Chronic pain – a common problem for people with arthritis and other rheumatic conditions like fibromyalgia – doesn’t just hurt. It can drain your ability to work, enjoy life and be active. Often, it leads to ongoing problems with sleep, fatigue, depression and anxiety. These factors interconnect, such that difficulties with any of them make the others worse.
People with arthritis can have both acute and chronic pain. Acute pain happens when you have an active injury; it lasts for days or weeks until the injury is healed. Chronic pain persists for three months or longer.
Ongoing disease can cause ongoing pain. If inflammation in the joints continues and is not controlled, individuals can continue to experience pain, from the inflammation itself, the damage it’s causing or both.
Getting arthritis under control is the first step in treating chronic pain. The next is working with your doctors and other specialists to develop a comprehensive pain management plan targeting the unique factors influencing your chronic pain.
Pain is often multifactorial in origin. Thus, it is important for physicians to separately identify each possible cause of pain, rather than assuming all pain is a symptom of the rheumatic disease.
In addition to arthritis medications, such a plan might include drugs or other treatments designed specifically to treat pain, sleep or mood; complementary or alternative therapies; and talk therapy.
Improve sleep. Sleep problems are common among people with rheumatic diseases. Pain can disturb sleep, and vice versa. Practicing good sleep hygiene – avoiding caffeine, alcohol and screen time before bed, for example – can improve sleep.
Track pain and its effects. Keeping track of when pain strikes and how it affects you may help you and your doctor pinpoint causes and solutions. You can use a notebook or one of the many available online tools or smartphone apps.
Work on the mind-body connection. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – talk therapy aimed at changing negative thought patterns – can ease chronic pain in arthritis and fibromyalgia. Mind-body activities, such as tai chi or yoga, may also reduce discomfort in people with musculoskeletal conditions.
Consider a multidisciplinary plain clinic. Although a rheumatologist or primary care physician can often help manage pain, some people need more specialized care. If pain is still running your life after working closely with your doctor to improve it, consider a consult with experts at a multidisciplinary pain clinic.
These clinics offer a range of interventions and complementary treatments. For more information on treating chronic arthritis pain, contact Comprehensive Pain Management in Franklin, MA.