September is Chronic Pain Awareness Month

Credit: Inktastic

Chronic Pain: is an unpleasant pain that persists for three months or longer. It is different from Acute Pain: which comes on suddenly and usually results from an injury and can be treated. Chronic Pain may be related to several different medical conditions and more often than not, cannot be cured- only managed.

The list that follows is not comprehensive by any means, but here are some medical conditions that can cause chronic pain.

Arthritis & joint problems (Rheumatoid arthritis, Psoriatic arthritis, Ankylosing spondylitis)

Migraine headaches

Back pain (spine & hip issues)

Fibromyalgia

Neuropathy and other nerve-related issues

Lyme Disease

IBD (including Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis)

Endometriosis

Cancer

Postsurgical pain

Multiple Sclerosis

Myofascial Pain Syndrome

Trigeminal Neuralgia

Diagnosing Chronic Pain

Credit: The Blue Diamond Gallery

To be diagnosed with chronic pain you may need one of the following:

CT(computer imaging topography) is a powerful X-ray that makes detailed pictures inside your body.

MRI or magnetic resonance imaging. It uses magnets and radio waves to make pictures of organs and structures inside you.

X-ray uses radiation in low doses to make images of structures in your body.

Sometimes, it takes several doctors to diagnose chronic pain and you may have to conduct one or more of these tests several times before you receive the right diagnosis and can move on to treatment.

Treatment

As for treatment, there are many ways that doctors can tackle chronic pain to make a person more comfortable.

They may use transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or a TENs unit, applies to the affected area.

Breathing and meditation techniques.

Biofeedback

Nerve blocks

Spinal cord stimulation

Pain meds like NSAIDs, muscle relaxers, anti-depressants, anti-seizure meds, and opioids.

Surgery to treat the conditions that caused the pain.

Life with Chronic Pain

Living with chronic pain may be the most challenging part after diagnosis. There may be feelings of loneliness; feelings like you are suffering alone and that there is no one out there who understands you or what you are going through. You may find that you aren’t able to keep up with chores like you once did and you either have to learn to let things go for when you are having a good pain day and can do it on your own or, you may have to enlist the help of some family members or even an outside source. Some of your friends may not understand when you have to cancel engagements because you are dealing with more pain than usual and you may end up finding who your true friends are. Work may become increasingly more difficult and you may have to consider going part-time or perhaps changing your profession, or maybe going back to school. Some days might be more painful than others; you may need a walking aid or a wheelchair and other days you may be able to go out and do your errands or gardening or even running. This does not make your pain fake or diminish it any way. Pain patients experience good days where their functional ability may fluctuate.

Life with chronic pain is difficult and you may have to adapt quite a bit during the course as things change in your life. You need to maintain hope even when things feel hopeless. There are still many things in this life to live for and many joys to be had, even while battling chronic pain. A support system is incredibly important and even though you may not be able to get out and be with people, the internet can be used for good and fill in that social gap. There are many communities across the internet, including Twitter and Instagram, where you can meet people who are in very similar situations and can understand what you are going through. Having these communities can boost your morale, give you something to live for and remind you that you aren’t alone in this world which can mean so much. Chronic pain can affect your mental health, so it is important to keep engaged and on to hope. If you find you are having difficulties and having suicidal thoughts, please contact someone you trust and let them know or reach out to National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Hours: Available 24 hours. Languages: English & Spanish.

800.273.8255