About Chronic Pain:
Pain is the body’s natural reaction to any type of injury, wound, or illness. Most often as the body restores its normal function the pain also resolves. If the pain lasts for more than 3 months, it is called chronic pain.(1)
Causes of Chronic Pain
Conditions that are with widespread and long-lasting pain are linked with chronic pain syndrome. These conditions include:
- Back Pain: It may occur due to muscle strain, nerve compression, or arthritis of the spine.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: It is an autoimmune condition that leads to inflammation of the joints.
- Osteoarthritis: It results from the wear and tear of the protective cartilage between the bones.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease: It is the chronic inflammation of the digestive tract that leads to intestinal pain and cramping
- Fibromyalgia: This condition causes pain and tenderness in the various parts of the body.
- Surgical Trauma
- Advance Cancer
In chronic pain syndrome, even when the condition improves the people continue experiencing pain. It is believed to be due to the nerve cells in the brain getting hypersensitive to pain signals.
Risk factors of chronic pain include:
- Smoking: It is believed that smoking worsens the pain in those with arthritis, fibromyalgia, and chronic pain disorders. According to the Cleveland Clinic, 50 percent of smokers seek treatment for pain relief.(4)
- Depression: Depression changes the way the brain receives and interprets messages from the nervous system.
- Obesity: Research states 50 percent of people seeking treatment for obesity report mild pain.(5)
- Females: Females are believed to be more sensitive to pain due to hormones or differences in density of female and male fibers.
People Over 65 years of Age: As a person, age, he gets prone to all kinds of conditions including pain.
Symptoms of Chronic Pain Syndrome
Chronic pain syndrome can be physically and emotionally stressful. Some people may experience intense pain while others may have flares of intense pain that may subside to lesser pain.
It is observed in a study done in 2016 that 61% of people with chronic pain also suffer from depression(2). Other symptoms include:
The emotional affection of chronic pain may negatively affect an individual’s relationship, education, or work.
Diagnosis of Chronic Pain Syndrome
Medical history is taken by the doctor and imaging tests are ordered to look for joint and tissue damage. MRI helps in looking for herniated disk and x-ray checks for osteoarthritis. Blood tests are performed to look for rheumatoid arthritis.
Treatment of Chronic Pain
Chronic pain, apart from medication requires other treatment. The doctor prescribes anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants as well as antidepressants.
Physical therapy also helps in pain management and helps in bringing improvement in the problems that may impact an individual’s daily life. Cognitive behavior therapy is recommended for those with negative thought patterns. Alternative therapies including acupuncture, hypnosis, and yoga are also found to be helpful in dealing with chronic pain and improving the quality of life.
How to Cope with Chronic Pain Syndrome
Managing chronic pain can be difficult as already the person is not feeling well. Emotional stress can further worsen the pain making it harder to work.
However, there are a few tips that can be considered when dealing with chronic pain.
- Focus on positives in life
- Do not keep away from family and friends or activities you can enjoy and perform. Keeping yourself engaged can help in continue doing the small activities that you are capable of.
- Participate in support groups
- Seek psychological and physical help. If you feel the pain is not going despite the medical treatment look for other ways of dealing with it.
Chronic pain syndrome is the pain that lasts for 3 months or longer and negatively affects an individual’s mental and physical health. A combination of medication, physical therapy, and alternative medicine support might be needed to overcome it.
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