Chronic Pain: Definition, Causes, Signs, and Treatment
You experience pain at some point in your life. As a child, you learned not to play with fire. As a teenager, you learned not to pick a fight. You learn from pain and try to avoid anything associated with it, so you don’t feel it again.
Pain can either harm you or protect you. Pain also warns you of possible injuries or diseases, and it makes you aware of your body’s condition. Without it, you might live recklessly and harm your body, unknowingly.
Pain normally disappears with what causes it. However, there are cases where it lingers longer than it should. This causes constant discomfort and agony. That’s when the pain becomes what's called "chronic pain."
What is Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain is the persistent occurrence of pain that lasts beyond the period when it’s supposed to heal. It usually lasts for at least three to six months. The pain varies in intensity and frequency. It can be felt in any area of your body, and it can be a different sensation depending on the affected area.
Chronic pain can leave a lasting effect not only on your body but also on your daily activities. But, it doesn’t have to end up at that point. There are physical and psychological therapies that can help stop or lessen the pain.
What Causes Chronic Pain and Fatigue?
Chronic pain usually starts with fatigue and injuries that damage the nerves. This makes the pain more painful and long-lasting. It can also be caused by certain health conditions such as diseases, ulcers, arthritis, and other conditions targeting the bones, organs, and muscles.
If the pain can't be traced to any prior injuries, it can be an underlying nervous system issue. Stress, our emotions, and the way we think are also factors that can magnify or lessen our pain. Eventually, if the pain isn’t lessened or managed, it causes chronic pain and fatigue.
Related: The Common Types of Stress
What Diseases Cause Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain is an effect of long-term injury or physical illnesses. The following are common illnesses causing chronic pain:
- Rheumatoid arthritis: a disease that causes inflammation of the joints.
- Lyme diseases: an infectious disease spread by ticks.
- Irritable bowel syndrome: causes cramping, bloating, and constipation in the large intestine.
- Multiple sclerosis: one of the autoimmune diseases that cause chronic pain. This affects an individual's nervous system.
- Fibromyalgia: musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, difficulty in sleeping, memory loss, and mood swings.
- Endometriosis: occurs when the endometrium, which normally grows inside your uterus, grows outside of it.
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: fatigue that gets extremely bad as you become more active, and it lasts for at least six months.
- Interstitial cystitis: a condition that causes bladder pressure and pain.
Types of Chronic Pain
Treatments vary depending on the type of chronic pain you experience, so it’s important to understand their differences. Here are the types of chronic pain:
- Neuropathic pain: pain caused by damage in the nervous system that can be felt to any part of the body.
- Nociceptive pain: pain caused by potential physical damage to the body. The receptors that are activated after an injury can malfunction and can keep on sending pain signals even after recovery. Nociceptive pain can be:
- Visceral pain: develops in the organs inside the abdominal, chest, and other cavities.
- Somatic pain: pain in skin, muscles, bones, and soft tissues.
Signs of Chronic Pain
The following are common symptoms if someone’s experiencing chronic pain:
- Depression (suicidal thoughts)
- Grumpiness or irritable mood
- Substance abuse
- Relationship problems
- Sleep deprivation
- Sexual dysfunction
Mental Health Issues Linked with Chronic Pain
When chronic pain is left untreated, it can cause mental health issues. The following are common mental health issues:
- Depression: the inability to engage in social activities because of chronic pain can be distressing and may add to the pain.
- Anxiety: avoiding certain situations because you constantly worry about pain can make the feeling worse.
- Addiction: chronic pain has been linked to opioid dependency.
- Insomnia: lack of sleep can worsen your stress and discomfort by messing up your sleeping habit.
- Anger: chronic pain can hinder us from doing the things that we normally do and it can lead to frustrations.
- Low self-esteem: feeling that people undermine your pain or don’t believe you at all lowers self-esteem.
- Somatic Symptom Disorder (SSD): pain that causes distress and affects the way we normally function.
Treatment Options for Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is a condition that requires treatment. Here are different treatment techniques you should engage with:
- Check-ups and Medication: look for chronic pain management doctors for diagnosis and to address contributing physical factors of the pain you're feeling. Your doctor may prescribe some medications that need careful administration.
- Therapy: therapy aims to address the psychological aspect of chronic pain. Check-ups and therapies are essential to help prescribe chronic pain and anxiety medication. Therapy also helps you sort out your mindset about the pain you're feeling. Mindfulness therapy is one of the emerging forms of therapy that can help you find a different perspective.
Related: What is Mindfulness Therapy?
- Work out: regular physical activities help keep your mind occupied and alleviate the pain you're feeling.
- Planning ahead: have a dedicated time in your day for pain management. Scheduling can help you work efficiently and improve your lifestyle.
- Exploration: search online for resources that best fit your preferences in dealing with chronic pain.
- Communication: express what you feel to people you trust, so you don’t feel misunderstood. Chronic pain can be tough. Through communicating, you get to express yourself to people who have no idea what chronic pain is. This enables you to find a healthy support system.
Here are the following hotlines when you need to talk to someone:
- National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association
- American Chronic Pain Association
It's vital to get treated so you can efficiently live your life. Through this information, you get to address the early signs of chronic pain so you can live a worry-free and comfortable life.