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Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is pain anywhere in the body that lasts for more than 3 months. According to the National Library of Medicine, chronic pain is the most common complaint seen in clinics and hospitals around the country, affecting more than 1/4 of Americans. Chronic pain has a direct effect on a person’s quality of life, and if not well managed, can lead to depression and anxiety. 

What causes chronic pain?

Pain begins in nerve cells found in our skin and organs, and when we are injured or sick, receptor cells send pain messages along nerve pathways to the brain. The pain can be mild, like a headache, or unbearable, like a broken bone.

In some cases, the cause of chronic pain may be evident and easy to pinpoint. The patient is likely recovering from surgery or an injury, and the pain is caused by nerve damage at the location of the incision or injury. In some patients, chronic pain may appear seemingly out of nowhere, without an illness or disease present. This kind of chronic pain is called psychogenic pain or psychosomatic pain and is likely caused by psychological factors like stress and anxiety. 

Chronic pain does not discriminate and can affect people of all ages. Older adults, women, and people who are overweight or obese are at a greater risk of developing chronic pain. 

Symptoms of chronic pain 

The severity of pain differs from person to person but most patients experience some type of aching, burning, stiffness, and throbbing. When chronic pain becomes too much and a patient is unable to manage their pain, their quality of life may drastically decrease. Patients can experience anxiety, depression, insomnia, and frequent mood swings. Proper pain management and following a treatment plan is paramount to chronic pain management.

How to deal with chronic pain 

Pain is a common symptom of an underlying illness or disease, so it is important to visit a healthcare provider when the pain becomes unmanageable or ongoing. Unlike a visible injury, pain can be difficult to identify. Healthcare providers will usually ask a series of questions about the pain like the location, intensity, and frequency of the pain. They will ask if some certain movements or things make pain better or worse, how it has affected your life, and if you’ve had any previous illness, or are recovering from an injury.

Even if your healthcare provider is unable to identify the root cause of the pain, they may recommend a customized pain management program to improve a patient’s quality of life. 

Medical procedures like electrical stimulation and nerve blockers can be effective, especially for those suffering from chronic post-surgical pain symptoms. These procedures eliminate pain instantly and may provide direct relief for a few days or even weeks. 

Lifestyle changes may be recommended to help alleviate discomfort from chronic pain. Daily walks, eating healthier, and getting more sleep are simple habits that can have lasting and significant effects. Mindfulness practices like yoga, tai chi, music and art therapy, and meditation can encourage patients to direct their focus away from their pain. Group therapy or even sharing your feelings with a loved one can help reduce anxiety and worry. 

There is no cure for chronic pain, but understanding and following your pain management plan can drastically reduce symptoms and increase your quality of life. 

If you or a loved one are experiencing chronic pain, please contact us today by requesting an appointment with one of our physicians.