How To Confront Chronic Pain

How to Confront Chronic Pain

There is an almost infinitesimal number of points on the body that pain can push its pesky pincers into, but there are basically only two types of pain.

Both types are a pain in the you-know-what.

Acute pain is a short-term sensation whose main purpose is to alert you that something is wrong, while chronic pain is ongoing, and as such can pose a significant disruption to your daily life.

Unfortunately, statistics show that more women than men report experiencing enduring, chronic pain.

Acute pain subsides when the initial injury heals. Chronic pain isn’t as polite, and lingers on like an unwanted guest, sometimes for years.

One of the most unwelcome side effects of chronic pain is the negative emotional states that can accompany it, such as anger, low self-esteem and depression.

Roughly 30 million Americans report living with chronic pain. We become aware of pain in the body thanks to the nervous system sending out a signal such as a tingling, burning, aching, or stinging sensation.

By definition, pain is unpleasant. It may feel like a dull achy throb or manifest as a sharp excruciating sting. People who live with chronic pain describe shooting, burning, sore, or squeezing sensations as well.

At the onset of an injury pain sensors are activated which then send electrical signals to the brain. Simple pain such as a minor headache is usually dispatched with an aspirin or two, and time. Chronic pain is much more stubborn and resistant because the brain continues to receive pain signals after the point of injury has passed or is healed.

The original cause of lingering pain could have been an infection or injury, or due to a continuing condition such as cancer or arthritis.

In some instances, there is not a clear cause for the pain someone is feeling which makes the condition all the more frustrating. Nonetheless, experts believe that environmental and psychological factors can exacerbate chronic pain.

If you live with chronic pain, you know that this unwanted sensation can occur at multiple points in the body simultaneously, manifesting as back pain, headaches, nerve pain, etc.

Are you or someone you love living with chronic pain? In many instances debilitating pain cannot be prevented, but there are steps you can take to manage the condition.

The overarching treatment goal for those living with persistent pain is to decrease the level of discomfort felt on a day to day basis while increasing functionality.

Currently experts suggest a number of interventions for pain management, most of which seek to minimize, but do not totally eliminate, aches and pains.

What are some of the more commonly used treatments for persistent pain?

Many pain specialists recommend light physical exertion such as a form of low-impact exercise to diminish pain, e.g. tai chi, yoga, biking, swimming and walking.

Physical therapy is a more formal way of addressing pain symptoms and is likely to include muscle stretches and activities that strengthen muscles.

Occupational therapy may sound like a job-related activity, but in fact this type of therapy is helpful for a variety of issues. Occupational therapists not only address work-related problems, they can provide solutions that improve daily function. For example, they can suggest new and improved ways to perform tasks differently so that pain is minimized and risk of re-injury is lowered.

There are also several complementary and alternative interventions that many people have found helpful in combating chronic pain.

Such alternatives are not traditionally considered to be mainstream treatments, nonetheless they have grown in popularity as more people seek out nonconventional ways of healing.

Methods such as acupuncture, chiropractic techniques and massage are a few examples considered to be complements to mainstream medicine.

When methods such as those described above fail to provide any relief, some individuals pursue more aggressive treatments. Some doctors prescribe procedures such as surgery, electrical stimulation, or nerve blocks to control ongoing pain.

Your doctor may also want to discuss pharmaceutical solutions for pain, and these can range from pain relievers to anticonvulsant and antidepressant medications.

Some prescription pain relievers are opioids which can provide effective relief when used as directed. It’s possible to become addicted to opioid medication when it is misused however, and the potential for addiction is a discussion you should have with your prescriber.

Nonetheless, the reality is that simple relaxation techniques such as meditation can be a powerful tool for mediating pain. No matter what methods or interventions you use to decrease pain, experts almost always recommend the inclusion of relaxing activities as well.

This is because stress reducing activities that involve relaxation techniques have the potential to alter the chemicals produced by the body in response to pain, leading to a decrease of symptoms.

In the end there are no universal solutions to easing chronic pain. Every body is unique and as such everybody responds differently to the various methods and techniques used to address pain.

One of the best things you can do to manage your ongoing symptoms is to learn more about what causes your pain. Once you understand what triggers your pain you will be able to recognize and avoid situations which make your symptoms worse.

Having a conversation with your health care provider about your unique symptoms is a great place to start on the journey to improved pain relief.

To help get you started, here are some questions you can ask during your next medical visit:

  •       What is the most likely cause of the pain I’m feeling?
  •       What are the best treatment options for me?
  •       Is it safe for me to exercise, and if so what do you recommend?
  •       Are there lifestyle changes I can make that will help lessen my pain?

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