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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

What Causes Chronic Pain?

Overview Simplified

Sometimes, we all feel a little pain now and then. It’s like a warning from our body’s alarm system. When something hurts us, like a bump or a scrape, our body sends messages to our brain through our spinal cord to let us know there’s a problem.

When you get hurt, the pain usually gets better as you heal. But sometimes, there’s a different kind of pain called chronic pain. With chronic pain, your body keeps telling your brain that you’re in pain, even after you’ve healed. This type of pain can stick around for a long time, from weeks to even years. Chronic pain can make it hard for you to move, bend, and stay strong. It might also make it tough to do everyday things.

Chronic pain is when you have pain that sticks around for a long time, at least 12 weeks or more. This pain can feel sharp or dull, like a burning or aching sensation in the areas that hurt. Sometimes it’s there all the time, and other times it comes and goes for no clear reason. Chronic pain can happen in almost any part of your body, and it might feel different depending on where it is.

Here are some of the most common types of long-lasting pain:

Headaches
Pain after surgery
Pain after an injury
Pain in the lower back
Pain from cancer
Pain from arthritis
Pain caused by nerve damage
Pain without a clear physical cause

Over 1.5 billion people worldwide suffer from chronic pain, making it a widespread problem. In the United States alone, it’s the top reason for long-term disability, impacting about 100 million Americans.

What causes chronic pain?

Chronic pain often starts with an injury, like hurting your back or straining a muscle. Over time, the pain can get worse because the nerves that feel it are harmed. When this happens, just fixing the original injury might not make the pain go away.

Sometimes, people can have long-lasting pain even if they didn’t get hurt before. We don’t fully know why this happens. This kind of pain might happen because of a health problem, like:

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: This is when you feel extremely tired for a very long time, and it often comes with body pain.

Endometriosis: It’s a painful problem where the lining of the uterus grows in places it shouldn’t, causing pain.

Fibromyalgia: This makes your bones and muscles hurt all over your body.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease: It’s a group of issues that make your digestive tract hurt and stay swollen for a long time.

Interstitial Cystitis: This is when your bladder feels heavy and painful all the time.

Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJ): This causes your jaw to hurt and make noises when you open and close it.

Vulvodynia: It’s a constant pain in a woman’s private area, even when there’s no clear reason for it.

Who is at risk for chronic pain?

Chronic pain can affect people of all ages, but it’s most common in older adults. Besides age, other factors that can increase your risk of developing chronic pain include:

having an injury
having surgery
being female
being overweight or obese

How is chronic pain treated?

The main aim of treatment is to make you feel less pain and move better. This way, you can get back to your normal activities without feeling uncomfortable.

Chronic pain varies from person to person in how bad it feels and how often it happens. Doctors make plans to help you manage this pain, and these plans are tailored just for you. Your plan will be based on how you feel and any other health issues you have. To treat your chronic pain, doctors might use medicine, suggest changes in your lifestyle, or even use a mix of both.

Medications for chronic pain

There are different kinds of medicines to help with long-lasting pain. Here are a few examples:

Pain relievers you can buy without a prescription, like Tylenol or Advil.
Stronger pain relievers called opioids, such as morphine or codeine.
Other medicines, like antidepressants and anticonvulsants, which can also help with pain.

Medical procedures for chronic pain

Some medical treatments can help ease long-lasting pain. Here are a few examples:

Electrical stimulation: This method uses gentle electric shocks in your muscles to lessen pain.
Nerve block: It’s like an injection that stops your nerves from telling your brain about the pain.
Acupuncture: This involves poking your skin with tiny needles to relieve pain.
Surgery: Sometimes, surgery can fix past injuries that didn’t heal right and might be causing your pain.

Lifestyle remedies for chronic pain

Furthermore, there are different lifestyle treatments that can help reduce long-lasting pain. Some examples are:

Physical therapy: Special exercises and movements guided by a therapist to make your body feel better.
Tai chi: A gentle form of exercise involving slow, flowing movements that can relax your body and reduce pain.
Yoga: A combination of poses, stretches, and breathing exercises that can bring relief from chronic pain.
Art and music therapy: Engaging in creative activities like painting or listening to soothing music to ease your pain.
Pet therapy: Spending time with animals, like dogs or cats, to boost your mood and lessen discomfort.
Psychotherapy: Talking to a mental health professional to understand and manage the emotional aspects of your pain.
Massage: Applying pressure to your muscles and tissues to relieve tension and discomfort.
Meditation: Practicing focused relaxation techniques to calm your mind and reduce pain sensations.

Dealing with chronic pain

Chronic pain doesn’t have a cure, but you can effectively manage it by following your pain management plan to relieve symptoms.

When your body hurts a lot for a long time, it can make you feel really stressed out. But don’t worry, you can learn some emotional skills to handle this stress better.Here are some things you can do to feel less stressed:

Make sure to look after your body: Eating right, sleeping well, and staying active can help keep your body healthy and lower stress.

Keep enjoying your daily activities: By doing things you love and spending time with friends, you can improve your mood and reduce stress. Although chronic pain might sometimes limit what you can do, isolating yourself can lead to a more negative perspective on your situation and make pain feel even worse.

Get help from people you trust: When things get tough, reach out to friends, family, or support groups. They can give you a hand and make you feel better. Whether you’re struggling with everyday stuff or just feeling down, a close friend or loved one can be there for you.

 

 

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