If you’re dealing with chronic pain, you’re not alone. According to studies, an estimated 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. But what exactly is chronic pain, and what causes it? So let’s take a closer look.
Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts for three months or longer. Various factors, including injury, illness, and nerve damage, can cause it. Chronic pain can also result from psychological factors such as stress or anxiety. No matter the cause, chronic pain can affect your physical and mental health.
Types of Chronic Pain
Chronic pain can come in the form of nociceptive pain and neuropathic pain.
Nociceptive pain is the most common type of chronic pain. Usually, this kind of pain comes from external injuries such as sports and accidents. The damage triggers the release of inflammatory chemicals called prostaglandins, which signal the brain that there is tissue damage. This type of chronic pain can be further divided into two subtypes: somatic and visceral.
Somatic and Visceral
Somatic pain occurs in the bones, joints, muscles, and tendons. It is usually sharp and well-defined. Visceral pain occurs in the internal organs. It is often described as a dull ache or pressure sensation.
Neuropathic pain is less common than nociceptive pain but can be just as debilitating. It occurs when there is damage to the nervous system itself. This can happen due to an injury, an infection, or exposure to certain toxins or chemicals. Neuropathic pain is often described as a burning, shooting, or electric-shock-like sensation. It can be challenging to treat because it does not respond well to anti-inflammatory medications or other traditional treatments.
Causes of Chronic Pain
Chronic pain has many different causes. However, here are some of the most common:
- Arthritis: Arthritis is a condition that causes inflammation in the joints. There are many types of arthritis, but certain symptoms usually stay the same. Symptoms of arthritis include joint pain, stiffness, and swelling.
- Fibromyalgia: Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes widespread musculoskeletal pain. People with fibromyalgia may also experience fatigue, sleep problems, memory problems, and difficulty concentrating (“fibro fog”).
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a condition that causes persistent fatigue. People with CFS may also experience muscle pain, joint pain, headaches, and difficulty concentrating. While the cause of CFS is unknown, it is believed to be due to a combination of factors, including viral infections, hormonal abnormalities, and stress.
Dealing With Chronic Pain
Chronic pain can be pretty hard to live with. Thankfully, there are various ways you can deal with it. Here are some of those ways.
If you’re experiencing chronic pain in your back or muscles, there’s a good chance it might be due to tight muscles and knots. Massages can help alleviate this pain by helping your body release tension through touch and pressure. Various massages exist, but a good gua sha massage is the best. Gua sha is a massage that uses a smooth tool to apply pressure and help relieve pain. It’s excellent for your circulation system and pain levels.
If you’re experiencing chronic pain, stress and anxiety are likely also playing a role. Meditation can help relieve some of this stress and allow your body to relax. In addition, it’s been shown that meditation effectively reduces inflammation caused by chronic pain and helps people deal with unpleasant symptoms like fatigue. One way to meditate is to practice mindfulness meditation, where you focus on your breath and the present moment.
Exercise is an essential part of managing chronic pain. It helps increase blood flow and flexibility, which can help reduce pain. Therefore, finding an exercise routine that works for you is crucial. If you’re in too much pain to do traditional exercises, there are other options, such as water therapy or Tai Chi.
Use Heat or Cold Therapy
Applying heat or cold to the affected area can also help relieve chronic pain. Heat therapy dilates blood vessels, which increases blood flow and helps reduce stiffness and inflammation. Cold therapy numbs the area and helps to reduce swelling. Whichever method you choose, be sure not to apply heat or cold for more than 20 minutes to avoid tissue damage.
Chronic pain is a complex issue with many possible causes. If you’re suffering from chronic pain, seeking help is essential to develop a treatment plan that works for you. Remember, you’re not alone, and with proper treatment, you can manage your chronic pain and live a full and healthy life despite it.