Chronic pain is a complex issue even for medical professionals. However, those who suffer from it know that it can affect big parts of your life. It can also have a big impact on your stress levels which can result in frustration and influence your relationship with your loved ones.
Chronic pain is defined as pain that persists for more than 12 weeks despite medication and treatment. People normally return to being pain-free after a certain amount of time after experiencing injury or surgery. People who feel chronic pain are different since they continue to be in pain sometimes even when they did not undergo an operation or get injured.
In most cases, pain meds are enough to make the pain go away. However, people who feel chronic pain need more than just medication to cope.
If you are one of these people, we have tips for you on how you can manage chronic pain to start feeling better.
What's the difference between chronic pain and other pain?
The most noticeable difference between chronic pain and normal pain is the amount of time a person experiences it. If your pain does not go away after 12 weeks despite taking medication and seeking treatment, it could be a sign of chronic pain.
Another notable difference is that in some cases, pain can continue even though the person is no longer ill or is done with their treatment. The pain can be felt all the time or it can come and go.
How common is chronic pain?
According to studies, approximately 25% of adults in the United States experience chronic pain. It is considered as a common condition and is one of the reasons why people seek medical care.
Symptoms and Causes
In some cases, the cause for chronic pain is obvious. The person who is suffering might have experienced an injury or recently underwent surgery. They might also be suffering from illnesses like cancer or arthritis which can cause ongoing pain.
There are also instances where diseases and injuries can alter your body’s nerves which can leave you more sensitive to pain. These changes can remain even though the person has been completely healed from the injury. There are even times when something as simple as a sprain can leave you with chronic pain.
Healthcare providers also report that there is chronic pain called psychogenic pain or psychosomatic pain that is not tied to physical injury or illness. It is usually caused by psychological factors like anxiety and stress.
Management and Treatment
Over-the-counter medicine (OTC) like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), aspirin, or acetaminophen is usually prescribed by doctors to help manage chronic pain. Prescription medication like opioids are sometimes given to people who cannot find relief with OTC medication.
Patients are monitored by healthcare providers so that medication can be adjusted. There are also instances where natural pain management and treatment go hand in hand with prescription medication.
Here are natural ways you can get relief from your chronic pain.
Exercise is one of the best ways to get relief from chronic pain. Physical activity can help strengthen bones and muscles which boosts flexibility and reduces pain and inflammation in the body. You can consult your physician as to what kind of exercise is best for your chronic pain.
Another thing to remember with exercise is to make sure that your muscles can relax properly afterwards. One of the best ways to do this is to perform your cool down exercises properly. Another way to relax is to get a massage.
A massage gun, also called a percussion massager can soothe tired and irritated muscles that helps to release tension and improve blood flow to the area. Using a massage gun after exercise is a natural way of getting pain relief because it does not only speed up muscle recovery, it can also enhance mobility and comfort by speeding up your muscles healing process.
However, exercise with regards to chronic pain should be approached with caution. Too much physical activity can cause more pain instead of relief. The important thing to remember when exercising in order to get rid of chronic pain is to find an activity that does not induce more pain.
Physical therapy is another natural treatment for pain relief. This is also a good complement to medication especially for those who suffer from long-term chronic pain. Physical therapists are not only experts when it comes to treating pain, they can also locate the source of pain. They can treat those areas with specific exercises to relieve pain and help with your mobility.
For example, a physical therapist might prescribe yoga or stretching exercises for people who suffer from chronic back pain. In some cases, physical therapists use a TENS Machine.
A TENS unit is basically a small electrical device that delivers electric impulses to the affected parts of the body. It works by reducing pain signals that travel through the brain and spinal cord. This does not only relieve pain but also relaxes the muscles.
Aside from chronic pain, TENS machine can also be used to treat back pain, alleviate labor pains and ease muscle spasms and discomfort.
Painkillers for long-term pain
Most pain management plans usually start with typical OTC medicine like acetaminophen and ibuprofen to help mitigate pain levels. However, if pain continues to be severe, stronger medication can be prescribed by doctors.
Opioid based medication like tramadol or codeine can be prescribed. However since opioids are prone to drug abuse and prescription drug-related overdose deaths, they are given to patients in the lowest dose and just for a few days.
Another natural pain relief method is mind-body techniques like breathing, meditation and Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)
These techniques aim to change our awareness of pain and retrain the way our bodies respond to it. Essentially, it teaches us how to control pain or live with it.
For example, focusing on your breathing can help alleviate your pain by focusing on our breathing. It quiets the mind and puts us in a more relaxed state. This is a well-studied psychological response and can help lessen the severity of chronic pain.