WHAT IS CHRONIC PAIN?
When a pain lasts longer than 6 months irrespective of the cause of the pain, such pain is said to be CHRONIC. Pain in this category is itself a disease. Unlike acute pain which serves to warn the victim, chronic pain serves no useful purpose to the sufferer. Chronic pain does not relate to the injury or cause of the injury. Long term pain disturbs everyday activities of the person suffering the pain. Such regular thing as walking downstairs or going up to the next floor of his or her property may become a huge challenge for the sufferer of say knee pain.
WHAT ARE THE IMPACTS?
Chronic pain impairs the ability of the person to function socially. For example, a person who has back pain may scale back from dancing in a party that he or she may actually appear in. Chronic pain may damage the quality of life of the person suffering from pain and his family. For example, family functions may be shelved such as outing, shopping and the like may be considerably affected by long term pain. Great economic cost, direct and indirect, may be the consequences of chronic pain. Someone who until now was economically productive may now not be able to work, drive or walk. Someone with frequent and long term headache will find it difficult to concentrate and focus on tasks that require attention. Such individuals may lose his or her job as a result of pain.
Let us take a shoulder pain as example. Assuming the sufferer is an office worker who writes a lot. With the pain, he or she can no longer perform the required task and his employer may relieve the person of her job. Unfortunately, given all the adversities that chronic pain may bring to bear on the person, he or she may become depressed. Sometimes, a loss of ability to earn a living may lead to depression and suicide.
WHAT CAUSES CHRONIC PAIN?
Chronic pain may by itself be due to acute pain that lasted beyond the cut-off point of 6 months. In some cases, no specific cause may be found as the cause. That said, in a lot of ways, chronic pain may be due to age-related diseases such as osteoarthritis – the wear and tear of joints. In some individuals, it may be due to long term diseases such as cancer.
INVESTIGATIONS OF CHRONIC PAIN
Chronic pain needs to be properly investigated. The attending doctor will usually take a detailed history of the pain in attempt to find the cause and aiming to address the pain. Depending on the physician’s findings, he or she may take blood for analysis. The doctor may order for such imaging as ultrasound. The doctor may order X-ray, MRI, CT scan to determine where the pain is located and its cause. Very often, the doctor will also have screening for cancer at the back of his or her mind.
TREATMENT OF CHRONIC PAIN
The treatment will depend on the cause that the doctor has found. In general, the goal of treatment is to relieve the pain and remove the cause if possible. There are various ways of achieving the aim of alleviating pain. Common pain killers such as paracetamol may be the starting point. If this is not enough, the medical doctor will determine if he or she should prescribe the next stronger pain killer. On the other hand, there are other methods of dealing with chronic pain that does not make use of medications. This may include hydrotherapy (water treatment), reflexology and biofeedback. All these may also be combined with medications as the case may be.
Whatever may be the case, pain should not be accepted as normal. In the barest minimum, you should take steps to first relieve the pain and if home remedy does not work as it should, it makes sense to seek help from qualified physicians. As mentioned, pain may affect lifestyle and daily functions such as sleep. Impaired sleep may lead to anger and irritation. Thus, as part of treatment of chronic pain, it’s important to also address the sleep issue as poor sleep may by itself, make the pain worse. With poor sleep, a vicious cycle of poor sleep and increased pain may likely to surface.