Updated January 2021

An In-Depth Guide to Understanding Chronic Pain

We tend to think of pain as a symptom, but healthcare professionals have recently begun to consider chronic pain as a condition unto itself. It affects over 42 million Americans, yet remains little-understood by the medical community. This is partially because the cause and intensity are so diverse.

The lack of solid information often breeds misinformation among people who don’t live with this condition. However, it’s beneficial to both patients and society as a whole to have a basic understanding of how such a common medical condition affects people’s lives. This guide aims to do so by answering the questions: What is chronic pain and how can it be treated?

What Is Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain describes the pain that lasts 12 or more weeks. This is in contrast to acute pain, which lasts for a shorter duration. Acute pain is a normal experience and plays an important biological role by alerting our brains to potential health concerns. Chronic pain is a result of those impulses going awry and continuing to send the alert long after injuries heal or without any detectable cause at all.

What Causes Chronic Pain?

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to this question. Many medical conditions can lead to chronic pain:

Some of these causes, such as nerve damage or back injuries, are one-time injuries that become permanent medical issues. Others, such as autoimmune disorders, have a genetic element. Still others, as with depression, are psychological conditions that include physiological symptoms.

What Are the Types of Chronic Pain?

Identifying the cause of chronic pain is essential to treatment, as different pain types respond to different strategies. For example, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs don’t effectively treat nerve pain, but opioids yield better results.

While the causes vary, the affected systems are fairly consistent:

  • Nervous system
  • Muscles
  • Connective tissues (ligaments, joints, etc.)

The systems affected by pain also contribute to physicians’ treatment plans.

How Is Chronic Pain Diagnosed?

Many patients struggle to find a diagnosis, especially when there’s no obvious source of pain. The most important thing patients can do is to advocate for their own care. This includes keeping records of painful episodes, medications taken, and potential triggers. The most important thing for physicians to do is to listen to their patients and attempt to find patterns, without making assumptions.

How Does Chronic Pain Affect Patients’ Lives?

Though the intensity of pain varies by individual, chronic pain undoubtedly has a profound effect on patients’ lives. As mentioned before, those living with this condition may experience depression. Anxiety is another issue patients often face, as they may fear to be a burden to others or being far from home during a painful episode.

Some conditions are debilitating, leaving patients unable to work or care for themselves. This can lead to poverty for some due to a lack of social safety nets.

The stigma against disability takes its own toll, especially for patients who have invisible diseases such as MS, nerve damage, or autoimmune diseases. These healthy-looking adults may feel judged or be discriminated against by others who don’t know their medical history.

How Is Chronic Pain Treated?

The good news is that there are pain management techniques that can help patients reclaim their lives. This includes ancient knowledge such as acupuncture and massage, and current technologies like medication and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Want Lasting Relief from Your Chronic Pain? National Stem Cell Clinic Can Help

There are even organizations like National Stem Cell Clinic leading the way in treating the root causes of chronic pain, rather than just managing the symptoms. If you’re living with chronic pain, you should know you have options to heal, not just get by. Schedule an appointment online or get in touch with us at our Houston clinic location or Miami clinic location today!

Image by: getty, Staras.