Quality of life is defined as your general sense of wellbeing. Not only does it refer to how you feel mentally and emotionally about your day-to-day life, but also it refers to your overall physical health. While every person will have a different idea about what constitutes his or her perfect quality of life, one thing is certain.
Acute and chronic pain, without proper pain management, will drag down your general sense of wellbeing, causing you not only physical hardship but also mental, emotional, relational and even spiritual distress. Although chronic pain can be particularly difficult to deal with, acute pain from illness or injury, benign pain and cancer-related pain can also make it incredibly difficult for you to enjoy every aspect of your life.
What Is Chronic Pain?
Long-lasting physical symptoms frequently cause people to seek professional pain relief services. Pain that does not go away in a reasonable timeframe is known as chronic pain. This is usually defined as pain that lasts for at least three to six months.
Chronic pain can cause many different sensations. For some, it may be a dull ache. For others, it might be a sharp or shooting pain. It can even radiate from one area of the body to another. However, no matter how your chronic pain feels, it will greatly affect your life and get in the way of those activities that you most need or want to do.
What Causes Chronic Pain?
In general, pain is caused by a nervous system response in which a stimulus (such as an injury or nerve damage) sends a message to your brain telling your body to feel pain. In most cases, the chronic pain is caused by an actual injury, illness or surgery. The problem with chronic pain, though, is that this nervous system never stops responding, even when there is no longer an obvious reason for the pain.
There are a variety of causes for chronic pain, including the following:
- Past Injuries
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Nerve Damage
How Can Chronic Pain Affect You?
Obviously, chronic pain affects your physical state. (You may feel constant or regular burning, aching, stabbing or dull pain. Pain can be centered in one specific place, can get better or worse throughout the day and can radiate to a completely different body part.)
However, pain can eventually lead to many other problems when not brought under control quickly. You may find that you are unable to work or participate in social events, which can affect even your closest relationships. In addition, many experience some or all of the following symptoms:
- General fatigue
- Depression, anger and other mood changes
- Insomnia and non-restful sleep
- Weakness and inflexibility
- Appetite changes
- Decreased self-esteem
Find Help with Pain Management
You may immediately assume that medications are your only options for treating pain. While certain medications may work well for short-term treatment of acute pain, they are not used as frequently for chronic pain because of the risk of addiction.
However, your physician may opt for certain medications, such as anti-seizure drugs, antidepressants or muscle relaxants, that have been proven effective for your particular complaint.
Common pain management treatments found to work well for chronic pain include implantable pain pumps, physical therapy, TENS and biofeedback. Nerve blocks, steroid injections, trigger point injections and even Botox injections can also be used to treat certain types of pain.
It is important that you work closely with your physician to find the right combination of treatments to meet your unique needs.
Try Lifestyle Changes
While lifestyle changes may not cure your pain completely, they can make day-to-day life more bearable, reduce flare ups and improve your overall quality of life. Some changes that might help include the following:
- Avoiding trigger foods or activities
- Changing your exercise routine
- Changing your diet
- Eliminating caffeine or alcohol
- Smoking cessation
- Practicing stress management techniques (like meditation/breathing exercises)
Work with a Specialist
Dealing with chronic pain requires professional help. You should never try to manage it on your own with over-the-counter medications or alternative remedies that you have read about online or heard about from friends and family members.
Pain management specialists have the education and experience to treat a wide array of painful conditions and are able to deal with even the most complex treatment plans (inclusive of medications, complementary treatments, injections and social support). Depending on your insurance coverage, your primary physician can refer you to a pain care specialist, or you can seek care from one on your own.
Know What to Expect at Your Appointment
Your first appointment at a pain clinic will most likely begin with a complete consultation during which the specialist will go over your medical and surgical history, perform a physical assessment and spend time listening to your concerns, questions and goals. It is important that you are open and honest during this time so that you can get the best treatment plan possible.
Once you and the specialist have created a workable plan, you can start your treatments. You may need to come in weekly or monthly, you may need someone to drive you to your appointments and you may need to stop certain medications prior to your appointment.
Your exact pre-appointment instructions will vary based on the treatment. However, treatments are generally performed on an outpatient basis, allowing you to stay active in every area of your life.
Understand the Goal of Pain Management
Depending on the cause of your pain and the treatment recommended, you may find that your pain lessens, that your daily tasks become easier and that your pain goes away. The ultimate goal is always to improve your quality of life. In general, there is no cure for chronic pain, but your specialist can help manage and (hopefully) relieve your symptoms while decreasing stress and strengthening your emotional wellbeing.
Find Help for Daily Life at Edgewood’s Pain Clinic
At Edgewood Surgical Hospital, we understand that you want to enjoy your life fully, and we work diligently to find treatments that manage your symptoms. The anesthesiologists and other staff members in our pain clinic assist in a variety of pain management techniques for acute, chronic and cancer-related pain.
Our options include a variety of noninvasive and minimally invasive therapies to help you quickly get the relief you need. With the right pain relief care plan, you can live life to the fullest and feel empowered for your day-to-day tasks.