What is Chronic Pain?
Pain is often described as a physical sensation varying from being uncomfortable to agonizing. The pain may also be described as aching, sharp, dull, throbbing, shooting, stabbing or burning and limit the person’s ability to function normally.
What Causes Chronic Pain?
Sometimes pain is brief and the source of the pain may be easy to identify (e.g. when you stub your toe). Other times it is more persistent but can diminish if treated immediately (for example a headache). For some individuals, however, pain may be chronic and difficult to control.
There are various levels of pain and its tolerance varies from person to person.
Mild pain is bearable and disappears with the use of nonprescription drugs or without any treatment at all.
Moderate pain is worse than mild pain, and hampers your ability to function effectively. Moderate pain requires treatment, and stronger medication may be administered. The pain usually disappears after it has been treated.
Severe pain incapacitates you and affects your daily activities. Severe pain may be related to physical injury. In the case of acute severe pain, urgent medical attention is strongly recommended to investigate the cause.
There are two main categories of pain – acute and chronic pain.
Acute pain is temporary and disappears as the body heals. It may range from mild to severe.
Chronic pain is persistent and continues over a long period of time. The pain may last for weeks, months or even years. It may be mild, moderate or severe, and is often associated with an underlying condition. People suffering from cancer, chronic back pain, diabetes, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia or even depression may experience chronic pain affecting all areas of their lives.
Their response to pain may also affect their emotional outlook negatively which leads to depression, anxiety, frustration and a sense of hopelessness. Chronic pain is often more common in older adults who are more likely to suffer from medical conditions associated with constant pain such arthritis and cancer.
There are various types of chronic pain which include:
- General somatic pain (pain from the outer body)
- Visceral pain (pain from the internal organs)
- Bone pain (pain in the bones from a bruise or a temporary fracture )
- Muscle spasm (muscle cramps)
- Peripheral neuropathy (pain arising in the nerves leading from the head, face, trunk, or extremities to the spinal cord)
- Circulatory problems (poor circulation is often a cause of chronic pain).
- Headaches (headaches can be caused by many illnesses. There are several types of headaches, including migraine, tension, and cluster headaches.)
Chronic pain may affect certain areas of the body, and commonly include:
- Chronic Neck Pain
- Chronic Nerve Pain
- Chronic Muscle Pain
- Chronic Shoulder Pain
- Chronic Leg Pain
- Chronic Knee Pain
- Chronic Back Pain
- Chronic Pelvic Pain
Chronic pain can also lead to other problems, including:
Help for Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is debilitating and can severely affect the person’s ability to function. Treatment can alleviate pain and allow you to manage your condition more effectively. A combination of various treatments and therapies is the best approach for your treatment program.
These treatments include:
- Prescription medications such as acetaminophen, tricyclic antidepressants, anticonvulsants, or opioid analgesics. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), cortizone or local anesthetic are commonly prescribed for pain but are not without side effects and consequences
- Nerve stimulation or electrical stimulation therapies such as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
- Physical therapy
- Counseling or cognitive behavioral therapy
- Relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga or guided imagery
In addition, significant changes to your lifestyle often need to be made so that your pain can be managed. Eating a healthy diet rich in Vitamin D, regular exercise and getting enough sleep all need to be incorporated into the broader treatment plan to help reduce and prevent pain.
Once an accurate diagnosis has been obtained, natural therapies such as herbal and homeopathic remedies can be beneficial in the treatment of chronic pain as well as for your overall health and wellbeing. Some examples include Arnica, Filipendula almaria, Magnesium phosphoricum, Symphytum officinale, and Matricaria recutita.
Natural anti-inflammatories such as Harpagophytum procumbens (Devil’s Claw) as well as herbal anti-depressants such as St John’s Wort may also be very useful additions to a holistic treatment program.