Pain is a necessary evil in our lives that comes and goes. It is the body’s way of letting us know when we are ill or hurt. The pain usually goes away once the injury or illness has healed.
But for some people, pain does not go away. It becomes chronic and lasts for months or even years, and may become more severe with time. This is known as chronic pain.
What Exactly is Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain is defined as any persistent pain lasting more than 12 weeks. It can be caused by an injury, a medical condition, or even stress. Chronic pain can have a significant impact on our quality of life, and interfere with work, sleep, and other activities we enjoy.
Research shows that approximately 1 in 5 American adults struggle with chronic pain. Standard treatment options include medication, physical therapy, psychotherapy, surgery, and lifestyle changes.
Types of Chronic Pain
There are many different types of chronic pain, and the symptoms can vary from person to person. Let’s take a look at some of the most common types of chronic pain:
As the name suggests, neuropathic pain is caused by damage to the nervous system. It can result from an injury, surgery, or a disease such as diabetes.
This leads to a breakdown in the way information is transmitted from the body to the brain, which can result in “false” pain signals. Some of the most common causes of neuropathic pain include infection, physical trauma, complex regional pain syndrome, surgery, facial nerve problems, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, mental health conditions, and fibromyalgia, just to name a few.
Symptoms of neuropathic pain include:
- Burning or tingling sensations
- Shooting or stabbing pains
- Numbness or weakness
- Joint stiffness
- Muscle aches and pains
- Tenderness around the affected area
Neuropathic pain can be challenging to treat because it does not respond well to traditional pain medication.
Nociceptive pain is the most common type of chronic pain. It is caused by inflammation, physical pressure, or damage or injury to tissues, bones, or organs. This type of pain is usually the result of an inflammatory condition such as arthritis or cancer.
There are two types of nociceptive pain: somatic pain and visceral pain. Somatic pain is felt in the skin and tissues and is usually a dull, aching pain. It can also be sharp or throbbing. Normally, somatic pain is triggered by physical injuries such as bruises, cuts, or burns.
On the other hand, visceral pain originates from the internal organs and is usually a dull, aching pain. However, it can also be sharp or throbbing. Visceral pain is often felt in the abdomen, chest, or pelvis and is caused by conditions such as endometriosis, ovarian cysts, or kidney stones.
Examples of Chronic Pain Conditions
Now that we’ve looked at the different types of chronic pain, let’s take a look at some of the most common chronic pain conditions:
Arthritis Pain: Arthritis is a general term that refers to more than 100 rheumatic diseases/conditions that affect joints and surrounding tissues. The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which is caused by the breakdown of cartilage. Symptoms include pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints.
Back Pain: Chronic back pain is one of the most common types of chronic pain. It can be caused by several different factors such as muscle strain, arthritis, disc problems, or nerve damage. Symptoms include backache, stiffness, and difficulty moving. It can affect the lower back, middle back, or upper back and neck areas.
Cancer Pain: Cancer can cause chronic pain due to the tumor pressing on nerves or bones, or from treatment side effects such as surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. Symptoms will vary depending on where the cancer is located in the body.
Fibromyalgia: Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes widespread pain, fatigue, and tenderness in the muscles and joints. People with fibromyalgia may also experience sleep, memory, and mood problems. The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown; however, it is thought to result from changes in how the central nervous system processes pain signals.
Migraines: Migraines are a type of headache that can cause severe pain, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. Migraine attacks can last for hours or even days and can be so debilitating that people cannot function normally during an attack. The exact cause of migraines is unknown, but they are thought to be
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS): CRPS is a chronic pain condition that most often affects the arm or leg. It is characterized by intense burning pain, swelling, and skin color and temperature changes. CRPS typically develops after an injury, but the exact cause is unknown.
Endometriosis: Endometriosis is a chronic condition in which tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus grows outside of the uterus. This can cause pain, cramping, and bleeding during menstruation, as well as infertility.
Phantom Limb Pain: Phantom limb pain occurs when the brain continues to receive pain signals from an amputated limb. It is a type of chronic pain that can be extremely debilitating. Symptoms include shooting, burning, or aching pain in the affected limb. The exact cause is unknown, but is thought to be due to changes in the nervous system.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): IBS is a chronic condition that affects the gastrointestinal tract. It is characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.
Chronic pain is a complex problem that can have a significant impact on your quality of life. If you are dealing with chronic pain, it is essential to talk to your doctor about treatment options.
In most cases, managing chronic pain involves treating the underlying condition, managing stress, and making lifestyle changes. There are also a variety of medications that can help keep the pain under control.