Pain is usually caused by either injury or illness and can become a serious problem. Read our guide to find out how to manage and treat chronic pain.
Pain is something that we all have to deal with at some point in our lives, and it is caused by either injury or illness. In most cases, the body heals itself with the help of some treatment, so once an illness clears or the injured tissue is healed, the pain should stop. Unfortunately, some ailments are hard to treat or the underlying cause of the pain is hard to find. For these patients, the pain can become a chronic problem. Doctors will refer to this pain as “chronic pain” if it lasts three months or longer, with the most common sources of chronic pain attributed to arthritis pain, headaches and lower back problems and neck pain.
Chronic pain can take a serious toll on the physical as well as emotional well being of the person suffering from the pain. Even if the pain is not excruciating or incapacitating, even mild discomfort can be thoroughly unpleasant if it occurs continuously and makes it hard for a person to function normally. According to the National Institutes of Health, chronic pain is a problem that is becoming more prevalent by the day. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92516/). That is why this guide has been put together to inform you on how to manage and treat chronic pain.
As the name implies chronic pain is usually associated with pain ranging from mild to severe that does not go away. People who suffer from chronic pain have described the sensation as burning, aching and shooting. Patients also typically experience feelings of soreness, stiffness, tightness or general discomfort. It is not just pain and discomfort though, as other symptoms usually manifest as a direct result of the chronic pain. Feelings of general fatigue, a weakening of the immune system, stress, anxiety and often irritability resulting from sleeplessness are common examples. The person suffering from chronic pain will require more rest and will be more inclined to withdraw from activities. In addition, patients might experience mood changes, such as feelings of hopelessness, depression and even fear. According to Spine-Health (http://www.spine-health.com/blog/5-things-you-should-know-about-chronic-pain) chronic pain often leads to loneliness because the patient feels isolated from his or her peers.
To understand the causes and how to manage and treat chronic pain, it is important to know from where in the body the pain originates. Chronic pain is typically divided into two classes: musculoskeletal and neuropathic.
Musculoskeletal pain is most commonly associated with sporting injuries, diseases, repetitive strain injuries and accidents. The pain directly affects the ligaments, tendons, bones and muscles of the patient.
Neuropathic is the more complex of the two, as in some cases, there is no obvious cause for the pain from which the person is suffering. People who suffer from this type of chronic pain often experience burning sensations, shooting pains or numbness. Causes may include damage to nerve fibers or even changes in brain processing. Phantom limb syndrome is one of the most common examples of neuropathic pain and occurs when the brain continues to receive nerve signals from amputated limbs.
One of the most common reasons is simply the normal process of aging, which causes damage to joints and bones. Nerve damage due to an injury that didn’t heal properly is also a common culprit.
Chronic pain is often a direct result of an underlying disease. Fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are the most common contributors, but other ailments, including cancer, AIDS, stomach ulcers and multiple sclerosis, have the same effect.
The cause of chronic pain is not always easy to pinpoint and aside from physical ailments, people may experience chronic pain due to psychological problems such as stress or depression. All too often, the pain might start out due to physical causes, but then develop into a psychological issue.
Because pain is such a subjective experience, it can be very difficult for health professionals to diagnose and identify how to manage and treat chronic pain effectively. As the type of pain and its location cannot accurately be determined through tests, it is usually up to the person suffering from the pain to describe exactly to the doctor what he or she is experiencing. This description of the symptoms associated with the pain will provide the doctor with some clues that may point to the cause. Further complicating the matter is the fact that not all people experience pain in the same manner, which can make it tricky for the doctor to determine the type of pain with certainty. In addition, the doctor must also be careful not to cause undue anxiety to the patient, especially in cases where the cause might be psychological in nature.
The doctor will typically ask questions to determine when the pain started, whether the onset was gradual or sudden, where the pain is experienced and how intense the pain is. Some doctors will also require the patient to keep a “Pain Diary” to keep track of the pain levels across a certain period as well as the influence of activities and medication. The purpose is to determine whether any pattern can be discerned or if there is anything triggering the pain that can be avoided.
The type and severity of chronic pain varies from person to person but, with the proper medication and the right treatment plan, people suffering from this condition can find relief and improve the quality of their lives. Chronic pain is unfortunately a condition that doesn’t come with an easy fix, but if you know how to manage and treat chronic pain, it is possible to reduce the intensity of the pain to manageable levels.
Since chronic pain interferes with a person’s daily functioning, it is important to know how to manage and treat chronic pain in such a manner that the person can resume daily activities without any hinderence. Unfortunately, in most cases, chronic pain cannot be outright cured, but there are a couple of treatment methods available to help make it more manageable. The effectiveness of these treatments depends upon the severity of the pain and of course the individual experiencing the pain.
Medication is one of the options for chronic pain management, but it can often be a process of trial and error to determine what is most effective. Analgesics are one of the most common painkillers which are used to reduce moderate to severe chronic pain. They can be used as a form of knee pain treatment and neck pain treatment, as well as treating arthritis pain and other pain you might experience after an injury or surgery, however they do not work for everyone.
In addition to oral medication, another way of how to manage and treat chronic pain is using skin patches that can be applied directly to the skin in order to provide relief. For example, some patches contain lidocaine, which must be applied directly above to the affected areas, whereas other patches that contain fentanyl can be applied anywhere.
Sometimes doctors will prescribe anti-depressants to people suffering from chronic pain, but this does not mean that the person is depressed. These types of medication for chronic pain management can actually change the chemicals in your brain and help to bring the pain under control. Anti-depressants are most commonly used for diabetic neuropathy, low back pain, fibromyalgia and neck pain treatment but can also be used to treat other joint pains including as a form of knee pain treatment.
Other drugs such as steroids are also used to help with relieving inflammation. As always, it is vital that the person suffering from chronic pain follows the doctor’s directions and informs them immediately if there are any new symptoms or side effects.
Since medication is only for chronic pain management and does not eliminate chronic pain in its entirety, it should be treated as only a part of the overall approach for managing the pain. Although some medications can be bought over the counter, others require a prescription from your doctor. In the case of severe chronic pain, the over-the-counter remedies, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen and aspirin, will probably not be sufficient, but bear in mind that there are often side effects associated with taking prescription medication.
If you want to know how to manage and treat chronic pain without the use of medication, you can also learn self-care techniques. Teaching the affected person self-care techniques can help minimize the factors that usually make the pain worse. These factors include, fear, boredom, anger, uncertainty, stress, inactivity or even just the feeling of being powerless. Exercises that are performed under the supervision of a physical therapist are in many cases very helpful and some people find relief through treatments such as acupuncture. The therapist is qualified to perform an assessment of physical abilities that the affected person possess and can recommend active or passive therapies as part of the treatment plan. According to NIH Medline Plus (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/magazine/issues/spring11/articles/spring11pg5-6.html) other activities such as massages, meditation and even tai chi also provide relief.
Due to the possible severity of chronic pain, it is important to take preventative measures. Simply seeking treatment when acute pain starts instead of ignoring it in the hopes that it will go away can already make a big difference. Regular exercise and other aspects of a healthy lifestyle act as a safeguard against things that can lead to chronic pain. Even the simple act of ensuring that you get enough sleep or lowering your stress levels will already make a big difference. Of course, refraining from hazardous activities is also a wise course of action to prevent injury that can end in permanent damage.
Living with chronic pain can have an extremely negative affect on your life, but by changing your habits it can become manageable. According to the American Psychological Association, (http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/pain-management.aspx) it is important not to lose hope, but to make social connections and stay active in order to prevent the pain from taking over your life.
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