When a person suffers from chronic pain, it influences their life in several ways. Be it the completion of a task at the workplace or their performance at school, chronic pain may affect every aspect of their life and become intense over time.
Chronic pain may arise anywhere and at any time, making it difficult to carry out simple tasks. You may experience its side effects such as disturbance in sleep patterns, frustration, memory loss, concentration issues, and overall mental and emotional health. You may sleep for 8 hours straight, and after waking up, the pain can come back and ruin the start of your day. It can be mild, moderate, or intense, and the intensity may fluctuate throughout the day.
What is Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain refers to a pain that lasts longer than 12 weeks regardless of consuming medicines or undergoing treatment. A lot of times, the pain goes away on its own. In some cases, though, the pain stays or comes back without any underlying reasons. People who have arthritis, irritable bowel, diabetes, back pain, and fibromyalgia are susceptible to experiencing chronic pain more often than others.
Types of Chronic Pain
Doctors suggest different types of treatment options for chronic pain. Here is a list of chronic pain types.
Neuropathic pain (also known as peripheral neuropathy) refers to chronic pain due to potentially damaged or malfunctioning nerves within the body. Your body’s peripheral nerve system consists of all the nerves towards the spinal cord and from the spinal cord. Their function is to send pain messages to your brain. Therefore, upon an injury to the nerves, neuropathic pain may arise. Potential damage within the central nervous system may trigger neuropathic pain. It is difficult to treat chronic neuropathic pain because its diagnosis is difficult.
Nociceptors comprise receptors in the nervous system that may be triggered upon injury. In case of no injury, the nociceptors remain inactive. Therefore, nociceptive pain refers to chronic pain resulting from any bodily injury. Nociceptors signal chronic pain even if your injury heals. The types of chronic nociceptive pain are as follows.
1. Somatic Pain
Somatic pain refers to the pain that occurs due to an injury to the outer body, including muscles, bones, skin, joints, ligaments, and tendons. Soma means “body”; hence, it is called somatic pain. This sharp and throbbing pain is easy to diagnose and some of its examples include the following.
Chronic bone pain includes intense dull pain caused by the bones due to a weakness or any underlying condition such as osteoporosis or cancer. It may also occur due to a bone fracture.
Chronic muscle pain is intense where your muscles may experience a chronic muscle spasm. It can become a long-lasting pain due to muscle overload. It may also occur due to an underlying condition, including fibromyalgia.
2. Visceral Pain
Internal organs within your abdomen and chest cavity form viscera. The stomach is one of the visceral organs within the body. Some organs, such as the lungs, do not have nociceptors; hence, they can not signal pain upon injury. Visceral pain can cause referred pain where the brain is unable to comprehend which organ is affected. If your kidney is not functioning well, it may lead to lower back pain.
Doctors may require a lot of time to determine where your chronic pain is coming from with the body. Therefore, you should describe your pain to the doctors for early diagnosis.
Chronic Pain vs. Acute Pain
Acute pain refers to a sharp pain that suddenly occurs due to an underlying issue. It doesn’t last for more than six months on average. Once the acute pain stops, you can continue with your daily routine. It may occur due to the following reasons.
- Burns or cuts
- Bone fracture
- Labor and childbirth
- Dental work
On the other hand, chronic pain refers to continuous pain that may last for more than six months. It may remain active in the nervous system even if the illness or injury gets treated and healed for days, weeks, months, to years. In some cases, it may arise despite having no injury in the past or damage within the body. Some of its signs may include the following:
- Back pain
- Nerve pain
With chronic pain, your body may experience stress, leading to the body’s following physical and mental conditions.
- Lack of energy
- Tense muscles
- Changes in appetite
- Limited mobility
- Fear of re-injury
A visit to your specialized doctor will help you understand the pain and start a treatment plan accordingly.
How Chronic Pain Affects Life
Here is a list of ways how chronic pain affects life.
Chronic pain can take a toll on a person’s mental health and deteriorate their mood. No matter how you start your days, you may feel highly irritated upon pain. If it becomes a part of your daily routine, it may affect your everyday decisions and life.
Your chronic pain will most likely affect your personal relationships as well as professional connections. Be it a close friend, loved ones, or a coworker, feelings of pain may trigger you in many ways and destroy your relationships with people around you.
Memory and Concentration
While experiencing pain, you may forget to carry out tasks according to your plans. It can also affect your memory and make you forget essential details related to work or other aspects of life. You may feel less attentive during a lecture at school or a meeting at the workplace, which can further impact your daily life and hinder your chances of success.
