Pain is a common discomfort that almost everyone in the world will experience at a time in their lifetime. Everyone experiences occasional pains in different parts of their body.
Pain is a reaction of the nervous system that helps alert you that an injury may have occurred or something is wrong somewhere in your body. When you sustain an injury, pain signals travel from the injured part of your body, up to your brain to notify you that an injury has occurred.
As an injury heals, the pain usually reduces. However, when your body continues to send pain signals to your brain, even after the injury heals, this condition is known as chronic pain.
Chronic pain is pain that lasts for 12 weeks and more. Chronic pain can limit your mobility and affect your ability to perform daily tasks. Chronic pain can reduce your flexibility, strength, and endurance.
According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, more than 1.5 billion people in the world are experiencing chronic pain. About 100 million Americans are experiencing chronic pain.
Chronic pain may be a sharp or dull pain, a burning or aching sensation. The pain may be steady or intermittent that comes and goes without any obvious reason.
Causes of Chronic Pain
There are multiple causes of chronic pain. These include:
Injury is the most common cause of chronic pain. Chronic pain develops after nerves become damaged as a result of injury. The damaged nerves make pain more intense and long-lasting. When the nerves are damaged, treating the underlying injury may not relieve the pain, causing long-lasting or chronic pain.
Chronic pain is also caused by numerous underlying conditions. These include:
This is a condition whereby the cartilage that covers the ends of bones where they form a joint to break down. Osteoarthritis is a common cause of chronic pain.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease whereby the immune system attacks the joints.
Chronic fatigue syndrome
This is an extreme and prolonged weariness that’s often accompanied by pain.
This is a painful disorder that occurs when the uterine lining grows outside of the uterus.
This is a widespread muscle and bone pain.
Inflammatory bowel disease
This is a condition that causes painful, chronic inflammation in the digestive tract.
This is a chronic disorder characterized by bladder pressure and pain.
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ)
This is a condition that causes painful clicking, popping or locking of the jaw.
This is chronic vulva pain that occurs with no obvious cause.
Chronic headache causes chronic pain.
This is a disease whereby the immune system eats away the protective covering of nerves, resulting in nerve damage and pain.
This is a viral infection that causes a long-term painful rash.
Most people with diabetes suffers nerve damage, causing chronic pain.
Injury or condition that results in trauma or compression of nerves can result in nerve damage and pain.
Cancer can cause nerve damage and pain. Certain types of cancer may result in nutritional deficiencies that affect nerve function.
Certain infectious diseases can affect the nerves in the body, resulting in pain. These infectious diseases include Lyme disease, herpes viruses, HIV, and hepatitis C.
Deficiencies of certain nutrients and vitamins in the body can cause nerve damage or affect nerve function.
Motor neuron diseases
The nerves in your brain and a spinal column that communicate with the muscles in the body are known as motor neurons. Diseases that affect motor neurons can cause chronic pain.
Side effects of certain drugs and toxic substances
Certain drugs and toxic substances that are taken into the body can cause nerve damage and pain.
Treatment of chronic pain
The main goal of treatment for chronic pain is to reduce the pain and enhance bodily function. The severity and frequency of chronic pain can differ from person to person. Your pain treatment plan will depend on your symptoms and any underlying conditions causing the pain.
Treatment options for chronic pain include:
Over-the-counter pain relievers
Taking over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin or ibuprofen can help relieve chronic pain.
Opioid pain relievers
Medications that contain opioids such as morphine, codeine, and hydrocodone can help reduce chronic pain. Opioids are addictive and should be used short-term.
Adjuvant analgesics such as antidepressants and anticonvulsants can be used for the treatment of chronic pain.
Electrical stimulation reduces chronic pain by sending mild electric shocks into your muscles.
Injecting corticosteroids into the nerve roots that are sending pain signals to the brain helps to block the pain.
This is the permanent destruction of the nerves that are transmitting the pain signals to the brain. Destroying the nerves transmitting the pain helps to stop the pain signals from getting to the brain, which stops you from feeling pain. The nerves are destroyed using radiofrequency current.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation is the use of an electrical current to stimulate the nerve to relieve pain. Low voltage electrical current is delivered through the electrodes that are placed on the skin near the source of the pain.
Bioelectric therapy stimulates the body to produce chemicals known as endorphins that help to reduce or stop painful sensations by blocking the pain signals from being transmitted to the brain.
Intrathecal drug delivery
Intrathecal drug delivery involves implantation that delivers medicines such as morphine or a muscle relaxant directly to the spinal cord where the pain travels. Instead of taking pills, Intrathecal drug delivery can provide significant pain control with a fraction of the dose that would be required with taking pills.
Acupuncture is a Chinese treatment that involves lightly pricking your skin with needles to alleviate pain.
Massaging the pain area may help to relieve the pain. A massage therapist can help properly massage the affected area to provide pain relief.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP)
Platelet-rich plasma is a therapy that involves injecting your own platelets directly into the affected area. The platelets injected help to accelerate the healing of injured tendons, ligaments, muscles, and joints to provide pain relief.
Physical therapies such as yoga and other strengthening and flexibility exercises can help relieve chronic pain. A physical therapist can guide you through the best programs that will help relieve pain.
Chiropractors and osteopathic doctors use spinal manipulation to provide chronic pain relief.
Ultrasound with sound waves can be used to massage the soft tissues in the pain area. Ultrasound helps the muscles relax and heal, relieving chronic pain.
Apply ice or heat
Applying ice or heat to the affected area can help reduce pain and swelling.
Over-the-counter (OTC) creams, gels, patches, or sprays
Applying OTC creams, gels, patches, or sprays to the skin over the pain area help to stimulate the nerves in the skin to provide pain relief.
Many people have found pain relief using mind-body therapies. Mind-body therapies use various approaches including meditation, relaxation techniques, biofeedback, and hypnosis to relieve pain.
Nutritional supplements and herbal remedies
Certain nutritional supplements and herbs can help relieve chronic pain.
Surgery is usually the last option when other conservative treatments don’t relieve chronic pain or improve your condition. There are several different surgical procedures that can be performed for chronic pain depending on the area where you feel the pain.