Affinity Health, a leading provider of high-quality healthcare, says the first step in treating chronic pain is identifying and treating the underlying cause. When that is not possible, a combination of medications, therapies, and lifestyle changes may be helpful.
What Exactly Is Chronic Pain?
Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong, like when you cut your finger or pull a muscle. The good news is that once your wound heals, the pain generally disappears. However, chronic pain is different. With chronic pain, your body continues to hurt for weeks, months, or even years after the injury.
“Doctors commonly define chronic pain as any pain that lasts for three to six months or more,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.
“Chronic pain can interfere with your quality of life. It can cause depression, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping, exacerbating your pain.”
What Is The Distinction Between Chronic Pain And Other Types Of Pain?
Chronic pain is distinct from another type of pain known as acute pain. Acute pain occurs when you are injured. It doesn’t last long and fades once your body heals from whatever caused the pain. Chronic pain, on the other hand, persists long after you have recovered from an injury or illness. It can even occur for no apparent reason.
Chronic pain can take many forms and manifest all over your body. Examples of common types of chronic pain include:
- Neck ache
- Cancer pain in the vicinity of a tumour
- Migraines and other headaches
- Testicular discomfort (orchialgia)
- Chronic pain in scar tissue
- All-over muscle pain (such as with fibromyalgia)
- Neurogenic pain (pain caused by nerve or nervous system damage)
“Chronic pain can sometimes be traced back to a specific cause. Injuries and diseases can also alter your body’s physiology, making you more sensitive to pain. These changes may persist even after you have recovered from the original injury or disease,” adds Hewlett.
“It is also possible for several causes of pain to coexist. For example, you could have two different diseases. You could also have migraines and psychogenic pain together.”
10 Ways To Manage Chronic Pain
Diagnosing and treating chronic pain is sometimes complicated, and finding the best pain relief methods that work for you may take some time.
The following are a few suggestions from Affinity Health on how to manage chronic pain:
1. Hot and Cold Therapy
Hot and cold therapy is a standard and safe method of pain relief. Heat can relax muscles and dilate blood vessels, aiding in the healing process after an injury, while cold therapy reduces blood flow and inflammation, both of which cause pain.
A massage is a form of soft-tissue manipulation. This technique may be beneficial when combined with other pain management treatments, such as physical therapy and pain medication. While massage may be effective for lower back pain, studies have conflicting evidence on its benefits for other types of chronic pain.
3. Rehabilitation Therapy
Physical therapy is the application of physical techniques to strengthen and stretch muscles and joints. It can relieve pain throughout the body, though the specific methods vary depending on the body part. Long-term benefits of therapeutic exercise for chronic pain include helping people cope.
Acupuncture is performed by a practitioner who inserts thin needles into the skin at specific points on the body. Although a controversial treatment, evidence suggests this technique could help people manage certain pain conditions. This includes temporary relief from lower back, neck, knee, and osteoarthritis pain. However, there is little evidence that it is effective over time.
5. Mind-Body Practises
Many people can benefit from methods that combine psychology and the body. Talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, are examples of psychological treatments for chronic pain (CBT). The goal of psychological treatments is to lessen the negative impact that chronic pain can have on a person’s mental health. According to a 2013 review of the effectiveness of psychological pain management techniques, CBT reduces pain immediately after treatment compared to no strategies. However, the review also found no evidence that CBT can help with long-term pain.
Yoga stretches the body to relax, strengthen, and keep it flexible, with specific poses focusing on particular body areas.A 2010 study on the effects of yoga on chronic pain found that it did not reduce participants’ pain, but it did help them cope, and they felt more in control of how their pain affected their daily lives.
7. Tai Chi
Tai chi is a type of exercise therapy that combines slow, continuous, fluid body movements with breathing and relaxation techniques. It is also easy on the joints and muscles. Tai chi can boost strength and joint stability, and the concentration required can increase one’s mood. According to a 2016 study, there is some evidence that the technique may help with chronic pain. It claims that people who practised tai chi saw improvements in their chronic pain from rheumatoid arthritis, lower back pain, and osteoporosis.
8. Techniques For Relaxation
Dealing with chronic pain can be stressful for various reasons, including the inability to control one’s discomfort. Relaxation techniques can aid in the relief of muscle tension, spasms, aches, and pains. Endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, can also be released. Relaxation can help reduce stress, alleviating some of the burdens of chronic pain while promoting better sleep.
There are numerous medications available to help with pain relief. Each drug class and type works differently; some may be better suited to certain people than others. Before starting any new medication, people should consult with their doctor. This is to ensure that they are safe, do not aggravate pain, and do not interact with any other medications a person is taking.
10. Reducing The Amount Of Stress In Your Life
Chronic pain is exacerbated by stress. Negative emotions such as depression, anxiety, stress, and anger can make the body more sensitive to pain. You may relieve chronic pain by learning to control your stress. Mental imagery relaxation (also known as guided imagery) is a type of mental escape that can make you feel calm. It entails visualising calming, peaceful images in your mind. Another technique that promotes relaxation is progressive muscle relaxation.