Pain, whether it’s acute – temporary, and will often subside on its own, or chronic – persistent, undefined, affects how people live, work, and manage the rigors of everyday life. It’s a condition that affects more than 50 million people every year and can be as equally damaging to someone’s mental wellness as their physical health. If you suffer from chronic pain, know this: The symptoms can be managed through education, effort, and understanding you’re not alone.
WHAT IS CHRONIC PAIN?
We all feel physical pain at one time or another. When you stub your toe or strain a muscle, pain is your body’s response, informing you something is off. You stop hurting once the injury heals.
Chronic pain is unique, persisting for weeks, months, possibly years after an injury. Doctors usually define chronic pain as pain lasting 3 to 6 months or longer. Chronic pain can affect day-to-day life including mental health, but it’s treatable.
SYMPTOMS OF CHRONIC PAIN?
Chronic pain and its symptoms are different for every person, but it can occur anywhere in your body. People suffering from chronic pain could experience these kinds of pain:
- Headaches or migraines
- Pain throughout the back
- From arthritis
- Pain caused by nerve damage
The discomfort can be portrayed as: a dull ache, stiffness, stinging, soreness, throbbing, squeezing, flaming, shooting. Your chronic pain could be paired with other symptoms. These may include feeling tired, having difficulty sleeping, or mood adjustments. The pain itself can lead to other symptoms, such as anger, hopelessness, low self-esteem, angst, or frustration.
WHO’S AT RISK OF CHRONIC PAIN?
According to an article vetted by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH, there are three risk categories:
- Biological – age, genetics, obesity, race and instances of a previous injury.
- Psychological – childhood trauma, mood disorders.
- Lifestyle – working a high-risk job, daily stress, smoking.
There are many factors to consider when assessing your risk of chronic pain. Each of the three categories described above has some risks you can avoid or minimize; some, like age or genetics, are unavoidable.
CHRONIC PAIN AND YOUR DIET
Chronic pain might never go away. But should you give up or ignore steps to lessen the pain? Ok, you’re sticking to your doctor’s treatment regimen. And you’re participating in safe, regular physical activity. But what about changing your diet?
A key source of chronic pain is inflammation in your body. Improving your diet to fight that inflammation is a good plan to have. There are three simple diet tweaks that may lessen chronic pain:
- Consume additional whole foods.
- Eat more in-season fruits and vegetables.
- Stay away from foodstuffs with an arm-long set of ingredients or ingredients you can’t pronounce.
QUESTIONS FOR YOUR DOCTOR
The source of chronic pain can be baffling. Here are some questions to ask your doctor during an exam:
- What is the cause of my pain?
- Why won’t it go away?
- What is the best treatment option? Will I need medicine?
- Will physical, behavioral, or occupational therapy help relieve pain?
- What about alternative therapies?
- Is it ok for me to exercise? What kind of exercise should I do?
- Do I need to make lifestyle changes?
HOW TO LIVE WELL WITH CHRONIC PAIN
In the end, you can live well with chronic pain, if you follow steps to minimize the symptoms. Some treatment options include the usual – physical therapy, diet or lifestyle changes, anti-inflammatory medicine, over the counter pain relief, hot and cold packs for the affected area, perhaps even surgery. But a newer treatment option gaining acceptance is the FDA approved use of ketamine to help reduce symptoms of chronic pain.
Here are several tips to consider for managing chronic pain:
- Try meditation or deep breathing to help relax.
- Minimize tension in your life because stress deepens chronic pain.
- The body’s natural endorphins defend against chronic pain, so boost them through exercise.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine, which can lead to sleep troubles.
- Join a support group. Interact with others who suffer from chronic pain.
The book, How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness: A Mindful Guide, offers these tips for lessening chronic pain and improving mental health:
- Your body deserves compassion, not anger.
- Self-blame can exacerbate stress leading to chronic pain.
- Accept life’s uncertainties.
- Don’t waste time worrying – be happy.
- Self-forgiveness is a powerful ally.
- Stay in contact with supportive people.
- Don’t be envious or resentful of others.
Chronic pain doesn’t have to be a roadblock to leading a productive life. After understanding the source of the pain and symptoms, you can begin treating them. Treating the symptoms requires commitment, and understanding the pain, while manageable, may never end. The effort will improve your physical and mental health. If you or a loved one have questions about the clinical use of ketamine to help treat pain please contact us. We can help.