What is Chronic Pain?
It is reported that over 100 million Americans are currently suffering with chronic pain, either episodic or ongoing, mild to incapacitating. Chronic pain is defined as pain lasting more than 12 weeks in duration versus acute pain which is temporary, normal, sensation usually indicating sickness or a specific injury. For example, you take a slip off a step and twist your ankle. A sudden sensation of pain occurs, this is acute pain and with proper care, this pain should subside quickly. Chronic pain, in contrast, is ongoing where the pain receptors remain active for months or longer.
The most common sources of long term pain are headaches, joint pain, back pain, injuries causing long term tendonitis, or generalized pain in the hips, shoulders, and neck. Whereas most chronic pain can be attributed to an initial injury, such as a back sprain or illness, there are, however, instances where chronic pain cannot be pinpointed to any clear cause or conditions such as Carpal Tunnel or Fibromyalgia where pain receptors are rapidly firing.
Pain is not a symptom that stands alone. It is associated with other symptoms such as loss of appetite, insomnia, changes in mood, and if the pain goes on long enough – depression. Chronic pain affects ongoing mobility, flexibility, and often hindering the sufferer’s quality of life preventing them from enjoying life due to the reduction in stamina and strength. The symptoms of chronic pain range from aching to burning pain and often described as a relentless.
Chronic pain can become debilitating, not just physically but mentally as well. The longer the episodes of pain go on, the harder it is on the person experiencing it causing emotional, psychological, and mental hardship. Feelings of depression, anger, anxiety, and negativity added to the lack of sleep and poor nutrition, living with chronic pain become a vicious cycle even the strongest person can find difficult to endure.
Pain is also subjective, a six on the pain scale is not the same for everyone. The worst pain you have experienced may far exceed what I would consider the worst pain I have ever experienced. This is one of the reason health care professionals have a difficult task in diagnosing chronic pain, especially when there does not appear to be a specific identifiable cause (such as serious injury). Because of this, often times it can appear that the pain you are experiencing is not being taken seriously only adding to the frustration, anger, and anxiety you already have.
In closing, if you are suffering…remain diligent. Do not let your feelings and pain be lessened by anyone, including your physicians, just because they don’t understand what you are experiencing. Be honest…Be detailed…Be specific. Keep a journal, take notes, and take advantage of all diagnostic tools available to you to help you get to the source of your discomfort. Take action and be involved in how you are being treated and seek out alternative relief methods if necessary. Try to focus through the pain on those things you can do to get you out of the storm and back into the sun.
Thank you to the following sources:
https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/magazine/issues/spring11/articles/spring11pg5-6.html – NIH Medline Plus – National Institute of Health
http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/guide/understanding-pain-management-chronic-pain – WebMD – What is Chronic Pain and What Are The Symptoms?