Pain is a normal and natural experience, but chronic pain is not. Most of the time, people experience pain as a result of some damage to the body. This then calls their attention to an injury that could have otherwise been ignored or left untreated. With this, it could be said that pain is even essential to survival.
In some ways, pain protects the human body as well. For example, it triggers the gut to release mucus that coats the gut wall and shields it from harmful substances like bacteria. However, pain should also subside once the injury has healed. When the pain is persistent, unrelenting, and causes you to suffer for a long time, it is no longer beneficial to your body and must be appropriately treated.
What Is Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is a type of pain that typically lasts for longer than three months, usually even after the initial injury or disease that caused it has already healed. It can disrupt your normal daily functions and affect your quality of life, leading to other emotional and psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, and hopelessness.
Unfortunately, a lot of people suffer from chronic pain. In the US alone, nearly 20% of adults have this condition, while about 10% have been disabled because of its debilitating effects. This has also impacted the labor force as people who experience chronic pain tend to miss nine more days of work every year compared to those without it.
According to experts, some of the more common causes of chronic pain are migraine, arthritis, back pain, sciatica, diabetic neuropathy, cancer bone pain, or sickle cell disease. Some conditions, such as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, have no apparent source and are more challenging to diagnose and treat.
Treating And Managing Chronic Pain
Thanks to many years of research on pain and pain management, many approaches have been discovered that can help alleviate chronic pain. These treatments have enabled pain sufferers to live normal lives, becoming active and productive members of society once more.
However, the patients need to give their full cooperation in order to maximize the effects of these treatments. No matter how good the medical professional is or how extensive the treatment is, certain factors can affect and even aggravate chronic pain if not properly managed and controlled. Here are some of them:
1. Psychological Condition
Before starting any treatment, the patient’s mental state must be checked and managed because this can determine the success or failure of the program. One reason for this is that certain moods and mindsets can weaken or strengthen your pain threshold.
Positive thoughts can strengthen your body and make you more resistant to pain, while negative thoughts can make you more sensitive to even minor aches and pains. “Pain signals come from the body, but the perception of pain originates in the head – and how our brain works can change how we feel and conceive pain,” says Mike Brown, personal injury specialist at PMIR pain relief clinic.
2. Lifestyle Choices
Certain lifestyle choices can also affect the way you feel and experience pain. For example, happiness-inducing activities like exercising, enjoying your meal, or watching comedy shows trigger the body to release endorphins which help block pain signals to your brain. By continuously exposing yourself to such activities, you are giving your body more ammunition to defend against pain.
On the other hand, some lifestyle choices, such as smoking and drinking alcohol, have adverse effects on pain management. Studies have shown that heavy smokers have increased pain intensity compared to those who have never smoked and tend to report more pain locations. While alcohol can serve as an analgesic for a brief period, getting it mixed with medication can have hazardous effects. Too much consumption can also have detrimental effects on the body, which can impact pain treatments over the long term.
3. Sleep Deprivation
Poor sleeping habits and the experience of pain have an almost symbiotic relationship. According to research, lack of sleep can worsen pain, while pain can cause patients to lose out on quality sleep as well. It is a vicious cycle that further impacts the patient’s quality of life and affects the treatment of pain. In contrast, quality sleep has been found to help alleviate chronic pain over the long term.
Some types of chronic pain also tend to flare up at night and cause sleep disturbance, while others are triggered by certain sleeping positions, thus preventing the patient from achieving the deep sleep that he needs in order to feel well-rested the next day. At the same time, sleep deprivation can lead to heightened sensitivity to pain, especially in conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.