Understanding Chronic Pain

Pain is a feeling people don’t want or hate to experience. It’s frustrating and most of the time, it affects our lives. But since pain is very common, we’ve learned to accept that we will all be experiencing some sort of pain at some point of our lives. However, for people who are suffering from Chronic Pain, it’s never easy to accept the fact that the pain doesn’t go away – that they have to deal with it everyday.

What Is Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain could actually become the person’s primary disorder

Compared to acute pain which has an identifiable cause and treatment, chronic pain is a persistent pain that could last for months, or even years despite the injury has already been healed. It’s a condition that’s not easy to identify because of its unclear etiology and complex history, besides the fact that the patients has a very poor response to therapy.

And because chronic pain is a condition where you will experience episodes of excruciating pain for several months or even longer, it may disrupt your daily activities and may prevent you to live a normal life which will then cause you to feel hopeless and depressed.

When Does Pain Become Chronic?

Pain is important in our lives. It lets us know that there’s a problem in our body that might need immediate medical attention. However, there are times when the pain isn’t normal anymore – that it already become the person’s primary disorder.

A normal pain usually last for several weeks to several months, but not more than 3 months. If the pain last longer than that period, it’s already considered as chronic. There are many factors involved in the transition of acute to chronic pain. Unfortunately, not all pain are the same and your experiences may be different to the other or vice versa. There are also some cases where you both have similar conditions but only one of you will develop chronic pain. Although there is no clear explanation on how pain becomes chronic, an open communication between you and your doctor will greatly help to better understand your condition.

Symptoms and Characteristics

Persistent pain that has lasted beyond the expected healing period is already considered as chronic pain. And mostly, the following physical symptoms may also occur:

  • Persistent shooting, burning, electrical, or aching pain
  • Stiffness or Tightness
  • Fatigue and Weakness
  • Headache
  • Pain that’s worst when stressed or angry
  • Blurry vision
  • Pain medications’ no longer effective

It is a fact that chronic pain can greatly affect a person’s way of life; it usually limits the ability of that person to do what he or she regularly do. For this reason, other problems, besides the pain itself, may also occur:

  • Disturbed sleeping pattern
  • Irritability, hopelessness, stress, and fear
  • Withdrawn from social activities or relationships
  • Decreased coordination
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating or confusion
  • Somatization

There’s no doubt that more and more people are now experiencing chronic pain. But knowing that it’s not just you who’s suffering from pain doesn’t really make it a lot easier to bear. Chronic pain is a burden and is stealing your chance to live a normal happy life. So, don’t let it interfere with yours; start learning about it, and see what you can do especially if it’s starting to affect not just you, but also those around you.

Chronic Pain Diagnosis

An effective treatment and management of pain starts with an extensive assessment and diagnosis. Its purpose is to determine whether further evaluation is needed to be able to understand the pain. Because a clear assessment and diagnosis allows your doctor to identify the pain, its impact, or if there’s other medical problems involved, it’ll be easier to develop an effective and most applicable treatment plan for a certain type of pain.

Since no one can really tell how much pain you’re experiencing, a thorough assessment and documentation is necessary to evaluate your case. Important information such as the severity and quality of pain, its duration and location, certain factors that cause it to be better or worse, psychiatric or medical problems, and previous medical history should all be documented. The following may also be required to diagnose pain:

  • Complete physical exam
  • Other medical conditions and prior treatments (medicines or other conventional treatments that has been tried in the past)
  • Some information about your lifestyle

The above information may all be necessary to diagnose what’s causing the pain and the possible benefits of treatment. Because pain is subjective, that is, an intense pain for one person may not be too painful to the other in spite of having the same condition, it’s important for your doctor to have a clear understanding of pain so as to provide the most effective pain management.

While symptoms and medical history are all important in assessing pain, your doctor may still prescribe other diagnostic procedures such as the following to make sure that he or she has the most accurate diagnosis of your case and that there’s no underlying conditions involved:

  • Laboratory tests – In this procedure, a sample of your blood or urine may be evaluated to check if an infection or other related condition is causing the pain.
  • X ray – This procedure is used to see if there’s damage, injury, or fracture in the joints or bones.
  • EMG/NCV – Electromyography in combination with Nerve Conduction Velocity are performed to see if underlying condition that affects nerves or muscles is involved. These procedures help your doctor to locate the damage on your muscles or nerves by recording the electrical activities in your muscle tissues, and the speed of your nerves’ electrical signals to your brain.
  • MRI – Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan is a procedure that shows images of your body’s structures and tissues. It can give your doctor the most accurate evaluation of the structures in your body and detects if inflammation or other medical condition is causing your pain.
  • Diagnostic Nerve Blocks – This procedure is used not just to determine the primary source of pain, but to provide short-term pain relief as well.

Telling your doctor everything related to your condition can greatly help you

Telling your doctor everything related to your condition can greatly help you

There are different exams and procedures to diagnose pain. A mental health assessment may also be needed as anxiety, depression, stress, or insomnia is also causing chronic pain. Your doctor may also ask you to perform few physical activities to see if your pain problem affects your ability to feel and your reflexes. These exams can greatly help to determine if neurological or nerve problem is involved.

One must understand that pain can’t easily be assessed and measured. Only you or the person experiencing chronic pain can appropriately describe it. Therefore, maintaining an open communication with your healthcare professional is the most important to adequately diagnose and treat chronic pain.

Pain Management Resource Guide

An Overview

Pain is a common sensation among humans as well as among animals.  It’s an unpleasant feeling that we all experience at different points of our lives. Though it usually serves as an “advance signal” that something is wrong with our body that might need immediate treatment, its undesirable effects can still affect the person’s physical, mental, and emotional well being.

Pain can either be associated with a wide range of disease or injury, or it could be the disease itself. Depending on its cause, different pain relief strategies can be simple or complex. Therefore, it is important to understand the type of pain a person is experiencing to be able to determine which pain management method will be more effective.

Different Types of Pain

Pain is categorized according to duration, intensity, frequency, location, cause, and its characteristics (constant and/or intermittent). Generally, there are two basic categories of pain: Acute Pain, and Chronic (non-malignant) Pain.

Acute Pain

Though no one would want to experience pain, it’s still beneficial as pain draws attention, causing the person to avoid potentially painful situations. With acute pain, it’s commonly associated with a certain injury, indicating that damage has occurred. The following situations can cause acute pain:

  • Surgery
  • Trauma
  • Accidents
  • Dental Problems
  • Strain, Sprain, etc.

Acute pain lasts for a moment. However, there are times when the pain can last for weeks or even months depending on its severity. But the pain is just temporary and will eventually decrease along with healing especially if there’s no systemic disease or no lasting damage exists.

Chronic pain often results in fatigue, depression, or anger

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain often results in fatigue, depression, or anger

Chronic Pain is an intermittent or constant pain that still remains even beyond the expected healing period. It may be defined as pain that last for six months or longer and is often difficult to treat as its origin may be unclear. The most common causes of pain are:

  • Back Pain
  • Headache
  • Joint Pain
  • Pain from Injury

Chronic pain has clearly no purpose and if it remains, it becomes the person’s primary disorder, thus developing adverse effects such as change of appetite, tense muscles, or lack of energy. It also often results in depression, fatigue, and anger. And no matter how a person copes with it, pain that last for an extended duration could result in disability because he or she may not be able to do usual activities he or she is engaged in before the pain has began.

Regardless of its type or cause, pain that is insufficiently treated has harmful effects besides the suffering it brings. Unrelieved pain impairs the person’s ability to sleep, and some other damaging effects that’s most likely to result in complications.