Preemptive Analgesia: The Secret Powers of Pain Relief

Most people aren’t familiar with the term “preemptive analgesia.” Basically it’s a fancy medical way of saying one thing pain is learned.

It’s a startling concept. We assume that pain is pain, and that it has nothing to do with preconditioning. And it’s true that some of the pain you feel is genuine. But sometimes pain is not a direct reaction to what’s actually happening to your body at a specific moment. Your spinal cord can become sensitized to pain and proceed to perpetuate pain – or what it thinks is pain. It’s actually the memory of pain.  This is an important distinction.

What does this mean for you? It actually means a good deal. Numerous studies have shown that by blocking pain impulses from reaching the spinal cord, which is what spinal anesthesia, epidurals, and local anesthetic do, the feelings of subsequent pain are dramatically decreased. And sometimes the expected pain never shows up at all.

In other words, if your body doesn’t feel pain when it’s actually experiencing pain, you’ve trained your body not to respond to it, so your recovery period is cut almost in half. It’s basically like tricking your own body. If your body doesn’t register any pain to fight against, it will react as if nothing is wrong.

A lot of women think they need to “tough it out”. But in reality, taking your pain medicine when you feel pain actually helps you out in the long run. It’s also totally okay (and advantageous) to take more than one type of pain medicine (known as multi-modal analgesia). Stagger your pain pills for maximum effect so that they peak and wear off at different times.

The less pain you have now, the less you’ll have later. And the sooner you’re able to move around after labor, the faster you’ll recover. So don’t be afraid of pain relief. It will make both your present and your future a lot more pleasant.

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