We all experience from time to time – whether it’s stubbing a toe or breaking a bone, pain is a part of life. The relief is that this pain is temporary. This can be momentary pain from a shot or months long pain from a surgery wound that’s healing, but the pain has an end date, even if we aren’t sure of how far away it is.
Chronic pain is different. It’s pain that is persistent and won’t go away. There is a marked difference between a sudden migraine that seems like it won’t go away, though it does subside in a few days, and pain that will likely exist throughout a person’s life.
Chronic pain comes in many forms, whether it’s a debilitating disorder like Interstitial Cystitis that isn’t curable, or an inflammation in a joint like arthritis. The problem with chronic pain is that in and of itself, it is a symptom – chronic pain is likely the result of an overlying issue.
In this way, it can be easy to treat chronic pain or nearly impossible – it all depends on the diagnosis. In the above example, Intersistial Cystitis is a disorder that involves painful cysts forming on the bladder, causing very extreme abdominal pain. This disorder can limit a sufferers ability to move and can severely limit their diet. Pain management therapy can lessen the pain, but in many cases it doesn’t ever fully leave.
In other cases, the inflammation of a joint can be resolved with a simple exercise regimen. Because of these two wildly varying examples of chronic pain, the ways to treat chronic pain and the expected outcome of treatments can be very different.
General Chronic Pain Treatment
In general, there are ways to treat pain in order to lessen its severity. The most common causes for chronic pain are dysfunctional nerves or inflammation, and both can be managed quite easily.
Treatment for chronic pain can be split into three different subsets – medication, physical therapies and solutions, and behavioral therapy.
Usually medication is one of the cornerstones of pain management therapy, especially in cases where the pain is indeed truly chronic. In other cases, medication is prescribed to a patient in order to help improve their quality of life while being treated to help relieve or eliminate the pain in other ways.
This medication can include narcotics, like Morphine or Tramadol, or nerve blockers, like Pregabalin. In cases where pain is chronic but not severe, something as tame as Tylenol can be suggested as a solution.
Physical Therapies and Solutions
This is the most varied category of treatment. This can include something as general as physical therapy or as extreme as surgery.
Other forms of physical therapy include acupuncture or electrical stimulation therapy. Massage and biofeedback therapies can also be used in some cases, and pain management physicians often suggest a mixture of these methods in the beginning of a patient’s treatment in order to see which work best.
This can include psychotherapy in order to better control a patient’s reaction to pain, as well as mental management because of the draining effects of chronic pain. Those who suffer with chronic illness can also often develop depression, and behavioral therapy can help manage this comorbid symptom.
Relaxation and stress management techniques can also be used as a method of solution, though they aren’t as physically stimulating as other forms of treatment. These are meant to help relax the body’s muscles and mental state in order to help alleviate pain.
Recognizing Acute Pain and Preventing Chronic Pain
In some cases, pain becomes chronic because a person neglects managing the beginning pain until it becomes too much to handle. In these cases, taking some preventative measures can be the difference between acute pain (pain that lasts for a short time) and chronic pain (pain that persists for sometimes a lifetime).
While sometimes a pain is simply a body’s reaction to an acute stimulus, like an elbow hurting after being banged against a counter, other forms of pain have obvious warning signs attached. For instance, a woman who often experiences a shooting pain in her abdomen should recognize that this is not a onetime occurrence and can be something serious. Instead, she could have painful fibroids or endometriosis.
In this example, recognizing pain and acting on the pain is how someone can discover and manage something serious before it becomes something worse.
Other solutions for helping to prevent acute pain before it can become chronic include exercise and monitoring. This involves increasing an exercise routine that focuses on the area in question to help prevent inflammation, then monitoring how the exercise affects the area. Does the pain increase or decrease?
Even in this case, the best way to prevent the progression of chronic pain is to discuss the pain with a healthcare professional. When you notice that pain is more than momentary or has no obvious precursor, discussing the occurrence with a doctor is the best solution.