain could be recurring was ignored or considered a mental issue. Patients who experienced pain for more than 6 months after they were considered “healed,” were referred to psychologists or even brain surgery.

1970’s – The field of pain management was established, including a research journal and association – The International Association for the Study of Pain. The ability to treat pain using multiple types of treatment and therapies were found effective.

1980’s – Pain management doctors began pushing for drugs (narcotics) to be used more in non-cancer patients. Large pharmaceutical companies supported this, so doctors began prescribing the addictive drugs more often.

That didn’t last long, as it turned out to be a driving factor int he opioid crisis we are dealing with today. Many patients still see drugs as being the only way to manage their pain.

The Field of Pain Management

Since the field of pain management was introduced, it has been growing quickly. With the knowledge, research, and technology that is available, an assortment of non-medication treatments have been introduced.

Pain can be thought of as a six-stage process – from the initial injury or trauma, to how the pain is perceived by the individual. Understanding the stages of pain is important for doctors to know the best ways to treat their patient’s pain.

Patients with chronic pain have reduced pain thresholds and can feel pain more intensely.

New Technologies for Treating Pain

New and innovative technology is emerging and thriving in the field of pain management. Those suffering from chronic pain have more options for managing their pain and better access to physicians who can treat them. These options allow patients to regain their desired lifestyle and quality of life that they deserve.

Neck Pain:

Neck pain is a common medical problem. Chronic neck pain can be described as a severe pain or stiffness in the neck area, pain that goes from your neck to shoulders or arms, and headaches. Treatment options include applying ice or heat, resting your muscles, physical therapy, injections, or TENS (electrical stimulation).

Back Pain:

Back pain is caused but a variety of reasons and if caught early enough, is the key to preventing long-term back pain. Overuse, unusual activity, and excessive lifting and twisting are some of the main causes for back pain. Instead of under-going surgery, some other treatment options include steroid injections, back pain exercises, and spinal cord stimulations.


This aching muscle disorder is becoming more and more common. Typically, it is more common in women than men, and is more common if it runs in your family. Treatment options include medications to decrease pain and muscle spasms, injections, and physical therapy.

Joint Pain:

There are many joints in your body, which means joint pain is incredibly common. This type of pain can be treated, whether mild, uncomfortable, or severe/debilitating pain. Causes include broken bones, lupus, Lyme disease, and most commonly, arthritis. Treatments range from anti-inflammatory drugs, to physical therapy, to injections.

Technology keeps advancing and will continue to evolve as the field of pain management grows.