Chronic pain is a condition that adversely affects the patient’s life. It may last for months to even years causing severe distress physically as well as psychologically to the patient. It affects your daily life activities and becomes a great hurdle in completing your tasks. It also limits your movement and activity to a great extent.
The severity, cause, and management of the pain may differ from person to person. The question remains at the end as to how to manage chronic pain. There are some tips and strategies that you can follow to cope with your pain.
What is Chronic Pain?
The pain that lasts for more than 3 months is known as chronic pain. Examples of chronic pain may include arthritis, migraine headache, cancer pain, severe muscle pain, back pain, etc.
Approximations indicate that around 20% of adults experience pain on a global scale, with 10% being newly identified as having chronic pain annually.
Chronic pain is often described as a pain that may range from mild to severe condition and it does not go away even after a long time of injury or illness.
The symptoms of chronic pain may be described as a burning, stinging, or aching pain that may lead to many other health conditions including depression, anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, and irritation. You may suffer from anger, rage and get irritated easily from your surrounding conditions. You may have sleepless nights just because of your chronic pain.
Chronic pain is diagnosed by a healthcare provider. You will be asked to rate the intensity of your pain on the pain scale ranging from 1 to 10, the times of reoccurrence, and to what extent it is limiting your life activities. After that, you may undergo some diagnostic tests including blood tests, imaging tests, urine tests, etc.
There are different causes of chronic pain including a prolonged illness or an infection. A long-term illness may lead to chronic pain for example cancer. You may also suffer chronic pain as a result of an injury of the past which may have caused an infection at the site. There may be some triggering factors like stress and anxiety that may lead to chronic pain in a patient.
There are some risk factors that may lead to chronic pain.
- Age: One of them is age. As you grow older, you face health problems and these may lead to chronic pain. For example, weak joints may lead to arthritis which is a chronic pain.
- Obesity: an obese person suffer from many health issues due to an unhealthy diet. For example, an increased weight means increased pressure on your joints in turn leading to arthritis.
- Genetic condition: you may have a genetic disease that may lead to chronic pain and suffering.
- Stress and anxiety: stressful conditions are one of the leading causes of chronic pain. If you experience stress and anxiety more often you are more likely to suffer from chronic pain.
- Smoking and alcohol: they may lead to health risks that may cause you to suffer from chronic pain.
Chronic pain vs acute pain
There are two types of pain; one is termed as acute pain while the other is chronic pain.
Acute pain is a sudden pain sensation whose cause may be known and it occurs for a short time. On the other hand, chronic pain is not sudden, its intensity may increase with passing time. The cause of chronic may not be apparent or cannot be specified, and it lasts for longer than three months, and is continual and recurring.
Treatment and cure of chronic pain is not possible, but chronic pain management is possible. You cannot cure your long term pain but it can be managed by following some strategies.
The goal of your management therapy is not the cure but the reduction of the pain and improving the quality of life.
In the event of severe pain management, there are medications available to give relief to your pain. It is always advisable to consult a doctor before taking any medication, but there are some over-the-counter pain relieving medications available that can provide relief to your chronic pain. Always remember to read the label for dosing and other information. Some of the options include:
- Acetaminophen: relieves pain like headache, arthritis etc.
- NSAIDs: Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are OTC pain killer medications that work by reducing inflammation and thus gives relief from pain. Some examples include Aspirin, Ibuprofen, and Naproxen etc.
- Other medicines: There are other medications that may help in relief from chronic pain like Opioids, muscle relaxants, antidepressants etc., but they are not to be taken without your doctor advice, as there is a potential of addiction due to opioid misuse
Along with medication therapy, you have to improve your lifestyle too. As chronic pain is not curable, but proper management strategies can lead to improved quality of life.
Your lifestyle has a big impact on your health. If you are suffering from chronic pain due to any reason, your bad lifestyle can make it even worse. To improve your quality of life you have to make some lifestyle modifications.
You have to work on managing your stress. Stress and anxiety are one of the triggering factors of chronic pain. Your stress can make your pain worse. Also, chronic pain may lead to increased levels of stress. So it’s better to work on handling your stress. Make yourself relaxed, get a good sleep and try to focus on positive things around you.
Try doing some relaxation exercises for relaxation of your mind. More stress free is your mind more you get relief in your pain. These exercises may also include breathing exercises. Your relaxed state of mind is necessary for your chronic pain management. Meditation is a recommended technique.
Physical activity is an essential element of lifestyle modifications. If you are physically fit, there are lesser chances of chronic pain making your life difficult. Living with chronic pain is difficult, but it is advised to do moderate exercise. The exercise should not be an intense one as it may cause an increase your pain. But to keep your muscles and bones healthy, physical activity is required. It also helps keeping your weight in a normal range which leads to prevention of further health defects.
The key to a good and happy life is to stay optimistic. Surround yourself with positive and supportive people. When you are suffering from an intense pain and don’t know how to manage chronic pain it further leads to negative thoughts making you irritated and stressful. Staying positive in this situation will help you in preventing other health problems like anxiety and depression.
Engage in activities that bring you joy. Your mind should be in state of peace and stay calm.
Have good sleep habits
While suffering from chronic pain, sometimes it is even difficult to sleep at night. People having chronic pain often suffer from insomnia. This may cause further health problems.
You should try to manage your pain by following some of the management tips. Try to distract yourself and get to bed early at night.
On the other hand, it is not advisable to stay in bed all day. Even you are suffering from chronic pain, and it is difficult for you to stay up, it is better to indulge in some physical activity, and take some rest in intervals.
It is necessary to take healthy diet. Your body needs to be healthy and your weight should be in ideal range when you are suffering from chronic pain. Try to avoid diet that may increase inflammatory condition. Consult a nutritionist or dietician for managing your diet. A healthy and nutritious diet will lead to a healthy body that may be able to manage your painful conditions.
Eliminate unhealthy habits like smoking and alcohol. Both of these habits cause a decrease in your quality of life and also lead to health deterioration. It may further alleviate your chronic pain making it more difficult for you to manage your daily activities. Try avoiding smoking and alcohol.
You should try to track yourself, by analyzing your state of pain, and how it is affecting your daily activities. This will help your healthcare provider to know the intensity of the pain you are suffering from. This will lead to the answer of how to manage your chronic pain.
There are some other therapies that you can opt for to manage your chronic pain.
Physical therapy is an option that many people with chronic pain prefer to choose. Physical therapy helps you in reducing the intensity of pain. It also helps in making your movement better leading to a better quality of life.
It involves different exercises that include stretching and also pain relieving. Your physiotherapist or chiropractor will guide you related to the exercises and you should follow their advice. People experience pain relief after some sessions, so it is a good option to opt for.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is also an option for people suffering from chronic pain. It involves such methods that help you in pain relief. It deals with your psychological state rather than physical one.
Massage can help you in reducing your chronic pain as it involves easing of the tension of your muscles and relieving your pain.
It is a technique involving small needles punctured in different parts of your body. It is a traditional method and causes much relief pain.
Chronic pain is a condition that limits your daily activities and make an impact on your life. It may be due to many reasons and may lead to other health issues. It is important to know how to manage chronic pain. You may follow the strategies and also consult a healthcare provider to know your condition in a better way.