How Chronic Pain Occurs?
The human brain involves the spinal nerves to perform their function in the central nervous system. These nerves transfer messages across the body to the brain, and the brain comprehends the part of the body causing the pain. Like an alarm system, our brain receives alerts regarding feelings of pain. However, sometimes, our brain fails to comprehend these signals.
Ideally, a person assumes that the pain will go away on its own after some time while the brain keeps reminding the body about pain. It can be very confusing when the pain keeps coming back, even if your body functions well. It can become more intense if left untreated.
Chronic pain is common among people of all ages and genders. It can affect any part of the body at any time of the day. However, we cannot determine if the pain will last for a short time or become chronic. People tend to develop chronic pain during stressful times or undergoing sadness or depression. It may also last longer even if your medical tests do not indicate any illnesses.
How to Manage Chronic Pain?
You can use a set of ways for chronic pain relief. It may include making changes to your lifestyle and everyday routine. The steps of pain management can reduce the possibility of disability or suffer from intense pain.
You can make use of the following ways for chronic pain management:
If the pain occurs, do not engage in an activity that may trigger the pain. It would be best if you stop yourself from carrying out any task that may worsen the pain. Once the pain goes away, you can continue to complete your tasks.
Performing Exercise or Workouts
Performing exercise is an effective way to reduce pain. Whether you are experiencing chronic pain in your shoulder or back, you can exercise for a while until the pain goes away. Sometimes, the pain occurs due to overstretching of muscles or stiffness within the limbs. To overcome the pain, you need to move your body for a few minutes as it will influence the functioning of your body and make you feel better.
Confide in Others
If you are prone to developing chronic pain very often, it is best to confide in a trusted friend or family member who could help you understand the reason behind it. If you know someone who has good knowledge regarding pain, you can talk to him or her to suggest you different ways to overcome pain.
Plan Your Day
If pain is a part of your day, be sure to plan your day ahead of time. See if you could manage the pain by changing your daily routine or adding other activities to your schedule.
Learn how to Relax
When experiencing pain, it may become challenging to calm yourself. However, finding different ways to relax can significantly lower pain in your body. Often, the pain may occur as a result of stress and anxiety. Your best bet is to relax and keep yourself calm to prevent the risk of further pain in such situations.
Start Taking Medicines
Once you have realized the occurrence of chronic pain, it is best to consult a doctor to prescribe a list of medicines. Medicines will control chronic pain effectively. However, in some cases, medicines may not work well to manage pain. You should visit your doctor and ask for a chronic pain treatment plan.
Enjoy Your Life
While experiencing pain, you may feel like curling up on your bed and sleeping throughout the day. However, you need to start enjoying your time doing things that you love, as it will naturally take away the pain out of your body. Start planning activities that boost your mood, and your pain will reduce over time.
To get rid of pain, you need to include physical activities in your daily routine. Be it walking indoors or climbing the stairs; your body will become physically active. As a result, the release of hormones within your bloodstream will make you feel better and reduce the risk of pain.
Listen to Music
Listening to music can instantly improve your mood. When experiencing chronic pain, you need to leave behind your work and plug in your headphones to listen to your favorite songs. An upbeat musical track can boost your mood, which will help you stay relaxed during pain.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
A TENS machine uses technology to block pain signals with the help of self-adhesive pads that pass an electric current throughout the skin. It feels like your sore is rubbing to alleviate pain or making use of a hot water bottle that relieves pain and provides comfort. The TENS machine is available at supermarkets, pharmacies, and online stores at a reasonable price.
Find a Treatment for Anxiety and Depression
If you are prone to experiencing anxiety and depression, it is best to search for a therapist who could help resolve your concerns. When the body goes through stressful situations, it is likely to develop chronic stress that lasts for a while. Therefore, to get rid of pain, your best bet is to consult a professional dealing with treating your stress, anxiety, and depression.
If you have tried all the methods listed above, and your pain does not stop after 12 weeks of consistent efforts, you should visit a general physician to look after your pain. They will conduct a few medical tests to come up with a treatment plan for your chronic pain. You should regularly consume the list of prescribed medications on time to get rid of your chronic pain. Moreover, you may consult a psychologist or a therapist to discuss your chronic pain and how it influences your daily life. You will learn different ways to manage pain without getting irritated, depressed, stressed out, or anxious. By doing so, your chronic pain will not affect your mental health as you will figure out ways to continue with your daily routine.