The next time you are in pain and tell someone about it, don’t be surprised if they try to brush it off by saying, “Oh, it’s only in your head.” Actually, they’re right; whatever the root cause of the pain is and wherever it is located, pain signals get transmitted to your brain, which is in your head. Chronic pain, though, is nothing to be brushed off or treated lightly. It can be a significant life changer, whereby managing the pain beyond medical procedures and medications can help bolster quality of life for sufferers.
There are two major kinds of physical pain. One is acute pain, which usually comes on suddenly and goes away in a relatively short period of time, perhaps in a matter of days or weeks once the source has been treated. Then there’s chronic pain, often caused by an injury or infection, although it also could be a psychogenic (with psychological origins) unrelated to injury, per healthline.com.
Chronic pain could persist for months or even years and be severe enough to be a constant drag on one’s daily life, affecting them physically and emotionally. Among the medical conditions that could be the source of chronic pain are diabetes, arthritis, fibromyalgia, sciatica and prior trauma or injury, per emedicinehealth.com. It has been reported, per healthline.com, that chronic pain disables more people than either cancer or heart disease.
Chronic Pain Examples
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition in which a patient’s muscles, tendons and joints are afflicted with pain, stiffness, and tenderness, and for which a cause and cure remain unknown. Another chronic, painful condition is CRPS, which stands for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, per clevelandclinic.org. It involves a chronic pain that spreads with redness and fluctuating skin temperature, usually found on the arms or legs. It, too, is somewhat of a medical mystery to health experts and is often improperly diagnosed.
Specialists trained and experienced in treating chronic pain sufferers have over time found that how the brain processes pain signals largely determines what the sufferer experiences beyond just the pain sensation itself, per spine-health.com. Such pain can induce emotional reactions, such as fear contingent on what we know or might presume about the pain signals. In other words, we aren’t sure what exactly is going on, and neither do doctors in many cases. As defined by the International Association for the Study of Pain, pain is a subjective condition and can only be defined by whomever is experiencing it.
Managing the Pain
In most cases, pain killers are limited in what they can do, merely masking the pain symptoms without eliminating the cause, leaving a person groping to find coping strategies for managing persistent pain. But it is far from a hopeless cause! Proper use of pain-management techniques, with the guidance of health professionals – with some therapies done in tandem with one another, can have significantly positive effects on a sufferer’s quality of life.
Following are some coping techniques that have proven to be effective in managing pain, no prescriptions or surgery needed:
- Relaxation training. This is more than just laying down or reading a book, or both. It’s a proactive process. It involves slow, deep breathing to eventually release tension from muscles and relieve pain. Relaxation training can move your attention away from the pain while releasing muscle tension. Relaxation tapes are helpful and can be easily obtained.
- Biofeedback. Biofeedback, with proper medical assistance, involves wearing sensors and having measurements of normal body functions such as pulse, body temperature and muscle tension displayed on a monitor. Thusly, you can essentially “see” your functions and through this are able to learn to control them. You are retraining your mind to regulate these bodily functions relative to chronic pain.
- Keep a journal and a log. Track your daily activities alongside what your pain level is each day, perhaps using a 1-to-10 scale. Over time, you will likely find a correlation between lower-pain days and what you did that day, and adjusting your day’s activities to accommodate lower-pain days.
- Exercise. Some might call this “fighting fire with fire” – or using physical exertion for fighting pain. Exercise promotes the release of “feel-good” endorphins that help block pain signals and improve your mood in the process, per webmd.com. Exercise can also promote pain reduction by strengthening your muscles and lowering the risk of re-injury to the source of your pain.
- Massage therapy. Getting a daily massage may be impractical and costly, but done periodically, it can work wonders that last for a while. It helps reduce stress and relieve tension and is even used by chronic pain sufferers dealing with back and neck issues.
- Stay hydrated. Think water, not coffee (or any caffeinated drinks), soft drinks or alcohol. Dehydration can worsen some chronic pain symptoms, such as headaches and back pain. Sipping water throughout the day should keep you properly hydrated.
- Turmeric. This is a brightly colored spice with properties that fight inflammation. Its key compound is curcumin, which has been shown to reduce inflammation-causing pain without harming the liver or kidneys, per healthline.com.