You’ve never been a fan of exclusive, club-type memberships, and being part of the chronic pain club is worse than you imagined. You’ve been in pain for months on end but don’t know the cause and have even fewer ideas about managing the symptoms. Thankfully, help’s on the way.
Chronic Pain Definition
“While acute pain is a normal sensation triggered in the nervous system to alert you to possible injury and the need to take care of yourself, chronic pain is different. Chronic pain persists. Pain signals keep firing in the nervous system for weeks, months, even years.” For instance, it may have been caused by a sprained back, or there could be an ongoing reason, like arthritis or cancer. Thankfully, potential treatments are evolving, like ketamine.
Symptoms to Watch For
If you’ve been in pain for more than six months and suspect your discomfort has become chronic, there are many warning signs to watch for. The most widespread chronic pain symptoms encompass moderate to very severe pain that doesn’t subside as you hoped following sickness or injury. Some who experience the condition describe the pain as “shooting, burning, aching, or electrical. You may also feel sore, tight, or stiff in the affected area.”
Are You at Risk?
One of the keys to managing pain is understanding the risk factors involved. Because chronic pain can result from different illnesses, injuries, and conditions, there are numerous risk factors to think of when forecasting who may experience such pain and require pain management options.
There are three big categories of risk factors to consider:
- Biological risk factors related to your physical characteristics and medical history
- Psychological risk factors related to mood and personality
- Lifestyle risk factors
Prevalence of Chronic Pain
If you experience chronic pain, you’re not alone, joining many Americans fighting the same battle. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s prevalence of chronic pain ranges from 11 percent to 40 percent. About 20 percent of U.S. adults suffered chronic pain, and 8 percent of U.S. adults experienced high-impact chronic pain. Both were higher among adults subsisting in poverty, adults without a high school education, and U.S. adults on public health insurance.
The Most Common Chronic Pain Conditions
You’ve decided that you’ve had enough chronic pain to last two lifetimes and have done as much self-education as possible. So, what have you learned? Your research has told you that chronic pain is usually derived from an initial injury, like a pulled muscle or back sprain. It’s a commonly held belief that chronic pain also happens after nerves get damaged. This nerve damage drives the pain intensity up a few more notches and is, unfortunately, long-lasting. At this point, you’ve also discovered that treating the fundamental injury may not solve your chronic pain situation.
But in some cases, people such as yourself experience chronic pain even without evidence of prior injury. This can make diagnosis and treatment even harder, but the precise reasons for chronic pain without an injury aren’t well understood. What else have you found? Here’s the kicker – another health condition, including: may even cause the discomfort
- chronic fatigue syndrome, typified by severe, prolonged exhaustion that’s often escorted by pain
- endometriosis is a painful condition that happens when the uterine lining develops out of the uterus
- fibromyalgia, pervasive pain in your bones and muscles
- inflammatory bowel disease, a group of ailments resulting in painful, chronic inflammation within your digestive tract
- interstitial cystitis, a chronic condition indicated by bladder pain and pressure
- temporomandibular joint dysfunction or TMJ, a condition causing painful ticking, popping, or locking of your jaw
- vulvodynia, a chronic vulva discomfort happening with no apparent cause
Get Diagnosed and Treated
Recognizing that you’re suffering from chronic pain – and there isn’t anything you can do about it – is the first step in possibly managing its symptoms. The next step, of course, is diagnosis. A medical doctor or other healthcare professional may perform different tests and diagnostic procedures to diagnose chronic pain – x-rays, an MRI, blood tests, bone tests – to discover an underlying cause for the pain. Once diagnosed, you can now begin talking about treatment options. A doctor may recommend physical or psychotherapy, exercise, lifestyle and dietary changes, and possibly medicine or surgery. A new popular option worth exploring is ketamine.
Any pain is a bummer. But the pain that lingers for months on end, seemingly without a cause, may be the worst of all. Chronic pain harms millions of adults in the U.S. and even more worldwide, but sometimes pain management techniques are closer than you think.