Understanding Chronic Pain
Pain is the nervous system’s response to potential or occurring injury, and is meant as an alert, triggering the body’s natural self-preservation responses. Chronic pain is different. Chronic pain persists even when the initial cause of pain has been removed or healed, and it can be ongoing — with pain signals firing in the nervous system continuously or intermittently over an extended period of time. For some patients, pain can last for years, and chronic pain may induce debilitating side effects that can include depression, anger, anxiety, and fear.
Chronic pain can be difficult to diagnose and treat, and when pain becomes a patient’s daily companion, his or her quality of life can be greatly diminished. If you suffer from chronic pain, you are not alone. An Institute of Medicine report estimated that in 2011, more than 100 million Americans suffered with chronic pain conditions.
Chronic pain complaints include:
- Back Pain
- Neck Pain
- Facial Pain
- Cancer-related pain
- Arthritic pain
- Neurogenic (nerve-related) pain
- Psychogenic pain (pain that occurs with no identifiable cause)
Causes of Chronic Pain
Chronic pain can be the result of a trauma — an injury, a surgery, or a serious infection — or pain may be the result of ongoing disease. However, pain may also occur in the absence of any of these triggers.
Treatment for Chronic Pain
A wide range of treatment options is available to treat chronic pain. In most cases, patients find that a combination of treatments is most effective. Medical personnel that are experienced with pain management are prepared to offer effective help not just for the physical component of pain, but also for the stressful emotional aspects of living with chronic pain.
Every patient’s pain management program will be different, since every patient’s pain is unique. Treatments might include:
- Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or naproxen)
- Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol)
- Narcotic medications (such as Morphine or Codeine)
- Localized anesthetic injection
- Nerve blocks
- Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
- Physical therapy
- Relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises
- Behavior modification
Because any treatment carries the potential for side effects or complications, it is important that you discuss with your physician any pre-existing conditions or injuries as well as current medications before undergoing any new treatment.