Chronic Pain – Causes and Management Options
Causes & Risk Factors
Feeling pain is healthy as it is the body’s mechanism of signaling that something is not right. In fact, people who can’t feel pain like leprosy victims are often at risk of severe injuries like burns. Normal pain is supposed to be momentary even while it is acute. Even in the case of severe injuries, the pain will last until the wound is healed. When pain lasts longer than a healed injury or condition, it is termed as chronic pain. Severe chronic pain can be disabling as it reduces flexibility, mobility, and strength. The number of people seeking chronic pain management tips keeps on growing due to a myriad of factors. Chronic pain affects about 100 million people in the country alone.
What causes chronic pain?
It has been found that there are two characteristics that set apart chronic pain from acute pain. Chronic pain lasts for longer than six months. This usually happens when injuries fail to heal properly, when there is nerve damage, and when the joints or bones are affected by injury or aging.
Neurologists are of the opinion that chronic pain happens when the nervous system remains in a permanent reactive state even after an injury heals. This reactive state becomes a cycle as the persistent pain elevates the reactivity in an upward spiral of pain. Neurologists say this leads to a state known as central sensitization, characterized by pain spreading to other parts of the body in proximity to the affected body parts.
Chronic pain is often accompanied by other physical and mental problems. Sleep disorder, fatigue, lack of appetite, and irritability are commonly observed in people with chronic pain.
Some of the more common types of chronic pain include the following:
- Lower back pain
- Neck pain
- Damaged nerve pain
- Psychogenic pain (also known as ghost pain)
While the main causes and mechanisms of chronic pain are yet to be fully understood, people with the following conditions are likely to suffer chronic pain:
- Endometriosis – This is a disorder that involves the uterine tissue growing outside the uterus.
- Interstitial cystitis – This is a disorder wherein the patient experiences chronic bladder pressure and pain.
- Fibromyalgia – Pain in the joints and bones.
- Chronic fatigue – The victim constantly complains of tiredness accompanied by pain in this case.
- Vulvodynia – This is a disorder characterized by a painful vulva without any illness or injury.
- Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) – This is a disorder that afflicts the jaw causing locking and clicking of the jaw joint.
There are some conditions that could cause chronic pain. They have been listed as follows:
- All types of cancer
- Stomach ulcers
- Kidney disease
There are certain factors that predispose a person to chronic pain. These could include the following:
- Obesity and being overweight
- Serious injury
- Surgical operations
Back pain is the most common complaint by people seeking chronic pain management tips. Some factors that have been observed to raise the risk of developing chronic back and neck pain include:
- Poor sitting and standing posture
- Incorrect weight lifting
- Ailments causing curvature of the spine
- Being overweight and obesity placing extra strain on the back
- Prolonged walking on high heels
How can chronic pain be managed?
People seeking chronic pain management tips are often advised by using one or three of the following approaches:
Physical procedures targeting the nervous system
These include traditional and modern techniques such as the following:
Acupuncture – This disrupts and realigns the nervous system using pricking needles.
Mild electrical shocks – Surgeries to correct improperly healed joints or tissue.
Medical prescriptions – This involves using medication to reduce the reactivity of the nervous system. Strong opioids are at times prescribed in the case of severe chronic pain. Anti-inflammatory medications can be prescribed for nerve inflammation as experienced in the case of arthritis.
Some lifestyle adjustments and habits are also advised to help manage chronic pain effectively:
- Deep tissue massage to provide muscle and nerve relaxation
- Yoga and meditation
- Pet therapy
Mental health coping techniques
Mental stress, depression, and despair often afflict people with chronic pain. Therefore, they should undertake steps to maintain mental well-being. Some effective chronic pain management tips to deal with such risks include the following:
Creating a support network – Family, friends, and colleagues are very useful in providing emotional support and morale boost needed to overcome negative emotions.
Spirituality – Cultivating spirituality can offer a measure of comfort in knowing that there is a higher power looking over you.
Following a set daily routine – Attempting to keep the usual daily routine gives a semblance of normalcy and hope in better times.
Chronic pain is a leading cause of disability these days. However, by using a mix of effective chronic pain management tips recommended to you, you can improve the quality of your life.