Chronic Pain and Treatment
What Is Chronic Pain?
Pain is an unpleasant sensation that we usually associate with injury or tissue damage, but can actually be present in the absence of tissue damage as well. Pain can be acute or chronic.
Can this Injury or Condition be Prevented?
Research shows that treating pain as soon as possible helps to prevent chronic pain. Listen to your body, don’t ignore it..!
Acute pain lasts for a short time – up to 12 weeks.
It is a warning that tissue damage has occurred or may occur, or to help us prevent injury or disease. For instance, if we touch a hot stove, the body sends a danger message to the brain that there is a threat to tissues in order to prevent further injury. A sore foot can signal a need to change your footwear. In some cases, the danger messages may be due to some disease process, and your brain may interpret those messages as pain. This can cause you to seek medical attention – diagnosis and treatment – for what may be a serious condition. Signaling pain in this manner is the body’s way of protecting us and is a good thing.
Chronic pain is any discomfort or unpleasant sensation that lasts for more than 3 months – or beyond an expected normal healing time.
Often, those who have chronic pain believe they have an ongoing disease or that their body has not healed, when this may not be the case. Chronic pain is likely not warning you of possible injury or danger; instead, the pain centers in the brain may be causing you to hurt even though there are no new causes of pain occurring in the body. Anyone can develop chronic pain, at any age. The brain changes in chronic pain:
It is estimated that 116 million Americans have chronic pain each year. The cost in the United States is $560–$635 billion annually for medical treatment, lost work time, and lost wages.
The causes of chronic pain vary widely. While any condition can lead to chronic pain, there are certain medical conditions more likely to cause chronic pain. These include:
- Diabetes Mellitus
- Limb amputation
- Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy
Some diseases, such as cancer and arthritis, cause ongoing pain. With chronic pain, however, pain is created in the nervous system even after physical tissues have healed.
Chronic pain affects each person experiencing it differently. In some cases, chronic pain can lead to decreased activity levels, job loss, or financial difficulties, as well as anxiety, depression, and disability. Physical therapists work together with chronic pain patients to lessen their pain, and restore their activity to the highest possible levels. With treatment, the negative effects of chronic pain can be reduced.
How Does it Feel?
How chronic pain feels varies with each individual; it is very personal. How often it occurs, how severe it is, or how long it lasts is not predictable from one person to another.
These complaints are common when you have chronic pain. However, it does not necessarily mean that your physical condition is worsening; it may just mean that your system has become more sensitive.
Signs and Symptoms over time due to chronic pain
Research finds the following signs may be associated with a chronic pain syndrome:
- Fearfulness – As a result, you may begin to avoid activity.
- Body stiffness
- Become deconditioned and weak
- Decreased circulation
- Weight gain and/or a worsening of other conditions (anxiety/Depression)
- Increased use of medication
Physical therapy treatments may include:
- Posture awareness and body mechanics instruction
- Range of motion, Strengthening and flexibility exercises
- Manual therapy
- The use of ice, heat, ultra sound, or electrical stimulation/TENS