What is chronic pain?
Like any chronic condition, chronic pain is something that has been around for some time. This means that it is not a passing problem, such as a one-off headache. Nor is it something that comes and goes - like migraines, for example – although its level of intensity may alter as time passes. Generally speaking, doctors consider constant pain that has not gone away for something like three to six months to be chronic. That said, some specialists believe that pain must have been endured for around a year to be truly chronic. There are many causes of chronic pain. In some cases, it may come about directly from another condition which is, itself, causing pain. In other cases, it may be that the brain is malfunctioning in some way to make people feel pain when there appears to be no cause. A typical form of chronic pain comes from spinal problems, usually because the nervous system in the spinal cord is sending pain signals to the brain. People with heart disease and certain respiratory conditions are more likely to suffer from this type of pain than the general population.
Will chronic pain ever go away?
Because chronic pain sometimes occurs for reasons that medical science does not yet fully understand, it can go away just as mysteriously as it arrives. If so, then that is something which is down to luck more than judgement. However, chronic forms of pain can be treated so that the sensation of agony is lessened to some extent. This is usually achieved by offering painkilling drugs to patients, but other forms of medical intervention are also possible.
How does chronic pain affect your quality of life?
Unfortunately, chronic pain is often debilitating. At its worst, it can impact on every area of life because any activity – even resting – can cause more pain. That said, with proper treatment, the quality of life of many sufferers can improve. There is usually a balancing act to be achieved between using painkillers to treat the pain and the ability for the brain to function normally. Patient experimentation with dosages tends to be the best way forward.
Can chronic pain be cured?
Curing chronic forms of pain is not always possible, given how the condition affects people in different ways. As mentioned, medical science tends to treat the symptoms of pain rather than to look for cures. Some pain can be dealt with by physiotherapy techniques rather than using opioids and other drug therapies. In addition, alternative therapies, like using medical cannabis oils or traditional Chinese medicine, are becoming increasingly popular, too. Some people attempt to cure their chronic pain with hypnosis or by using acupuncture.
How does chronic pain impact on mental health?
Prolonged exposure to chronic pain can lead to a downturn in general well-being. Being in constant pain is associated with chronic depression, for example. Maintaining a positive mental approach is tough under such conditions, so extra support is usually beneficial.