For many people pain is a constant companion. Whether it’s due to a disease or an injury, chronic pain, that which lasts longer than three months, is debilitating to both mind and body. Deciding on ways to live as normal a life as possible while suffering from pain is a vital decision for the sufferer. Pain may be experienced in bones, muscles, nerves, joints or on the skin. Living with daily pain takes its toll on normal living. It will affect the ability to function in job situations, can decrease productivity, will hinder clear thinking and can harm relationships as it increases stress with its persistence. Some of the most common causes of chronic pain are the following:
Rheumatoid Arthritis: is a chronic and progressive disease causing inflammation and deformity in joints. It can also affect and inflame blood vessels. It is associated with osteoporosis and the cause is unknown. Early symptoms include pain, swelling and stiffness in hands, feet, wrists, elbows and ankles. Fatigue and fever may also accompany this serious disease.
Degenerative Bone Disease: is the inflammation and breakdown of cartilage in various joints of the body. It affects hands, feet, the spine, neck, hips and knees. Again, osteoporosis, the weakening of the bones themselves may be involved. This disease can be hereditary and is more common in women. It is affected by tobacco use. It is treated with various steroid drugs and exercise. Weight loss is often indicated.
Cancer: is a disease caused by uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in various parts of the body. Pain is associated with both the disease itself and many of the treatments given to kill the cancerous cells. Breakthrough pain, that more intense than a normal range of pain, impairs quality of life and requires high doses of pain medications. The cost of these drugs is often a burden on the patient. Certain cancers, such as bone cancer cause higher levels of pain than others.
Multiple Sclerosis: is a chronic disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system which includes the brain, the spinal cord and the optic nerves. The symptoms include numbness, paralysis and sometimes loss of vision. MS is unpredictable and some patients will experience much more pain than others. Pain varies from headaches to pain associated with the lesions on the central nervous system and can also include an intense pain experienced in the lower face. A wide variety of medications are used to treat the pain associated with MS.
Physical Trauma/Accident: is caused by damage to any part of the body due to severe accidents involving broken bones, tissue damage, brain damage and the like. If the pain associated with the injuries continues after healing has taken place it is considered chronic pain.
Fibromyalgia: is a disease which was often misdiagnosed or under-diagnosed in the past. In this disease the brain wrongly sends pain messages causing nerves to experience pain that has no physical cause. It is an extremely frustrating disease both to endure and to treat. A variety of drugs are used to decrease the pain symptoms. Exercise and massage give some relief.
Coping successfully with pain depends on several key attitudes. First, the sufferer needs to take charge of his or her own situation and find a capable and trusted doctor or medical team. The diagnosis must be accurate in order to ensure that a proper treatment plan is in place. The plan will involve a combination of medicines, exercises, psychological therapy, physical therapy and possibly massage or injections. All of these parts of the plan will work together to give optimal pain management. Over the counter drugs may help in initial stages of pain management, but often aren’t strong enough to really give necessary relief. The next stage of pain management uses the opioids, a group of drugs which includes oxycontin and morphine. These are dangerous drugs when used improperly. Overdosing or using them in conjunction with other prescription drugs or alcohol can be lethal.
Secondly it is of utmost importance that the patient experiencing chronic pain develops an attitude of acceptance leading to hope. There are ways to minimize the effect of the pain by learning to cope and accept a certain level of discomfort. Other pain management techniques include breathing exercises, relaxation exercises, guided imagery, stress management and time management to reduce stressors.
Living with chronic pain is difficult, but it’s not impossible. Those who are able to find a correct diagnosis to the cause of the pain, depend on a strong medical team and incorporate pain minimizing techniques find a way to live a happy, productive life in spite of chronic pain levels. Those who add the dimension of mental, emotional and spiritual wellness and health also benefit in the fight against chronic pain.
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