What is Chronic Pain or Illness?
According to a study conducted by the Johns Hopkins University of Medical Sciences, 133 million Americans live with continual aches and pains. These pains and discomfort, when experienced for extended periods of time, may indicate that you are dealing with chronic pain or illness. These pains usually last longer than six months and can be debilitating during particularly intense episodes. Suffering through pain that will not go away hinders your every day activities and can greatly reduce your quality of life.
Dealing with physical pain is bad enough, but additional studies have revealed that it goes far beyond that. The Mayo Clinic has released several reports detailing the connections of depression and deteriorating mental health with chronic pain. It’s no wonder that dealing with chronic pain is a top priority for many doctors.
Chronic Pain Classifications
Pain is traditionally separated between designations of acute and chronic. If your pain recedes in a short manner of time, usually in the realm of 3-6 months, it is labeled as acute. However if your pain persists, as noted above, it would be classified as being chronic. Further classifications of chronic pain or illness focus on the location or cause of the pain. Illnesses affecting your neurological system, as well as those centered around regional pain in your body, can transcend into the chronic designation as the duration lengthens. Even pains being described as ‘phantom’ have been noted as being chronic in those who have lost limbs or appendages, yet still feel pain.
Conditions Associated with Chronic Pain
Many conditions may be at the root of your chronic pain. Common injuries such as bulging or slipped discs in your back, severe joint pain, arthritis, Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, and recurring straining of muscles or tendons can all lead to chronic aches and pains. Certain diseases may also be generating your painful symptoms, such as Fibromyalgia and tumors brought on by cancerous growths. With such a varying list of medical ailments associated with extended discomfort, seeking the help of a licensed professional is the most effective way to ascertain the cause of your chronic pain or illness.
Chronic pain obviously restricts movement and detracts from your ability to function in day to day life. However, what most people don’t realize is that chronic pain can also lead to severe bouts of depression and eventual mental deteriorating. When dealing with chronic pain, many of the hormones like serotonin and endorphins are suppressed. The pain also taxes the patient’s ability to cope with everyday situations, making it significantly difficult to respond appropriately.
Treatments for Chronic Pain of Illness
The ideal treatment regime should be developed based on the individual patient with the goal of decreasing the pressure, pain as well as possible associated depression. Managing mental health is an important part of pain management. According to a study conducted by Yale University, patients with depression and chronic pain are more likely to commit suicide or harm themselves in some other way than patients who only suffer from chronic pain. Pain specialists now prescribe treatments that attack moderate-to-severe chronic pain from different angles — innovative drugs, targeted nerve-zapping procedures, and drug pumps that deliver strong painkillers to the nerve root. Doctors also endorse the use of psychotherapy, relaxation techniques and alternative therapies, supported by growing evidence of the mind-body connection in chronic pain relief. In most cases, doctors use a variety of methods to treat chronic pain including:
- Physical therapy sessions
- Pain medications
- Antidepressant medications
- Talk therapy and stress reduction techniques
- Rehabilitation programs
What Can You Do To Get the Most Out of Treatment?
If you are preparing for treatment relating to chronic pain, you must make sure that you adequately report your pain levels. “The Treatment of Chronic Pain” states that the majority of patients under report their pain because they don’t want to be seen as hypochondriacs. You should also take steps to reduce your stress and to relax. Relaxation and stress reduction both help to decrease inflammatory pain to a certain degree, but more importantly, they help to promote endorphin release and assist in counteracting depression.