An Overview of Pain

Understanding pain

Pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage or described in terms of such damage. This broad definition encompasses both acute and chronic pain, and it even addresses the conundrum of chronic pain: it is unpleasant.

Chronic pain

According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, more than 1.5 billion people around the world have chronic pain. Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts at least 12 weeks. The pain may feel sharp or dull, causing a burning or aching sensation in the affected areas. It may be steady or intermittent i.e. coming and going without any apparent reason. Chronic pain can occur in nearly any part of your body. The pain can be felt differently depending on the affected areas. With chronic pain, the body continues to send pain signals to the brain, even after an injury heals, limiting mobility and reduce flexibility, strength, and endurance.

Some of the most common types of chronic pain include:

  • headaches
  • postsurgical pain
  • post-trauma pain
  • lower back pain
  • cancer pain
  • arthritis pain
  • neurogenic pain (pain caused by nerve damage)
  • psychogenic pain (pain that isn’t caused by disease, injury, or nerve damage)

What are the Causes of Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain is usually caused by an initial injury, such as a back sprain or pulled muscle.

It’s believed that chronic pain develops after nerves become damaged.

The nerve damage makes the pain more intense and long-lasting.

In these cases, treating the underlying injury may not resolve chronic pain.

In some cases, however, people experience chronic pain without any prior injury. The exact causes of chronic pain without injury aren’t well understood. The pain may sometimes result from an underlying health condition, such as:

  • chronic fatigue syndrome:

characterized by an extreme, prolonged weariness that’s often accompanied by pain;

  • endometriosis: a painful disorder that occurs when the uterine lining grows outside of the uterus;
  • fibromyalgia: widespread pain in bones and muscles;
  • inflammatory bowel disease: a group of conditions that causes painful and chronic inflammation in the digestive tract;
  • interstitial cystitis: a chronic disorder marked by bladder pressure and pain;
  • temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ): a condition that causes painful clicking, popping, or locking of the jaw;
  • vulvodynia: chronic vulva pain that occurs with no obvious cause.

Who is at risk for chronic pain?

Chronic pain can affect people of all ages, but it’s most common in older adults. Besides age, other factors that can increase your risk of developing chronic pain include:

  • having an injury
  • having surgery
  • being female
  • being overweight or obese

How is chronic pain treated?

The main goal of treatment is to reduce pain and boost mobility. This helps you return to your daily activities without discomfort. The severity and frequency of chronic pain can differ among individuals. Thus, doctors create pain management plans that are specific to each person.

A pain management plan will depend on the symptoms and any underlying health conditions. Medical treatments, lifestyle remedies, or a combination of these methods may be used to treat chronic pain.

Medications for chronic pain

Treatment of chronic pain can be undertaken in different ways. Under the general category of medications, there are both oral and topical therapies available.

Here are a few examples of oral medications for pain relief:

  • over-the-counter pain relievers, including acetaminophen (Tylenol) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin (Bufferin) or ibuprofen (Advil);
  • opioid pain relievers, including morphine (MS Contin), codeine, and hydrocodone (Tussigon);
  • adjuvant analgesics, such as antidepressants and anticonvulsants.

Also available are medications that can be applied to the skin, whether as an ointment, a cream, or by a patch. Some of these patches work by being placed directly on top of the painful area where the active drug, such as lidocaine, is released.

Others, such as fentanyl patches, may be placed far from the painful area.

Medical procedures for chronic pain Certain medical procedures can also provide relief from chronic pain.

An example of a few are:

  • electrical stimulation, which reduces pain by sending mild electric shocks into muscles;
  • nerve block, which is an injection that prevents nerves from sending pain signals to the brain;
  • acupuncture, which involves lightly pricking the skin with needles to alleviate pain;
  • epidural steroid injections, a minimally invasive treatment used to treat chronic pain in the neck, arms, back, and legs;
  • surgery, which corrects injuries that may have healed improperly and that may be contributing to the pain. Lifestyle remedies for chronic pain Additionally, various lifestyle remedies are available to help ease chronic pain.

Examples include:

  • physical therapy
  • tai chi
  • yoga
  • art and music therapy
  • pet therapy
  • psychotherapy
  • massage
  • meditation Dealing with chronic pain There isn’t a cure for chronic pain, but the condition can be managed successfully. It’s important to stick to the pain management plan to help relieve symptoms.

Physical pain is related to emotional pain, so chronic pain can increase stress levels.

Building emotional skills can help cope with any stress related to conditions.

Here are some steps to take that can reduce stress:

Take good care of our body:

Eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly can keep our body healthy and reduce feelings of stress.

Continue taking part in daily activities: We can boost our mood and decrease stress by participating in activities we enjoy and socializing with friends. Chronic pain may make it challenging to perform certain tasks. But isolating ourselves can give us a more negative outlook on our condition and increase our pain sensitivity.

Seek support: Friends, family, and support groups can lend us a helping hand and offer comfort during difficult times. Whether we are having trouble with daily tasks or are simply in need of an emotional boost, a close friend or loved one can provide the support we need.

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