Chronic Pain: What are the causes?
OVERVIEW OF CHRONIC PAIN
There is no one that has ever lived that has never experienced some sort of pain in their body. Once in a while, we experience pains and aches.
Pain is good! ‘Really’, you may ask? Yes, really. Pain is good! Without pain, we can die silently. Pain is a great way our body tells us something is wrong somewhere in our body and it is a nervous system reaction. It is a way we are alerted of a possible injury to our body.
This is what usually happens. When any part of our body is injured, signals arise from the affected part of the body and travel all the way to our brain through our spinal cord. The brain, in turn, will activate processes that will ensure that the cause of the pain is attended to.
As the injury begins to get healed, the pain will also begin to subside. But there are instances where pain can persist longer than it should. That is simply chronic pain.
Chronic pain will typically be felt consistently or intermittently for a minimum of 12 weeks and it can spiral into several years. Another thing worthy of note is the fact that chronic pain will still continue to linger even after the injury has healed up.
This Pain can be debilitating to the extent that our physical strength, mobility, endurance, and flexibility can be drastically reduced.
Simple day-to-day tasks will not be left out – they can suddenly become a nightmare as the pain become really intense and incapacitating.
Chronic pain can be either dull or sharp and it will often lead to aching or burning sensation. It may also come steadily or intermittently with no obvious reason.
Any part of the body can experience chronic pain.
Common types of chronic pain include:
- Cancer pain
- Post-trauma pain.
- Neurogenic pain (that is, pain due to nerve damage).
- Postsurgical pain.
- Lower back pain.
- Arthritis pain.
- Psychogenic pain (that is, pain that is not a consequence of a disease, nerve damage or an injury).
Based on the statistics given by the American Academy of Pain Medicine, not less than 1.5 billion people in the world over have recorded one form of chronic pain or the other.
It was also added that the pain is one of the leading causes of protracted disability in the residents of the United States and the figures were placed at about 100 million.
WHAT CAUSES CHRONIC PAIN?
A pulled muscle or a back strain have accounted for one of the major causes of injuries that elicited pain.
Most authorities believe that this condition is often an aftermath of a damaged nerve.
Nerve damage can precipitate pain that is not just intense but long-lasting.
When pain is caused by a damaged nerve, there is no amount of treatment for the injury that will make the pain to resolve.
There are typical cases where people experience chronic pain without having any injury whatsoever. This special type of chronic pain has underlying mechanisms that are not yet well-understood.
Notwithstanding, the following conditions have been associated with chronic pain:
Interstitial cystitis: This is a chronic disease that causes pain and increased pressure in the bladder.
Endometriosis: This is a disorder of the womb where the thin sheet that lines it begins to grow outside the womb. The womb is also called uterus.
Vulvodynia: This is pain inside the vulva. There is no particular cause of pain.
Fibromyalgia: This is restricted to the muscles and bones. These two organs experience widespread pain.
Inflammatory bowel disease: This is a disorder of the gastrointestinal tract otherwise known as the digestive tract. It is not uncommon to be associated with inflammation and pain.
Chronic fatigue syndrome: This comes with pain and extreme and contracted weariness.
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ): This is a disorder of the jaw that negatively affects locking, clicking, or popping of the jaw and it is never without serious pain.
WHO IS AT RISK FOR CHRONIC PAIN?
Chronic pain has no respect for age. Nevertheless, aged people are more susceptible to suffering from chronic pain than are younger people.
Other than age, the following highlighted factors can also contribute to the development of chronic pain:
Injury: The slightest injury to the body cells can elicit chronic pain.
Surgery: Surgical operations can produce pain that can become chronic in the long run.
Gender: Females are more at risk than males.
Weight: Overweight (or obese) predisposes more to having chronic pain.
HOW IS CHRONIC PAIN TREATED?
Reduction of pain and the enhancement of mobility are the principal goals of any treatment regimen for pain.
With this, day-to-day activities can go on without much discomfort.
Chronic pain has graded intensity and frequencies. And so will two different people not go through the same intensity and frequency. The point simply is, how often and how ‘bad’ a person experiences chronic pain vary from person to person.
Hence, in order to help those affected to appropriately manage pain, the doctor will have to design the treatment plan that is specific to the pain that is specific to us. This will also take into consideration, the symptoms we present and indeed any health challenge that might be lurking around in our body.
Some of the treatment plans include either or both medical treatments and lifestyle remedies.
Medications for chronic pain
The following medication classes are some of the popular medications that are popularly acclaimed to be very useful in managing chronic pain;
Over-the-counter medications: Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin (Bufferin) or ibuprofen (Advil).
Opioids: They are pain relievers like codeine, hydrocodone (Tussigon) and morphine (MS Contin).
Adjuvant analgesics: Antidepressants and anticonvulsants are examples of adjuvant analgesics.
Medical procedures for chronic pain
Some medical procedures which are really of immense help for the treatment of chronic pain are included below. A quick look at some of them:
Surgery: Surgery to correct injuries associated with chronic pain that perhaps did not heal properly.
Nerve block: This involves the prevention of damaged nerves from projecting signals to the higher centers, the brain.
Electrical stimulation: It produces an effect that limits how much pain we feel by making the muscles receive electric shocks that are healthy for them.
Acupuncture: In acupuncture, the skin is lightly needle-pricked so as to reduce the pain felt.
Remedies for pain
The following lifestyles can remedy, to a large extent, our pain:
- tai chi
- physical therapy
- artistic and music therapy
- pet therapy
DEALING WITH CHRONIC PAIN
Chronic pain currently has no cure. Treatment options that are available are aimed at managing the intensity and frequency of the pain we feel.
All management plans as it relates to getting better from chronic pain should be strictly adhered to so as to reduce our symptoms.
Physical pain often goes with emotional pain. Chronic pain will thus promote our stress levels. Aside from getting skilled in handling our emotions as triggered by stress, doing the following can further better our stress management skill;
Caring for our body: How else can we take good care of our body if not to eat well, sleep well, and exercise consistently? This can go a long way to make us stay healthy and keep stress in constant check.
Keep a daily routine of activities: Keeping ourselves engaged in activities that give us pleasure can make us feel much better, reduce our stress and increase our mood. On the contrary, staying alone and feeling bad about our situation can make us feel the exact opposite ways and even potentiate the pain. You can make it even more fun if you stay active with activities that your loved ones can also participate in with you.
Seek support: The best support we can have is that from our loved ones – family and friends and indeed support groups around us. We can never get enough support from these ones during our moments of pain. We can always seek out to be helped in simple daily tasks that have become a temporary menace for us to do because of how discomforting our pain can make us.
You can get further information regarding pain from the American Chronic Pain Association by paying a visit to this website theacpa.org.
Tonika Bruce, MSN, RN, MBA. is an accomplished nurse leader, published author, and personal development expert passionate about advancing healthcare management and quality patient outcomes.
She taps into the years of experience in healthcare management to produce credible and easy-to-understand health and leadership content. Her exceptional work has been featured in reputable publications, including Forbes, Recruiter, Inc, and the Color of Wellness magazine.