Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts at least 12 weeks or longer. More than 1.5 billion people around the world have chronic pain. In the United States, it is the most common cause of long-term disability, affecting almost 100 million Americans. Chronic pain is a very complicated and personal experience. It can be difficult to diagnose and can have multiple different causes. While there is no cure for chronic pain, it can be managed with different treatment options, medications, and life-style changes.
Symptoms of Chronic Pain
While the most obvious symptoms of chronic pain is pain, there are many other signs and symptoms that occur along with the pain.
- Limited movement
- Reduced flexibility, strength, and stamina
- Burning or aching sensations in the pain area
- Pain varies – can be steady and sharp, or intermittent and dull
- Affects day-to-day life
- Affects mental health – depression, anxiety, mood changes
- Sleep deprivation
- Decreases appetite
Causes of Chronic Pain
Chronic pain can occur because of an initial injury or without any prior indication. The pain comes from a series of messages that fly through your nervous system from the pain area to the brain. Even if you suffer from a previous injury that has healed, your body can continue to send these painful messages to your brain. Various conditions, diseases, and life events can bring on chronic pain including:
A nerve can be damaged for many different reasons. It could be due to a disease or occur due to an injury. The pain is different for everyone but most commonly described as stabbing, intense pain.
Chronic pain can occur in any age but the likelihood increases with age. Older adults are more prone to diseases and conditions like cancer and arthritis. They also are more likely to have an injury and need surgeries due to their bodies aging.
Injuries occur in many different ways, like the overuse of a joint, and with the comes pain. When minor injuries happen, they are normally accompanied by acute pain (pain that lasts for only a few days to a few weeks). when a major injury happens that might cause nerve damage or even end in surgery that is when chronic pain can set in.
There are a wide variety of diseases and conditions that cause individuals to suffer from chronic pain. When these occur, just treating the disease or condition itself might not be enough. Here are a some of the top diseases and conditions that cause chronic pain:
- Multiple Sclerosis
Over weight individuals are more prone to suffer from chronic pain due to the causes the excess weight has on their bodies. The extra weight can put pressure on places in the body like joints or the spine. This added pressure can increase the likelihood of injury and strains our bodies more than necessary resulting in pain.
Studies show that women are more likely to suffer from chronic pain than men. The main reason for this is that women’s bodies work differently than men’s do. Women are more likely to develop conditions that have chronic pain as a symptom and they are more sensitive to the pain.
Types of Chronic Pain
The most common areas chronic pain occurs in are the back, joints, mouth and face, muscles, bones, and neck. Here is a list of some of the different types of chronic pain:
- Post-trauma pain
- Cancer pain
- Post-surgical pain
- Back pain
- Arthritis pain
- Chronic fatigue
There is no cure for chronic pain but it can be managed. To decide on a treatment plan, it starts with seeing your doctor. Describing your pain specifically, giving a detailed pain and medical history, and relaying any other concerns to your doctor helps more than you may realize. With this information, your doctor can determine a variety of treatment options for you to try. Making sure you stick to the plan you’ve created with your doctor and figuring out what treatments may or may not work, will help manage your chronic pain in the long run. Common treatment options:
Non-Prescription or Prescriptions
Depending on your pain, there are a variety of treatment options your doctor may recommend. Over-the-counter medications, topical pain relievers, or prescribed medications each have a different use and you, along with your doctor, will determine the best options that work for you.
A Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) procedure uses electrical stimulation to reduce pain. During this procedure, the nerves that send pain signals to your brain are disrupted. The connection is lost and the brain does not receive any more signals that you are in pain.
If you’ve suffered an injury or disability, physical therapy can help keep your body active. It can improve your strength and provide you with different techniques to help relieve your pain.
Along with your treatment options, your doctor may recommend a few lifestyle changes that can help ease your pain.
Living with chronic pain can be stressful. Learning how to manage your stress so you don’t get overwhelmed can benefit you greatly. Some days will be better than others and taking the time to learn what your body can and can’t do will help.
It can be difficult to be happy when you are in so much pain. Finding a hobby or spending time with your loved ones can help you keep a positive attitude.
Studies show that people who smoke have a higher possibility of developing chronic pain. While smoking is overall bad for you health, studies also show that if you suffer from chronic pain smoking can make your pain even worse.
A healthy diet is shown to help individuals that suffer from chronic pain. While foods that are processed and high in refined carbohydrates can make it difficult for your body to heal itself, eating clean, anti-inflammatory foods can help reduce your pain.
When you’re in pain, you may assume that exercise is the last thing you should be doing because it will only make your pain worse. You might be surprised to hear it but exercise is actually a treatment option your doctor may recommend if you do suffer from chronic pain. Not exercising can cause your body – especially your muscles – to become weak. This means that your body can’t support itself properly and can cause you to have even more pain.
Alabama Pain Physicians Can Help
At Alabama Pain Physicians, our goal is to better the quality of life of our patients. We take your pain seriously and strive to establish an accurate diagnosis along with a treatment plan to ultimately minimize your pain. To determine the exact cause of your chronic pain, our physicians will perform a physical exam and use your complete medical history to help find the best treatment option suited for you. In addition to the physical exam and history, you may also need imaging studies and test to help the physician determine the cause of your chronic pain. Contact Alabama Pain Physicians today and let us help get you on the right track to managing your pain.