You broke your ankle years ago and seemed to recover nicely. You’ve had no intervening accidents and illnesses that you can recall, but you’ve been experiencing non-specific discomfort for several months. Your lower back and knees hurt, often most of the day, every day. You may be experiencing chronic pain.
WHAT IS CHRONIC PAIN?
One online resource identifies two kinds of pain: “acute and chronic. Acute pain lets you know that your body is injured. It usually doesn’t last long. It should go away as your body heals. Chronic pain lasts much longer. Chronic pain may last months or even years. Chronic pain may interfere with your daily activities. And because the pain lasts so long, people who have chronic pain may also have low self-esteem, depression, and anger.”
Chronic pain affects your physical and mental wellness. While it can be nearly perpetual, pain may be more significant sometimes due to greater stress or activity. Symptoms include:
- Joint pain
- Muscle aches
- Searing pain
- Sleep trouble
- Loss of strength and flexibility, lower activity
- Moodiness (depression, anxiety, irritability, etc.)
The journal Pain reported that nearly 61 percent of the people who reported chronic pain as part of the study also had depression, most with “severe” level symptoms.
WHAT CAUSES CHRONIC PAIN?
Sometimes, chronic pain is the result of an old injury or infection or may be caused by a disease. Despite the best efforts of doctors, researchers, and other medical or mental health specialists, sometimes there is no identifiable trigger for your pain.
Conditions that may trigger or lead to chronic pain:
- Headaches or migraines
- Back pain
- Nerve damage
- Previous surgery
Depression and stress can worsen different pain types, including chronic pain.
TIPS FOR COPING WITH CHRONIC PAIN
If you have long-term pain and want to treat it on your own, here are some strategies to consider.
- Learn to manage your stress levels and identify the triggers.
- Stay active and engaged. Sometimes the best cure is distracting yourself, often through hobbies or interacting with family and friends.
- Find a support network outside your family or friends. A peer group of people with chronic pain can offer the emotional support lacking elsewhere.
WHAT IS CHRONIC PAIN MANAGEMENT?
Chronic pain management is complicated and time-intensive. It can be especially challenging and demanding for medical professionals who may be working to help relieve your pain without assistance from other specialists. You can then imagine how hard it is for the patient to relieve their own symptoms, often working alone and dealing with other complications from the condition.
The usefulness of many kinds of interventions is enhanced when all medical and mental healthcare specialists concerned work together as a team. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, a multiskilled collaborative strategy offers a range of viewpoints and talents that can improve outcomes and lower stress on individual providers working diligently on a patient’s behalf. One of chronic pain management challenges is for multidisciplinary teams to find solutions while not becoming stressed themselves.
Ideally, a multidisciplinary team works in one setting, making it easier to collaborate with peers – not to mention for the patient who may have to go from one specialist to another. Such collective effort benefits if one specialist is identified as the primary care coordinator (this may also depend on whether you’re receiving treatment via public or private health insurance or are paying out of pocket for treatment) and all interested parties – the patient and specialists – have a good rapport.
Chronic pain management may include a primary care provider, addiction specialist, pain clinician, nurse, pharmacist, mental health specialists, other specialists (social worker, marriage and family therapist, counselor, etc.), and physical or occupational therapists.
DIAGNOSIS & TREATMENT
A medical professional can diagnose your chronic pain and recommend treatment. You’ll probably have a physical exam and different tests to figure out the source of your pain, like blood tests, muscle and bone density tests, an x-ray or MRI, and other procedures as needed. Depending on the outcome of these exams, your healthcare provider may offer treatment like physical or occupational therapy, pain medicine, or something else. Successful diagnosis may also depend on a psychiatric assessment. A mental health specialist will review your thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and personal and family history of mental illness as triggers for chronic pain.
Most people who suffer from chronic pain symptoms come to the realization they can’t treat it on their own. Store-bought pain medicine or a dip in a hot tub only go so far. Contact us today to learn more about innovative new treatments to help you find relief.