The American Pain Society defines chronic pain as a type of pain that persists longer than the normal healing duration of 3 months. Several pathophysiology’s are associated with the condition; these include migraine, degenerative spine disease, diabetic neuropathy and degenerative spine disease. The protracted pain is highly prevalent in the US with some estimates indicating up to a third of adults are affected by the condition annually.
The pain has consequences on various body functions, including mood and mental health, brain function, sleep, sexual function, cardiovascular health and quality of life. Studies have shown that people with prolonged pain are prone to developing psychological disorders such as depressive disorder and suicide ideation. The effects of the pain on cognitive processes, Central Nervous System (CNS) and brain pain can cause serious impairment.
The cognitive disruptions often arise from the incessant interruptions taking place in the memory. The neurological changes associated with the persistent pain include loss of components of the gray matter and irregular brain chemistry. People with this type of pain usually experience disturbed sleep pattern. The level of disturbance is related to the severity of the pain. If treatment is sought in good time, the effects of sleep disruptions can be curtailed drastically.
Researchers have established a relationship between prolonged pain and various cardiovascular health issues like hypertension. Patients suffering from prolonged pain usually experience extreme stimuli and high risk of morbidity of the cardiovascular system. Prevalence of sexual dysfunction has also been noted in people with protracted pain. The impairment is expressed in several ways, including fear of severe pain and difficulty in achieving arousal.
Symptoms of chronic pain
Although pain is a normal body response to illness, injury and the recuperation process, the repercussion of protracted pain can be far-reaching. The injury or pain may arise from repetitive strain on the body, headache, arthritis, back pain, Irritable Bowel Movement, cancer and surgery. The other causes include nerve damage, broken bones and muscle strain among others. Over the long term, individuals suffering from prolonged pain may experience a host of psychological, physiological and economic consequences. The consequences can make it difficult for the affected person to lead a normal life. The symptoms of prolonged pain include:
- Lack of energy
- Anxiety and depression
- Mood swings
- Alcohol and drug abuse
- Loss of sexual interest
- Difficulty sleeping
- Throbbing and burning sensation
- Dull ache
- Suicidal feelings
Before seeking medical attention for prolonged pain, it is important to first recognize you have a problem. The doctor will ask to know your symptoms before administering a diagnosis. Despite its discomforting and sometimes debilitating effects, prolonged pain can be prevented and treated. According to the American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine, the medications used in treating pain include Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) and Acetaminophen, Anticonvulsant medications, muscle relaxants and Antidepressants.
Over the Counter (OTC) medications such as Ibuprofen, naproxen and other NSAIDs are very effective in suppressing bone pain, prolonged pain and acute muscular problems. However, these medications can cause clotting and gastrointestinal problems when taken for lengthy periods. Studies have shown that tricyclic antidepressants are effective in controlling pain. Lower doses of antidepressants can be used to treat depression and anxiety. Anti-seizure medications or Anticonvulsants are useful in suppressing shooting and burning pain associated with the nervous system.
The physician may recommend muscle relaxants to take care of acute muscle spasm. The use of the drug may, however, cause drowsiness. If the pain persists for lengthy periods, the physician may suggest nerve blocking procedures. The techniques include epidural steroid injection, stellate ganglion block, lumbar sympathetic block and celiac plexus block. The epidural steroid injection is normally administered closer to the inflamed area on the neck, leg or back. The lumbar sympathetic block is normally performed on the limbs under fluoroscopic guidance.
During the healing, a local anesthetic is introduced on the lumbar sympathetic chain to ease pain. The stellate ganglion injection is usually administered to treat complex regional pain syndrome and pain affecting the arm or hand. The injection is useful in promoting blood flow. The procedure can be undertaken under x-ray guidance. The treatment has its side effects, which include eyelid droopiness, temporary swallowing difficulty and stuffy nose. The medications used in treating pain may be combined with non-medical procedures to attain desired results.
The procedures include physical therapy, relaxation techniques, acupuncture and psychological counseling. The relaxation techniques that may be recommended to fix prolonged pain include yoga, massage therapy and meditation. Yoga is believed to be useful in improving muscle strength and flexibility. Acupuncture is a popular form of traditional Chinese healing technique. The healing is performed by manipulating certain points of the body. During the procedure, pain messages are blocked from reaching the brain.
Remedies for chronic pain
Chronic pain usually lasts more than three months. If the pain does not respond to the common medications, you may consider using an effective remedy to heal pain and restore the body. When choosing a pain remedy, you need to consider aspects like potential side effects, addiction and abuse. According to Everyday Health, the most effective remedies for chronic pain include:
Fish oil – This Omega 3 fatty acids is known to possess anti-inflammatory properties, which can help provide pain relief. Studies suggest fish oil can treat chronic inflammation in obese or stressed persons. The oil can curtail the production of cytokines, a gene expression responsible for the spread of inflammatory molecules. Studies have also shown that taking fish oil supplements can ease stiffness and joint pain in people with rheumatoid arthritis and similar conditions.
Heat and cold therapy – heat therapy can easily quell prolonged pain. The Epsom salt bath is a good example of heat therapy used in relaxing the nerves and mind. The heat works by increasing the blood flow. It can also be directed to treat painful or swollen ankles and other parts of the body. The application of cold therapy may involve the placement of ice to treat acute pain.
Resveratrol – this highly beneficial compound if found in grapes and berries. Resveratrol is believed to possess several health benefits, including life elongating properties, anti-cancer properties and brain protection. Some studies suggest resveratrol can regulate pain on the cellular level.
Turmeric – this bright yellow spice also known as Curcuma longa has been tried for many years as pain reliever due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric is an important ingredient in Indian cooking. To enhance its potency, the root is sometimes mixed with substances like bromelain and the devil’s claw to provide pain relief and treat conditions like osteoarthritis.
Exercising and meditation - regular exercising forms a huge part of a comprehensive pain management plan. For persistent pain, the physician may suggest increasing joint mobility, strengthening muscles, reducing pain and improving sleep. Meditation can help suppress pain and calm the nerves. One of the most effective practices for pain relief is mindfulness meditation.
Guest Author Bio: Dai Manuel
Dai Manuel is a super dad, dating his wife and currently doing life with his family around the globe. He is also an award-winning digital thought leader and author at DaiManuel.com, executive performance coach and certified lifestyle mentor who empowers people to lead a FUN-ctionally fit life through education, encouragement and community. He models his work based on 5 F’s: Fitness, Family, Finances, Faith with an overarching roof of FUN, erected on a rock-solid foundation of Health. Keep the conversation flowing and connect with Dai on Instagram, Facebook or email.