What is Chronic Pain?
Chronic or persistent pain is defined as pain that lasts for longer than 12 weeks despite medication or treatment. The pain may feel dull or sharp, causing an aching or burning sensation in the affected regions. It may be intermittent or steady, coming and going without any apparent reason. Chronic pain can occur in nearly any part of your body. It can reduce your strength, endurance, and flexibility and limit your mobility. This can make it challenging for you to go through your activities of daily living. Some of the most common types of chronic pain include:
- Lower back pain
- Post-trauma pain
- Postsurgical pain
- Arthritis pain
- Cancer pain
- Neurogenic pain (pain due to nerve damage)
Causes of Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is typically caused by an initial injury, such as a pulled muscle or back sprain. It is considered that chronic pain develops after the nerves become injured. The nerve injury makes the pain more intense and long-lasting. In such circumstances, treating the underlying injury may not resolve the chronic pain.
In some instances, however, individuals experience chronic pain without any previous injury. The exact causes of chronic pain without injury are not well known. The pain may sometimes occur due to an underlying health condition, such as:
- Fibromyalgia: This is defined by widespread pain in the muscles and bones.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome: This is characterized by prolonged, extreme tiredness which is frequently accompanied by pain.
- Interstitial cystitis: This is a chronic condition marked by bladder pain and pressure.
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): This is a group of disorders that causes chronic, painful inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract
- Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ): This is a condition that causes painful popping, clicking, or locking of the jaw.
- Vulvodynia: This is defined by chronic pain in the vulva which occurs with no clear cause.
- Endometriosis: This is a painful condition that results from the uterine lining growing outside of the uterus.
Risk Factors for Chronic Pain
Chronic pain can impact individuals of all ages, but it is very common in older adults. Besides age, other factors which can increase your risk of developing chronic pain include:
- Having surgery
- Having an injury
- Being overweight or obese
- Being female
Symptoms of Chronic Pain
Chronic pain can range from mild to severe. The pain can feel different in the various affected regions of the body. The pain may be described as:
- A dull ache
Treatment for Chronic Pain
The main objective of treatment is to mitigate pain and improve mobility. This assists you in returning to your daily activities without any discomfort.
The frequency and severity of chronic pain can vary among people. Hence, physicians generate pain management plans which are specific to each individual. Your pain management plan will depend upon your underlying health condition and your symptoms. Lifestyle remedies, medical treatments, or a combination of these techniques may be employed to treat your chronic pain.
Medical marijuana is recommended in the management of this condition as it is shown to alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life.
Lifestyle Remedies for Chronic Pain
Various lifestyle remedies are available to assist in mitigating chronic pain. These include:
- Tai chi
- Physical therapy
- Music and art therapy
Medications for Chronic Pain
Many types of medications are available which can aid in treating chronic pain. These include:
- Adjuvant analgesics, including anticonvulsants and antidepressants
- Opioid pain medications, such as Tussigon (hydrocodone), MS Contin (morphine), and codeine
- Over-the-counter pain medications, such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Advil (ibuprofen) or Bufferin (aspirin)
Medical Procedures for Chronic Pain
Specific medical procedures can also offer relief from chronic pain. These include:
- Acupuncture: This involves gently pricking your skin with needles to mitigate pain
- Nerve block: This is an injection that prevents nerves from conveying pain signals to your brain.
- Electrical stimulation: This method decreases pain by conveying mild electrical shocks into your muscles.
- Surgery: Surgery is employed to rectify injuries that may have not healed properly and which may be contributing to your pain.