What is Chronic Pain?
Everyone experiences pain at one point or another. While it is normal to feel pain if you are sore after an injury, operation, or hard workout, it is not normal for pain to persist for months at a time. Chronic pain is pain that a person feels for 3-6 months or longer. When an injury occurs, your nervous system communicates to the brain through electrical signals in order to alert you that you are in pain. Once the injury heals, these feelings of pain should stop. In some cases, though, these signals may keep firing after the injury has healed which over time may cause a person to experience chronic pain. Sometimes, however, chronic pain may be without a pinpointable cause, such as an injury. Because of this the diagnosis of various chronic pain disorders, such as fibromyalgia or chronic pain syndrome, can be difficult at times.
The symptoms of chronic pain vary from person to person. The severity of the pain also can vary, ranging from mild to quite intense. The pain felt may feel like a dull ache, but also may feel as though it is throbbing, burning, shooting, squeezing, or stinging. Common areas that pain is felt in chronic pain suffers are the back, shoulders, head, joints, and neck. In addition to the pain itself, lack of appetite, difficulty sleeping, weakness, extreme fatigue, and moodiness are all other symptoms of chronic pain. If a person is a carer, these symptoms can impact them especially. Check out the section below to see how!
How can chronic pain impact my life?
While dealing with pain obviously has an impact on a person physically, there are many other areas of a person’s like that can be affected by chronic pain.
- Chronic pain can affect your mood.
- When someone is constantly feeling aching, throbbing, and burning pain they will likely feel frustrated over time. This is normal! But if these feelings of anger and frustration persist, get worse, or cross over into the realm of depression, it is important to take action. Talking to someone about your feelings and doing things to distract you from the pain being felt are ways to avoid letting the chronic pain overtake your mood!
- Chronic pain can cause you to feel lonely.
- Carers are more likely to feel lonely simply due to the nature of their lifestyle. When a carer is also experiencing chronic pain, there is an even greater chance that they will feel lonely. Those who feel chronic pain are almost always uncomfortable due to the constant discomfort they feel. It is common for people to spend time with their friends and family less and less as the pain persists. As a person gets more isolated over time, they may have feelings of loneliness that can even branch into depression. To avoid this, establishing a support network where the people that are a part of it are aware of your condition, as well as your caring responsibilities will help you to alleviate feelings of loneliness over time.
- Chronic pain can negatively impact self-esteem.
- When a person is constantly feeling pain, they are more likely to feel unmotivated. This lack of motivation can have an impact on many areas of life, including physical appearance if a person feels unable to exercise or a decline in job performance if a person feels unable to work to their highest potential. In addition to these things, carers may feel unable to care for their loved ones as they once were able to. This mixture of self-perceived failures can cause a person to feel negative about themselves.
- Chronic pain can cause extreme fatigue.
- It is no secret that pain can be exhausting. Chronic pain can make a person feel extremely fatigued, especially if the pain causes them to be unable to sleep at night. When a person is overly tired, they may feel more stressed about tasks that they need to complete but feel a lack of motivation to get them done. Feeling fatigued can especially impact carers because they have to take care of their loved one(s) in addition to ensuring they look after themselves. This can be draining and can even impact the quality of care being given.
- Chronic pain can affect relationships.
- As you have seen, someone who is suffering from chronic pain may feel moody, overly tired, lonely, and unconfident in themselves due to the discomfort they feel on a daily basis. Over time these things may begin to have an influence on relationships in the person’s life. Spouses, family members, friends, and even those that are being cared for may be impacted negatively and feel frustrated as time goes on. This typically happens due to a lack of communication in the relationship. Communicating about pain levels, daily responsibilities, and how you are feeling because of your pain is essential for others to understand what you are going through.
How do I control chronic pain?
While the feelings of chronic pain may feel unbearable at times, it is important to know that there are ways to help control it. Medications are able to help alleviate some pain being felt, but there are also ways to help control chronic pain without the use of medicine. One of the simplest ways to help control the pain is to follow a healthy, balanced diet. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables, along with sources of healthy fats such as olive oil and nuts, can help lower the amount of pain being felt.
Gentle exercise and yoga practices have also been found to have a positive impact on those suffering from chronic pain. Yoga, for example, is able to improve flexibility which naturally helps to relax muscles and improve strength. When exercising, though, it is important to ensure you do not overexert yourself because pushing yourself too hard may result in injury, causing more inflammation and pain in the body.
In addition to diet and exercise, massage and chiropractic care have also been found to lower pain levels. Massage is able to relieve stress and tension, while also improving overall circulation in the body. Chiropractic care, on the other hand, focuses on bodily alignment. When the bones of one’s body are out of alignment, so are the surrounding nerves and muscles which can cause pain. Getting adjusted regularly helps some chronic pain sufferers find relief.
Another option that chronic pain sufferers can pursue is pain management therapy. This therapy is usually given in a CBT (cognitive-behaviour therapy) style, which focuses on changing the way one thinks and behaves in order to develop more positive outlooks. In therapy, one may learn different skills and ways to cope with the pain they feel. The overall goal of the therapy is for the person to develop new ways to look at their pain, which ultimately will allow for them to look at their situation in a different light and better manage the stress that goes along with it.