Chronic Pain Symptoms, Causes and Treatments
Periodic pains and aches are something everyone experiences. When you feel sudden chronic pain, it is your nervous system informing you of the likelihood of an injury. In fact, when you have an injury, the injured area releases signals that travel from the spinal cord, up to the brain. As the injury heals, the pain becomes mild.
Unlike typical pain, chronic pain ensures a steady transmission of pain signals to your brain even after an injury heals. It can last for a very long time. With chronic pain, your physical strength and stamina are reduced, hence daily activities may become stressful for you.
If the pain lasts for a minimum of 12 weeks, it is classified as chronic pain. It can occur in different parts of the body with varying feelings in the affected areas. You could feel a dull or sharp pain, triggering an aching or burning sensation. The pain may be continuous or intermittent.
Among the most common types of chronic pain are
- Cancer pain
- Pain as a result of nerve damage (neurogenic pain)
- Arthritis pain
- Post-trauma pain
- Postsurgical pain
- Psychogenic pain (pain that occurs in the absence of nerve damage, injury, or disease)
- Lower back pain
Research has shown that more than 1.5 billion people in the world suffer chronic pain. In the U.K. alone, a large number of people are affected as it is a common cause of long-term disability.
What’s the cause of chronic pain?
An injury like a pulled muscle or back sprain is the typical cause of this type of pain. Chronic pain is believed to result from damaged nerves. When the nerves are damaged, pain becomes more severe and lasts long.
Here, treating the underlying injury may not soothe chronic pain. Sometimes, people go through chronic pain without any previous injury. The cause of chronic pain without injury is not clear. In some cases, the pain may be due to an underlying health condition like.
- Interstitial cystitis: a severe disorder characterised by bladder pressure and pain
- Vulvodynia: severe pain in the vulva whose cause is unknown
- Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ): a condition resulting in painful popping, locking, or clicking of the jaw
- Inflammatory bowel disease: conditions responsible for painful, severe inflammation in the digestive tract
- Chronic fatigue syndrome: marked by an extremely prolonged weariness that is often followed by pain
- Fibromyalgia: extensive pain in the muscles and bones
- Endometriosis: a painful disorder caused by the growth of the uterine lining outside of the uterus
Who is at risk for chronic pain?
Although chronic pain is most common in older adults, it affects people of all ages. Other risk factors apart from age are:
- Obesity or overweight
- Being female
Treatment of chronic pain
The main aim of treating chronic pain is to lower pain and increase body function so that you can effectively carry out your daily routine pain-free. People experience different degrees and frequency of chronic pain, which is why doctors develop pain management plans based on individual condition.
The pain management plan will greatly depend on your symptoms and any underlying health issue. Medication, lifestyle changes, or a blend of these methods may be used to treat the pain.
Medical treatment for chronic pain
- A few examples of different types of medications available for the treatment of chronic pain include:
- Opioid pain relievers, including morphine (MS Contin), hydrocodone (Tussigon), and codeine
- Adjuvant analgesics like anticonvulsants and antidepressants
- OTCs pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil) or aspirin (Bufferin)
Medical procedures for chronic pain
- A few medical procedures which can soothe chronic pain include:
- Surgery, to correct improperly healed injuries which may be causing the pain
- Electrical stimulation which lowers pain via the transmission of mild electric shock into the muscles
- Acupuncture which involves pricking the skin lightly with needles to relieve pain
- Nerve block, an injection that inhibits nerves from transmitting pain signals to the brain
Life remedies for chronic pain
You can adopt some lifestyle remedies to alleviate chronic pain. These include:
- Meditation and Deep breathing: This is one technique that keeps your body relaxed; it may relieve pain. Tension and tightness escape from muscles as they get a quiet signal to relax. There are several ways of meditating, but the soothing power of repetition is at the hub of some forms of meditation. Focus on your breath, ignore thoughts, and repeat a phrase or word (a mantra), and your body will relax.
- You can either learn to meditate on your own or take a class on meditation. Deep breathing is also a relaxation technique that reduces tension. All you need is get a quiet place, comfortable body position, and barricade distracting thoughts. Then imagine a spot right under your navel and breathe into that spot, filling your abdomen with air. Ensure the air fills you from your abdomen up, then exhale like a deflated balloon.
- Massage: When you get a massage for chronic pain, it can bring relief and reduce stress. This technique is used by people having all kinds of chronic pain, including neck and back pain.
- Yoga: Learning how to do yoga exercise with others will boost your body metabolism and keep stress away. Yoga is one very good form of physical activity that strengthens your body muscles; making you flexible and strong.
With the excitement of performing yoga, you may forget your chronic pain soon enough.
- Physical therapy
- Art and music therapy
- Tai chi
- Pet therapy
How to deal with chronic pain
Chronic pain has got no cure. But symptoms can be lowered. It is apt to follow your pain management plan strictly for optimum results. The fact that emotional and physical pain are tied together makes it possible for your stress level to be increased due to chronic pain. So, developing emotional skills can be of help in coping with stress-related conditions.
The following steps can work
- Maintain physical well-being – Ensure that you eat a balanced diet, sleep well, and exercise regularly. This takes away stress and rejuvenates the body. A healthy diet is good if you are living with chronic pain. It aids your digestion, lowers heart disease risk, controls body weight, and improves blood sugar level.
- For a low-sodium, low-fat diet, you can choose from cooked dried beans and peas; lean meat; low-fat cheese, yoghurt, and milk; whole-grain bread and cereals; and fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Endorphins are released during exercise that aid in improving your mood while blocking pain signals.
- Exercise also prevents re-injury and further pains. It strengthens your muscles, controls body weight, blood sugar level, and reduces the risk of heart disease.
- Find support: You can lean on family members, friends, and support groups to get out of stress and be happy again. You never can tell how much power is found in good friendships. Again, being part of a group where people have chronic pain makes you not to feel left out. Your group will understand what you are going through and share their wisdom in coping with the pain.
- You can even choose to see a mental health professional. Depression can set in if you’re all alone and having chronic pain. Counselling too can help you learn ways to cope better and avoid negative thoughts that worsen the pain. Remember to always ask for support whenever you are experiencing chronic pain; it pays off in the long run.
- Don’t quit your daily activities: by getting involved in activities you like and building good friendship, you can overcome stress and keep a happy mood. Don’t isolate yourself if you have chronic pain; it presents a more negative outlook on your condition and increases your sensitivity to pain.
- You should also learn to distract yourself from pain. Try as much as possible to get engaged in something that takes your mind off the pain. The truth is, you may not be able to avoid pain, but you can exercise control over your life.
- Quit smoking: Habits like smoking can improve painful circulation problem. It also increases the risk of cancer and heart disease.
- Reduce alcohol intake – Drinking too much alcohol can worsen sleep problems. If you’re experiencing chronic pain, take less or no alcohol to improve your quality of life
- Reduce stress in your life: It is no longer news that stress enhances chronic pain. Negative feelings and bad energy like anger, depression, and stress can increase your body’s sensitivity to pain. When you learn how to control stress, you may be able to get some relief from chronic pain.
You can relax with soothing, calming music; this can lift your mood. There are specially designed relaxation CDs or tapes to promote relaxation. You could get any of them. Another technique for reducing the stress that you can employ is pressure muscle relaxation. To get more information or help with chronic pain, visit the walk-in clinic to consult with GP or doctors. We will be glad to help you!
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