What’s Chronic Pain?

what-exactly-causes-chronic-pain

Chronic Pain Comes In Many Forms

Pain is a very common sensation that we all experience from time to time as we go about our daily lives. It can be acute (short-term) or chronic. Acute pain is often felt after an injury or illness and goes away once the injury or illness has healed. On the other hand, chronic pain is long-term pain that lasts for more than three months and impacts an individual’s ability to work, sleep, or enjoy life.

Chronic pain affects millions of people in the United States. It can be debilitating, and for many people, it lasts for years. According to a study by the American Pain Society, an estimated 635 billion dollars go into treating chronic pain in the U.S. every year.

Chronic pain is often characterized by dull, aching, or burning sensations and can affect any body part. The pain can be mild, moderate, or excruciating depending on the cause. This constant unrelenting pain can be quite hard to diagnose and treat. Most chronic pain patients usually find themselves in a continuous cycle of doctor visits and prescription medications with little to no relief.

What Causes Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain affects people of all ages and backgrounds. There are many different possible causes of chronic pain. It could be the result of an injury, a chronic disease, or conditions such as arthritis, cancer, fibromyalgia, and Parkinson’s disease just to mention a few.

Chronic Pain can also arise from nerve damage that has been caused by surgery or trauma including burns or spinal cord injuries. In some cases, the pain is caused by a mental health issue such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Pain

Just like the name suggests, chronic pain is any form of persistent pain that lasts for more than 12 weeks. Apart from experiencing constant pain, chronic pain sufferers may also experience the following signs and symptoms:

  • Burning sensations in the affected body part
  • Persistent headaches
  • Fatigue  
  • Muscle stiffness or spasms
  • Increased sensitivity to touch
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Nausea
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Fatigue
  • Sore joints
  • Irritability and anger
  • Decrease mobility
  • Negative thoughts
  • Poor concentration
  • Numbness and tingling sensation
  • Memory loss
  • Excessive sweating
  • Weakened joints and muscles due to reduced physical activity
  • Increased sensitivity to painful and non-painful triggers
  • Functional impairment
  • Substance abuse

Chronic pain patients can also find themselves dealing with conditions like depression, anxiety, and chronic stress due to the hardships and uncertainties that come from living with chronic pain. If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from any form of chronic pain, you must see a doctor immediately so they can help diagnose and treat your symptoms as soon as possible.

At-Risk Groups

Although chronic pain cuts across all demographics, some groups are at greater risk of developing the condition than others. This includes people who have had significant trauma or injury,  those with public health coverage, those without high school education, and those living in poverty.

Women and people aged 45 to 64 years old are also at higher risk of developing chronic pain and high-impact chronic pain.

Diagnosing Chronic Pain

Chronic pain can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms often “mimic” other conditions. For this reason, a doctor needs to rule out other possible causes of the pain before they can make a diagnosis. 

Apart from asking some standard questions about the pain, your healthcare professional will also conduct a thorough physical and neurological evaluation. Blood works and imaging tests may also be required to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

How Is Chronic Pain Treated?

Chronic pain is a complex condition that affects people differently.  As such, the treatment for chronic pain will vary from person to person depending on its cause and severity. The goal is to find out what works best for you in terms of managing your symptoms so that they don’t interfere with daily activities including work and recreation.

There are various treatment options for chronic pain including prescription medication, biofeedback, spinal cord stimulation, physical therapy/rehabilitation exercises, occupational therapy, psychotherapy, counseling, and nerve block injections.

Certain complementary treatments have proven to be very helpful in chronic pain management. They include acupuncture, deep tissues massage, mind-body techniques, chiropractic treatments, supplements, and herbal medicine.

In some cases, surgery may be required if the chronic pain has been caused by an injury or medical condition that cannot be treated with other methods.

Ketamine Therapy for Chronic Pain

Ketamine is one of the newest and by far one of the most effective treatments for chronic pain management. Originally developed as a general anesthetic, ketamine has proven to be very effective at reducing chronic pain in patients who suffer from persistent severe pain.

Ketamine’s effects come about through its ability to block the transmission of nerve signals that are involved with chronic pain sensation. As such, it is very useful for treating both chronic and treatment-resistant pain.

Research has also shown that ketamine provides relief from depression which is very common in people with chronic pain conditions – thus making ketamine therapy even more beneficial.

Coping Chronic Pain

A big part of chronic pain management is finding healthy ways to cope with the pain. Healthy lifestyle habits like eating a balanced diet, drinking a lot of water, getting enough sleep, avoiding alcohol/smoking, staying active, and practicing proper stress management techniques go a long way in reducing the intensity and persistence of chronic pain.

It is also important to talk about what you’re feeling and how the symptoms are affecting your life.  You can start by speaking with a trusted friend or family member who might be able to provide emotional support during this difficult time – someone who is happy to listen without judgment.

Last but not least, it is important to avoid anything that may trigger flare-ups like extended periods without sleep, strenuous activity, or being out in cold weather for too long.

Our Final Thoughts About Living With Chronic Pain

Living with chronic pain is no easy feat. The most important thing is to be aware of the chronic pain symptoms so that you can get treatment and take care of yourself.  Self-awareness plays a big role in managing your condition as well as seeking out effective treatments.

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