Chronic pain is devastating. Many people feel like they’re fighting for their lives, because chronic pain can be torturous. If you have chronic pain, you know what it means to feel caught in a cycle of such terrible pain that even the thought of getting out of bed can seem more than you can stand.
Estimates put the number of people suffering from chronic pain in the U.S. at 116 million each year. Each person can be impacted differently, but it often results in sharply decreased levels of activity that literally change the way people live.
It takes away the simple freedoms of functioning in daily life and the ability to enjoy the activities that define quality of life. It often leads to depression and anxiety because of its disabling affects.
Chronic pain can carry a pretty hefty price tag. The annual cost associated with treating it comes in at a range of $560 billion to $635 billion in the U.S. alone. That’s the price for medical treatment, along with the cost of lost time at work and the loss of paychecks that goes with it.
But, the real cost is immeasurable. It’s the cost of a daily struggle that few people can begin to really imagine, and that’s why it’s important to understand what chronic pain is, what causes it and various treatments, in concert, can play a critical role.
Medical professionals very often call pain that lasts more than three months chronic pain.
Chronic pain occurs when your body is sending signals to your brain that leads your brain to decide that your very health and welfare is being threatened.
It’s not like the alert your body sends from a typical or acute pain sensation that lets you know you probably have an injury. Chronic pain can continue indefinitely, and it can trigger other problems, including sleep disruption, diminished appetite and mood swings.
One of the tricky issues associated with chronic pain is that there are so many causes. For the largest number of people coping with chronic pain, the cause can be a traumatic injury. It can also result from a sprained back or chronic headaches, such as migraines and cluster headaches.
Illness and diseases, such as osteoarthritis, diabetes mellitus, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, neuropathy (pain that comes from nerve or tissue injury) and amputations are among the several other causes of chronic pain.
Frustrating doctors and patients both is the fact that there are many cases of chronic pain where there is no clear cause. When it occurs, the body’s response is a sort of scream for help that doesn’t seem to stop. The question is how do you answer that call for help?
The first step is determining exactly what’s going on, and that means seeing a doctor to get a proper diagnosis. Health professionals may use a combination of methods to determine if you are, in fact, suffering from chronic pain or if there is another problem at work.
Go to your appointment prepared with all the information you can provide to help your doctor determine your specific problem. Doctors will likely ask about your pain history, so write down when your problem began and try and describe your pain.
Every person feels pain in their own way so think of how you can best help your doctor understand. Where does the pain occur? Is it a stabbing, ongoing pain? Is it a dull pain or is it a sharp pain? Is it a burning sensation or an aching sensation? Does the pain come and go, or is it going on all the time?
Remember to write down your medical history, the types of medications you may be taking and any supplements, including vitamins. With all that information, the doctor has a better profile of your situation. Expect that your doctor may order tests to help reach a conclusive diagnosis.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to treatment for problems like these. With the goal of reducing your pain and giving you back the ability to function as normally as possible, treating chronic pain can require a variety of approaches, including medication.
Your doctor may also call on a number of other health professionals, recognizing that tackling chronic pain often can require a combination of expertise including anesthesiology, acupuncture, physical therapy, massage, pain management and more. This helps with ongoing chronic pain management and restoring movement and functionality.
Expect your pain management team to work closely with your doctor to create a treatment plan to address the specifics of your problem.
The goals of your thorough treatment plan is helping to get control of your chronic pain and healing. It’s about addressing pain-causers and your pain response, restoring your flexibility and normal functioning and enriching your quality of life.
For more information on diagnosing and treating chronic pain, contact Franklin Pain and Wellness Center.