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Nearly 100 million Americans experience chronic pain, but this affliction remains one of the most difficult conditions to identify, treat, and explain to patients. The importance of education about the causes, symptoms, and management of chronic pain is why September is Pain Awareness Month.
The many different causes of chronic pain underscore how important it is to define the term. Chronic pain is pain that lasts at least 12 weeks. Sometimes this is caused by injury or ongoing illness, but lasts for a longer period than pain reasonably and typically should. Elderly adults are more at risk for chronic pain, but it can affect people of any age.
Facts About Chronic Pain
Living with chronic pain can be debilitating or at the very least a serious obstacle to enjoying and functioning during your everyday life. It can reduce mobility, flexibility, strength, and endurance, further proving a challenge to accomplishing daily tasks or engaging in enjoyable activities. It can also have a pronounced, negative impact on mood and morale.
If you're afflicted with chronic pain, it's important to consult a doctor to establish the type and cause of pain. This is not always immediately recognizable. Pain is subjective to everyone, and a doctor will often have to depend on a patient's description of the pain to begin identifying it. It helps to have an idea of how to describe pain in terms familiar to doctors, especially if there's no obvious source such as a recent injury.
Is your pain...
No test can precisely locate or measure pain, but these questions will help a professional narrow down the potential types and causes of your pain.
Types of Chronic Pain:
Causes of Chronic Pain:
These underlying conditions are varied and often difficult to immediately diagnose, particularly compared to pain related to a recent injury or surgical procedure. Chronic pain is most common in elderly adults, but also is more likely to occur in women, and in overweight or obese persons.
Treatment for chronic pain issues is varied, both due to its many causes as well as the numerous symptoms that may be concurrent. Often accompanying chronic pain are fatigue, sleep disturbance, decreased appetite, and changes in mood, symptoms that make chronic pain more difficult both to diagnose and to treat.
As everyone's experience with chronic pain is uniquely personal, treatment will be tailored to a specific person's cause and type of pain, as well as any accompanying symptoms. A "pain history," or record of instances and locations of pain kept by both patient and doctor is helpful not only in diagnosis, but also in determining the best course of treatment. Below are some of the treatment options available.
Opioid pain relievers are often prescribed for severe cases of pain, especially after surgery. It bears mentioning that the body can develop a tolerance to their effects, creating a need for increased dosages, a cycle called dependence. They can also be addictive. Any use of opioids should be discussed seriously with a medical professional, and continued use should be monitored regularly by your doctor.
Medical Procedures and Options:
In addition, there are numerous lifestyle remedies that can be used to manage chronic pain and its effects. Much of this may involve self-management, which may include communication techniques, stress management, proper diet and exercise, and activity pacing, managing your level of activity to prevent overexertion on days when pain has eased.
Lifestyle Management Techniques:
Lifestyle management is an often overlooked, but vital, element of managing chronic pain. Managing not only pain, but also mental health, is important to continuing to live an active and enjoyable life, and many people suffering from chronic pain seek out psychotherapy and support groups. Communication is key: learning how to communicate to your loved ones your physical needs and situation can be invaluable.
All pain is personal. It affects different people in different ways and to different degrees. Don't be afraid to explain to your loved ones how you're feeling! They're there to support and comfort you, and you can guide them towards how best do so. Pain Awareness Month is about helping people understand the challenges of chronic pain.