You slipped and fell at work a few years back, severely breaking your leg. You underwent surgery for bone fracture repair, and although your leg healed and you can now walk, you’re stuck with a dull, aching pain at the site of the fracture.
The pain is always there, some days are better than others, but it never really goes away. Could you be dealing with chronic pain?
What is Chronic Pain?
There are two types of pain: acute and chronic. Acute pain comes on suddenly and is sharp. It may be caused by injury or illness and goes away once the underlying cause has healed. For instance, a headache caused by the common cold goes away as soon as the cold starts to subside.
Chronic pain, on the other hand, is ongoing pain that lingers for weeks or months after the injury or illness has healed. It can result from injury, fracture, surgery, psychological trauma, or a chronic illness like cancer.
Medical statistics show that in the United States, over 1 in 5 adults struggle with a chronic pain problem. Chronic pain can be mild, moderate, or severe.
What Are the Most Common Types of Chronic Pain?
There are many different types of chronic pain, and each one affects people in different ways. Here are some of the most common types:
Chronic Back Pain
Chronic back pain is one of the most common types of chronic pain and a leading cause of disability worldwide. It can result from muscle strain, poor posture, herniated discs, and nerve damage, among other possible causes.
Chronic back pain can range from a dull ache to a sharp, burning sensation. It can make it hard to work, sleep, and perform daily activities.
Neck pain is one of the most reported musculoskeletal problems among patients. Research shows that approximately 50 percent of American adults experience neck pain yearly, some of whom end up developing chronic neck pain.
There are many possible causes of neck pain, including injury, arthritis, whiplash, herniated discs, overuse, migraines, cervical spondylosis, and nerve damage. The pain can range from mild discomfort to severe pain that hinders neck movement.
Joint pain is another commonly diagnosed form of chronic pain – affecting millions globally. Chronic joint pain is mainly caused by arthritis but can also result from an injury, infection, or other conditions. Joint pain can make it difficult to move the affected joint and may lead to swelling, inflammation, and stiffness in the affected areas.
Chronic migraines can be described as recurrent severe headaches that cause intense throbbing or pulsing pain, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound. Chronic migraines affect between 3 to 5 percent of Americans, according to the experts at the Cleveland Clinic.
Several factors can trigger the onset of migraines, including stress, certain foods, hormonal fluctuations, weather changes, mental illness, nerve damage, untreated neck pain, or injury to the head.
Arthritis is a term used to describe a group of over 100 chronic conditions that attack the joints, causing inflammation, nerve damage, and tissue degeneration around the joints. Arthritis can lead to ongoing joint pain, stiffness, and swelling and is one of the leading causes of chronic pain.
Neuropathic pain, as the name suggests, is any pain caused by damage or malfunction of the nervous system. It can result from nerve damage due to injury, infection, or diseases that affect the nervous system.
Neuropathic pain often feels like a burning or stabbing sensation and can make it difficult to sleep, concentrate, and perform daily activities. Common examples of neuropathic pain include fibromyalgia, diabetic neuropathy, postherpetic neuralgia, phantom limb pain, and complex regional pain syndrome.
How is Chronic Pain Treated?
The treatment options for chronic pain vary depending on the type of pain and its underlying causes. In most cases, chronic pain can be effectively managed using over-the-counter or prescription medications.
In more severe cases, treatments such as surgery and nerve block injections, may be necessary. Ketamine infusion therapy is also proving to be a go-to medication for chronic and treatment-resistant pain.
If you struggle with chronic pain, talk to your doctor about your treatment options. Together, you can develop a treatment plan to help you manage your pain and improve your quality of life.