Everybody experiences pains and aches. Sudden pain is a reaction of your nervous system to alert you about possible injuries. Pain signals are sent from the injured area to your brain via your spinal cord.
As the wound heals, the pain will typically become less intense. Chronic pain is different than typical pain. Chronic pain occurs when your body sends pain signals to the brain after an injury has healed. This pain can last for several weeks or even years. Chronic pain can reduce flexibility, strength, and endurance, and it may be challenging to perform daily tasks.
Chronic pain is pain that persists for at least 12 consecutive weeks. The pain can be sharp or dull and cause a burning sensation or aching in the affected area. The pain may be constant or intermittent and come and go without apparent cause. Pain can be chronic in almost any body part and can be felt differently in different areas.
Chronic pain can be caused by the following:
- Postsurgical pain
- post-trauma pain
- Lower back pain
- Cancer pain
- Arthritis pain
- Neurogenic pain (pain due to nerve damage)
- Psychogenic pain is “pain not caused by disease or injury.”
According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, more than 1,5 billion people worldwide suffer from chronic pain. About 100 million Americans are affected by chronic pain.
What causes chronic pain?
A back strain or a pulled muscle can cause chronic pain. According to some, chronic pain is caused by nerve damage, and the nerve damage causes pain to be more intense and last longer. In such cases, the injury may not be enough to resolve chronic pain.
Some people, however, experience chronic pain even without a prior injury. Chronic pain without injury is not well understood. Pain can sometimes be caused by an underlying condition such as:
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Extreme, prolonged fatigue that is often accompanied by pain
- Endometriosis: a painful condition that occurs when the uterine lining begins to grow outside the uterus
- Fibromyalgia is widespread pain in the muscles and bones.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease: A group of conditions causing chronic, painful inflammation in the digestive system
- Interstitial Cystitis is a chronic bladder disorder characterized by pressure and pain.
- Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJ) is a condition that causes clicking, popping or locking of the jaw.
- Vulvodynia is a chronic pain in the vulva that has no apparent cause.
Who is at Risk for Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain affects people of all ages. However, it is most common among older adults. Other factors can also increase your chances of chronic pain besides age:
- Having surgery
- being female
- being overweight or obese
What is the treatment for chronic pain?
Treatment aims to improve mobility and reduce pain. You can return to normal activities without pain.
Individuals can have different levels of pain and severity. Doctors create pain management plans for each individual. Your pain management plan depends on your symptoms and any underlying medical conditions. Chronic pain can be treated with medical treatments, lifestyle changes, or a combination.
Medication for Chronic Pain
Several types of medication can be used to treat chronic pain. Here are some examples:
- Electrical stimulation reduces pain through mild electrical shocks to your muscles
- A nerve block is an injection that prevents the nerves from sending pain signals into your brain.
- Acupuncture involves the use of needles that is to relieve pain.
- Surgery is used to correct injuries that have not healed properly and may contribute to pain.
Chronic pain can be treated with lifestyle remedies.
There are also lifestyle remedies that can help reduce chronic pain. Examples include:
- Physical therapy
- Tai chi
- You can also find out more about the following:
- Art and music therapy
- Pet therapy
Chronic pain: how to deal with it
Chronic pain is not curable but can be successfully managed. Pain can be relieved by following your pain management plan.
Chronic pain can cause stress because it is linked to emotional pain. You can cope with stress caused by your condition by developing emotional skills. You can reduce stress by taking the following steps:
You can reduce stress by taking good care of yourself. Eating healthy, sleeping enough, and exercising regularly will keep your body in shape.
Participate in daily activities that you enjoy. You will feel better and reduce stress if you socialize with your friends and continue to do the things you love. Specific tasks may be challenging to complete due to chronic pain, and isolating yourself may make you feel worse and increase your pain sensitivity.
Support groups, friends, family, and others can offer comfort and help during tough times. You can get emotional support from a friend or family member if you struggle with your daily tasks or need a boost.
Visit the American Chronic Pain Association for more information and resources. theacpa.org.