Most of the time, pain plays an important role in protecting you against peril. Think of it as a messenger, sending a signal through nerves to the brain when you're injured, saying: "Hey, something's wrong here!"
Most of the time, you probably don't worry much about these messages. Usually, they go away after a few seconds, maybe a few minutes. These pain signals are supposed to be temporary, but sometimes they aren't, and that ususally means there's an underlying issue.
Chronic pain is where you hurt persistently, and sometimes inexplicably, for three months or more. Living with chronic pain is tough. Sometimes, it stems from an injury that should have been corrected with surgery but continues to ache long after it heals, according to the Mayo Clinic. Other times, it results from underlying problems such as arthritis or cancer. Chronic pain tends to appear without notice or reason, and usually falls into one of two categories.
Pain Caused by a Chronic Issue
When you have a chronic issue, pain signals get sent over and over again. That's the type of pain experienced by people with chronic diseases such as:
- Headaches: If you experience headaches or migraines for at least 15 days each month, the causes could be infections, blood vessel problems or some other malady.
- Cancer: Cancer doesn't always hurt, but sometimes it does, such as when growing tumour is pressing on other parts of the body. And cancer treatments themselves might cause pain.
- Arthritis: Arthritis can hurt anywhere your bones meet, but common culprits include the hands, knees and hips. Sometimes osteoarthritis follows a joint injury that happened earlier in life, the National Institutes of Health says.
- Lower back pain: Eight in 10 people will have lower back pain at least once in their life, says the National Institutes of Health. That pain is often caused by conditions like sprains, ruptured discs or even pregnancy. While the pain may go away in three months for some, sometimes it may linger on after the conditions heal.
Pain Caused by Nerve Damage
Living with chronic pain caused by nerve damage is a different ballgame altogether. The causes are less clear here, but can include:
- Neuropathic pain: Sometimes caused by diabetes, this pain occurs when the nerve fibres become damaged. It generally feels like an electric shock or pins and needles.
- Complex regional pain syndrome: This syndrome sends shooting pain down a single limb. It's usually triggered by injuries.
- Fibromyalgia: This disease is characterized by widespread pain, says the Mayo Clinic. It causes people to feel pain more intensely because of the messages received in the brain. It can even be triggered by a memory of a painful event.
An Innovative Way To Manage Pain
Even though underlying issues are the cause, pain that lasts longer than 12 weeks is a disease — not just a symptom. That's because when the hurt evolves from acute to chronic, it often becomes its own diagnosis, according to the Journal of Pain Research.
Although chronic pain is typically uncurable, it can be treated or managed. Years of research has led to the development of many medications that can effectively treat various types of pain. More recently, we've seen the emergence of new cutting-edge therapies that can reduce pain levels, putting a better quality of life within reach.
One innovative method used to treat chronic pain is neurostimulation. The therapy uses mild electrical pulses sent to your spine to block pain signals from reaching your brain. It has been used to treat conditions such as gastroparesis, incontinence, Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, depression and essential tremor. There are a few different neurostimulation therapies to choose from, each of which uses an implantable device, inserted during surgery, to deliver pulses for treatment. For people who are no longer getting relief from pain medication, neurostimulation is an effective treatment alternative.
Whether you're considering medication, neurostimulation or another form of pain management, you should always consult with your doctor before beginning any new treatment.
Life Beyond Pain
Studies on chronic pain in India are scarce, but that doesn't mean the condition isn't cause for concern. An Indian Jounal of Palliative Care survey found that almost 20% of its respondents experienced chronic pain.
As we get closer to understanding all the complexities of pain, chronic pain treatment options get better and better. If you're living with constant pain, know you're not alone, and that with new and constantly improving innovative treatments, you can lead a happy and fulfilling life.
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