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Is Chronic Pain a Disease?

Did you know, approximately 100 million residents of the US suffer from chronic pain? Chronic pain or a pain that lasts more than 6 months is often defined as excruciating, inconvenient and continuous pain. Patients who suffer from chronic pain know that the pain can disrupt or damage one’s lifestyle. It can be really cruel and make it hard for a person to indulge in simple everyday tasks.
Previously chronic pain was not understood completely by the doctors and they believed that pain is one of the symptoms of an underlying disease. Therefore, the doctors focused on treating the cause of pain with a belief that once the disease or injury is treated, the chronic pain will disappear.
Next, if the doctors were unable to find a cause, the patient was told that the pain is in his head and he should think less about it. However, with the development in the medical field, the doctors are coming up with different treatments to make sure the patient is relieved of the symptoms.

Symptoms of chronic pain
There are several symptoms that indicate chronic pain. Some of them are:

  • Mild to severe pain that lasts for more than 12 weeks
  • The pain can persist for months together
  • Pain that is often described as aching, shooting, electrical or burning
  • Feeling of soreness, stiffness, discomfort, and tightness

Pain is not the only symptom. Some of the other symptoms include:

  • Fatigue and sleeplessness
  • Weakened immune system
  • Disability
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Mood swings
  • Hopelessness and depression

Chronic pain causes
There are a number of factors that can cause chronic pain. It is most commonly accompanied by the aging process and affects bones and joints. Other causes include nerve damage and various injuries that fail to heal.
The Chronic pain can also result because of back pain. It is generally not caused due to a single factor, rather a combination of factors are involved.

  • Traumatic injury
  • Years of poor posture
  • Sleeping on poor quality mattress
  • Wearing high heels for a long time
  • Being overweight
  • Improper carrying of heavy objects
  • Curvature of the spine
  • Degenerative changes in the spine

Types of chronic pain
Chronic pain is generally defined in two different ways:

  • Pain due to identifiable pain generator

This type of pain is caused due to clearly identifiable reasons. For instance; certain structural spinal conditions can cause pain if it is not successfully treated. If the pain caused due to these anatomical problems does not subside after few weeks, then doctors may suggest you to undergo a surgery.

  • Pain due to no identifiable pain generator

This type of pain is accompanied by no identifiable pain generator and is often termed as chronic benign pain. It appears that the pain becomes a problem in itself and can last for more than six months at a stretch. The pain is influenced by a large number of factors and is less understood than acute pain.
Diagnosis of chronic pain
Experiencing chronic pain is a very personal and subjective issue. No test has been designed so far that can locate or measure the pain. The general physicians rely on the description of the pain given by the patient. If the patient defines the pain as sharp, constant, burning or severe, the doctor can diagnose the cause of pain.
The patient as well as the doctor needs to work out together to identify the symptoms and causes of the pain and different ways to relieve it. The best treatment plan is tailor made according to the patient’s condition. The patient must be actively involved with the doctor to help him diagnose the pain.

Treatment of chronic pain
The main motive of treatment of chronic pain is to relieve the patient of the pain and improve the functioning of the body. Some treatments are more effective than the others, therefore it is important to make sure you choose the right treatment.

  • Nerve blocks, acupuncture, medications or surgery

Doctors may suggest you relaxation therapies, behavior modifications, less invasive psychotherapy to treat a chronic disorder. These methods help a majority of people to treat their problem effectively. When it comes to treating chronic pain, many patients find alternative medicine approach, including acupuncture, massage therapies, tai chi and meditation effective.

  • Self-management

In this approach of treatment, the patient becomes an active participant to treat his own pain. Engaging in different activities such as decision-making, problem-solving, pacing and taking actions help manage the pain. The main motive of self-management approach is to help the person think, feel and do better.