Crohn’s in Control: Brooke Smith’s Story
How to Manage Crohn’s Disease Pain Without NSAIDs
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Not all pain-relieving medications are created equal for people with Crohn’s disease. That’s because some of the first-line treatments — including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen — can increase bleeding and further damage the lining of your intestines, potentially causing ulcers. Luckily, there are a number of other pain relief strategies available.
Crohn’s Pain Management Techniques
The best way to control the pain from Crohn’s disease is to follow the treatment plan you and your doctor have determined is best for you. If your doctor gives you a prescription drug for Crohn’s, that should alleviate the pain. These drugs include aminosalicylates, corticosteroids, immunomodulators, and biologics. If you take medication for Crohn’s, it’s important to take it exactly as directed by your doctor.
Some people stop taking their medication when they’re in remission and feel fine, says Peter Doyle Higgins, MD, PhD, a gastroenterologist at the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor. Remission can last months or even years, but you're inviting pain if you don’t stick to your treatment plan.
Also, if your Crohn’s pain is from an infection and your doctor gives you an antibiotic to treat it, be sure to take all the prescribed doses — even if you start to feel better before you’ve taken all the medication.
If you need an over-the-counter pain reliever for pain from another source, like a headache, choose acetaminophen. This is safe for people with Crohn’s as long as it’s in safe doses, Dr. Higgins says. Ask your doctor what's reasonable for you and never exceed your doctor’s recommended dose.
Ease Pain Without Medicine
Stress doesn’t cause Crohn’s, but it can aggravate your symptoms, including abdominal pain. Managing stress can help you can control Crohn’s symptoms too. Consider adding stress-relieving techniques like yoga, tai chi, massage therapy, or meditation to your day. Other alternative Crohn’s pain management techniques include:
- Deep breathing:This simple exercise can help relax your abdominal muscles, potentially relieving pain. Pick a comfortable chair in a quiet spot and close your eyes. Slow down your breathing and just contemplate the word "relax.” Breathe in from your diaphragm and then contract your stomach muscles as you exhale away tension and discomfort.
- Guided imagery:Think of pleasant sights, sounds, tastes, and aromas to distract you from your Crohn’s pain.
- Heat:When your stomach is sore, a heating pad or hot water bottle can provide some relief. For a do-it-yourself version, fill a long sock with rice, tie it closed, and carefully heat it in the microwave. Higgins says to practice caution when using heat, though, to avoid burns. Don't keep a heating pad on high for too long.
- A warm soak:A warm bath can be soothing for mild cramps and intestinal pain. Plus, adding a little salt to the water can help ease pain from an anal fissure.
- Nutritional supplements.Research published inThe Journal of Steroid Biochemistry & Molecular Biologyin December 2019 found a connection between Crohn’s and vitamin D deficiency and concluded that taking supplements may be helpful. Ask your doctor whether this or any other vitamin and mineral supplements should be part of your Crohn’s pain management and might ease painful symptoms. Options also include anti-inflammatory omega-3’s and probiotics, or “good” bacteria.
Finally, don't forget to give yourself a little TLC. When managing Crohn’s, it’s important to take care of yourself, Higgins says. Eat well, exercise regularly, and get good sleep to feel better in general.
Video: Treatment of Crohn's Disease - Laura Raffals, M.D. - Mayo Clinic
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