Do you suffer from chronic pain? If so, you’re not alone.
Approximately 20 percent of American adults suffer from it, as well. Additionally, another eight percent suffer from high-impact chronic pain, which limits at least one major life activity.
Is chronic pain a relatively new diagnosis for you? Or, do you have a hard time educating your family and friends about your condition and how it affects your daily life?
Either way, this article is for you.
Read on to learn nine important chronic pain facts that everyone ought to know. You can share these facts with your family and friends or use them for your own benefit.
What is Chronic Pain?
There’s a lot of misinformation out there about what chronic pain actually is. Generally speaking, chronic pain is defined as any type of pain that lasts for longer than 12 weeks.
Acute pain comes on suddenly and alerts us of a potential injury or underlying issue. Chronic pain persists long-term, though, and cannot be easily treated.
Chronic pain can be so severe that it limits a person’s ability to move their joints through a full range of motion. It may hinder their strength and stamina, as well, and prevent them from carrying out normal activities of daily living.
This pain may also be accompanied by other health issues like sleep disturbances, chronic fatigue, decreased appetite and mood changes.
Chronic Pain Facts Everyone Must Know
There are some important details that everyone ought to know regarding this condition, including the following:
1. It Can Have Many Causes — Or No Cause at All
There are many different issues that can lead to chronic pain. Some of the most well-known causes include:
- Injuries or trauma: If you were involved in an accident, you may continue experiencing pain in the area that you injured even after it’s “technically” healed.
- Poor posture: If you spend years sitting or standing with poor posture, you could cause unnatural or uneven wear and tear on your spine, which can result in chronic neck or back pain.
- Obesity: Carrying excess weight can put additional stress on your spine and joints and cause them to wear out faster (or not work as well as they should).
- Aging: As you age, your joints may begin to wear out; this degeneration can result in chronic pain.
Although it’s true that there are a lot of potential causes of chronic pain, it’s also important to note that chronic pain doesn’t always have a clear cause.
The pain can come on so gradually that the cause can’t be identified, or it may appear one day seemingly out of nowhere. Just because someone can’t identify the source of their pain, that doesn’t mean it’s not real.
2. There are Many Types of Chronic Pain
Chronic pain comes in many different forms. The following are some of the most well-known types:
- Neuropathic pain: This is pain caused by damaged or malfunctioning nerves
- Nociceptive pain: This is pain that occurs when the nociceptors (pain receptors) become activated (usually the result of physical trauma)
Nociceptive pain can be divided into several other types of pain, including the following:
- Somatic pain: This is a type of pain that affects the outer body, including the skin, muscles, joints, tendons, bones, or ligaments.
- Radicular pain: This occurs when the nerve is irritated (for example, a pinched nerve) that can cause numbness and weakness among other symptoms.
- Visceral pain: This is pain that affects the organs — examples include stomach pain or chest pain
As you can see, pain is a very detailed thing. It’s not always easy to identify the type of pain you’re experiencing. The more details you can give your doctor, though, the easier it will be for them to help you.
3. Chronic Pain Affects More Women than Men
Both men and women can suffer from chronic pain. But, more women than men tend to suffer from it.
Interestingly, though, despite women being more likely to experience chronic pain, they’re also less likely to seek and receive treatment. There are many reasons for this.
Psychosocial factors like gender roles can affect the way women communicate about their pain. They may be hesitant to bring it up for fear of being judged or dismissed, believing that people will feel they’re just overly sensitive or that the pain is all in their head.
The more people know about the ways that chronic pain affects women — and the rate at which it affects them — the greater the likelihood is that women will start to receive the treatment they need.
4. Chronic Pain Can Be Isolating
It’s not uncommon for individuals who suffer from chronic pain to experience feelings of isolation. Their pain may limit them from participating in social activities or doing things they once enjoyed.
The isolation associated with chronic pain can often lead to feelings of depression and social anxiety. (Mental health issues like these often occur alongside chronic pain.)
Because many people who suffer from chronic pain feel isolated, they often seek support in online forums and communities designed for other people who experience similar symptoms.
These groups can be very beneficial. In-person communication and socialization matter, too, though. Spending time with others (in real life) increases the production of oxytocin and can actually help to minimize pain.
5. Chronic Pain Affects Sleep
Chronic pain often has serious effects on people’s sleep.
In some cases, it can cause insomnia and make it nearly impossible for someone to get a good night’s sleep. In other cases, it can cause chronic fatigue and make it nearly impossible for them to get up and go about their normal routine.
When someone with chronic pain first seeks medical attention, one of the first lifestyle factors their pain management specialist will consider is the quality and quantity of sleep they get each night.
Improving sleep can often have a significant impact on a person’s pain perception and may help to improve their symptoms.
6. Chronic Pain Impairs Physical Activity
This comes as a surprise to some people, but chronic pain can have a serious impact on a person’s ability to participate in physical activity.
Sometimes, the pain is so bad that they can’t even handle basic tasks like standing up to walk to the bathroom or reaching above their head to put something away.
If it goes untreated for too long, chronic pain and long-term physical inactivity can lead to disuse syndrome. Disuse syndrome can negatively affect a variety of bodily systems, including the following:
- Musculoskeletal system: The muscles may shrivel and shrink.
- Cardiovascular system: Heart efficiency decreases and blood circulation diminishes.
- Neurological system: The nervous system can downregulate.
Disuse syndrome can also have an effect on an individual’s emotional and psychological health.
7. Diet Can Improve or Worsen Symptoms
Some people have found that the foods and drinks they consume on a regular basis can positively or negatively affect their symptoms.
Foods that seem to lessen pain include:
- Fatty fish, like sardines and salmon, that are high in omega-3 fatty acids
- Olive oil (contains a compound called oleocanthal, which minimizes inflammation and pain)
- Tart cherry juice (contains antioxidants and can minimize pain and inflammation)
Foods that seem to make pain worse include:
- Refined sugars (can worsen inflammation and pain perception)
- Refined grains (can also trigger inflammation and make autoimmune conditions worse)
- Alcohol (can exacerbate pain, especially nerve pain)
Changing your diet may not get rid of chronic pain altogether, but it can be helpful.
8. There are Many Ways to Manage Chronic Pain
There are many different treatments out there designed to help chronic pain.
In addition to dietary changes and other lifestyle changes, many people experience relief from therapies, including:
- Pain Blocks
- Chiropractic Adjustments
Physical therapy and occupational therapy can be helpful, too.
Some people also benefit from ultrasound therapy, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy and implantable pain pumps.
9. Surgery is Sometimes Necessary
In some cases, the most effective treatment option for chronic pain management is a surgical procedure.
Surgeries are most often effective when there is a clear source of the pain. They’re not ideal for those who can’t pinpoint the cause of their pain or who experience pain in a large area.
For example, if you have a herniated disc that is causing your pain and doesn’t get better with other treatments, surgery to remove the disc may be necessary. Surgery can also be helpful for those who are suffering from neuropathic pain.
In most cases, pain management specialists will make use of other, more modest treatments before they suggest that someone with chronic pain undergo surgery.
Get Help with Chronic Pain Today
After reading through this post, did you learn some new chronic pain facts?
Are you going to share this information with your friends or family members who don’t seem to understand what you’re going through?
Keep this information in mind so that you can stay informed about your condition and inform others as well.
Do you need help managing your chronic pain? If so, we can help at Edgewood Surgical Hospital. Contact us today to learn more about our pain management services or to schedule a consultation.