What Is Chronic Pain?
About 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, defined as pain that lasts longer than six months. Chronic pain can be mild or severe, episodic or continuous, merely inconvenient or incapacitating.
With chronic pain, signals of pain remain active in the various nervous systems for months or even years. This can take both a physical and emotional toll on a person.
The most common sources of pain stem from joint pain, pain from injury, complications of surgery etc. Other kinds of chronic pain include (sports injuries), sinus pain, and pain affecting specific parts of the body, such as the shoulders, pelvis, back and neck. Generalized muscle or nerve pain can also develop into a chronic condition.
Chronic pain may originate with an initial trauma/injury or infection, or there may be an ongoing cause of pain (i.e. cancer). Some people suffer chronic pain in the absence of any past injury or evidence of body damage.
The emotional toll of chronic pain also can make pain worse. Anxiety, stress, depression, anger, and fatigue interact in complex ways with chronic pain and may decrease the body’s production of natural painkillers; moreover, such negative feelings may increase the level of substances that amplify sensations of pain, causing a vicious cycle of pain for the person. Even the body’s most basic defenses may be compromised (i.e. the immune system). There is considerable evidence that unrelenting pain can cause suppression of the immune system.
Because of the mind-body links associated with chronic pain, effective treatment requires addressing behavioral as well as physical aspects of the condition.
What Are the Symptoms of Chronic Pain?
The symptoms of chronic pain include:
• Mild to severe pain that does not go away
• Pain that may be described as shooting, burning, aching, or electrical
• Feeling of discomfort, soreness, tightness, or stiffness
Pain is not a symptom that exists alone.
Other problems associated with pain can include:
• Withdrawal from activity and increased need to rest
• Weakened immune system
• Changes in mood including hopelessness, fear, depression, irritability, anxiety, and stress
The Integrated team of BEHAVIORAL MEDICINE ASSOCIATES collaborate and “integrate” all of the above features of Chronic Pain, and believe the earlier we join forces (the patient and the treating team) can minimize “acute” pain from becoming “chronic” pain.