Chronic pain often cannot be "fixed"—it continues despite any and all treatments you may have pursued. For anyone with chronic pain, here are 5 things to know:
1. Your pain is definitely real.
If you have chronic pain you may sometimes be treated as if your pain is actually made up or greatly exaggerated. While it is true that some people may complain of pain for attention or other reasons, for the vast majority, the pain is real and present. It is not made up.
The real problem is that chronic pain is often caused by anatomical problems that are difficult or impossible to diagnose using standard medical tests, and pain cannot be diagnosed like other medical problems (such as a broken bone that can be seen on an X-Ray]. When it comes to measuring and understanding pain generators and pain levels, science is still lacking.
Fortunately, most in the medical community are now trying to understand and appreciate that chronic pain is real and needs to be treated and managed.
2. Chronic pain commonly leads to Disuse Syndrome.
Chronic pain often leads to long-term lack of physical activity and a condition recognized as disuse syndrome. This syndrome can negatively impact your musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, neurological, and psychological and emotional processes. At its worst, disuse syndrome leads to a pervasive lack of wellness that in and of itself can be debilitating.
Learn more about disuse syndrome:
- The Relationship Between Chronic Pain and Inactivity: The Disuse Syndrome
- Designing an Exercise Program to Avoid Disuse Syndrome: The Who
- Avoiding the Disuse Syndrome: The Why, Where, and What of Exercise
The disuse syndrome can perpetuate and increase the likelihood of a chronic pain syndrome becoming worse over time.
3. Pain leads to difficulty sleeping and depression.
Thoughts and emotions related to the pain also can come into play and aggravate or alleviate the pain. For example, depression, which is a serious disease, can worsen the pain. Sleep problems, again caused by the pain, can also make the pain worse. And increased pain usually leads to increased sleep problems.
Often all conditions related to the pain need to be treated concurrently in order for the patient to get any relief.
4. Pain is deeply personal.
Everyone experiences and expresses pain differently. Any two people with the exact same health condition are likely to feel and express their pain in unique ways depending on a number of factors. Newer chronic pain theories now have physiological explanations for how and why people experience pain differently.
When it comes to back pain, this is especially true. Two people can have the same type of herniated disc, but one feels only slight discomfort and the other feels burning, debilitating sciatic pain that is unresponsive to conventional treatment. It is also not uncommon for no anatomical cause of the pain to be detected.
5. Chronic pain is LONELY.
After awhile, many people with chronic pain—especially pain that is caused by a condition that cannot be seen—begin to feel isolated. Here the Internet has done a world of good helping people in pain connect with others in similar situations and find a supportive peer group through online communities. The Spine-health chronic pain forum is an active, vibrant, and supportive community.
Having a clearer understanding of how chronic pain works, as well as the central role that the mind plays in the experience of chronic pain, is becoming more mainstream in the medical community and among people who have chronic pain syndromes.
There are so many secondary and related issues that accompany chronic pain it would be a real challenge to address them all. This list is intended to at least get the conversation started—for anyone living with any type of chronic pain, pass this along to your loved ones to help them better understand and support you.
If you have chronic pain, your may also find it does you a world of good to have increased emotional support, more effective and sustainable pain management, and even possibly harnessing the power of your mind to assist in coping with the pain.