Determining if pain is chronic or acute can be a tricky task to undertake. Definitively saying whether joint pain is something that occurs suddenly or is persistent can be a complex issue and can mean the difference between a diagnosis of a simple strain versus a type of arthritis.
As people get older, the surfacing of chronic pain tends to increase, and as such, it is important for individuals to be in tune with their body and their pain. Below is a discussion of what qualifies as chronic pain, the common causes of chronic pain, and ways to help those suffering from chronic pain.
Chronic pain is defined as persistent recurring pain. More specifically, the pain needs to be present for longer than 12 weeks even when utilizing medications and other treatments. Chronic pain can vary in the degree of pain felt, however, the duration of the pain is what classifies the pain as a chronic issue versus a temporary (i.e. “acute” one).
The sad reality of many chronic pains is that they can last anywhere from months to years to a lifetime. Many issues can cause chronic pain, and the pharmacological treatment options for chronic pain can lead to addiction or can prove to be ineffective for the chronic condition. Chronic pain requires the support of friends and family, a healthy lifestyle, and non-addictive pain relievers.
Common Causes of Chronic Pain
As described above, there are many issues that can result in chronic pain. Below are 5 of the most common causes of chronic pain.
Arthritis is characterized by the inflammation and stiffness of joints. Arthritis can affect many different joints in the body, but the most apparent way it affects an individual is through the joints in the hand.
Arthritis results in a dull aching sensation in affected joints and can be a source of chronic pain. While there are treatment options available for arthritis, many forms of arthritis are lifelong chronic illnesses that will always be a part of some people’s lives.
Neuropathy-associated pain is pain associated with a damaged nerve or a damaged nervous system. Neuropathy has a large number of causes, many of which are unknown. Some well-known causes of neuropathic pain include amputation, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord nerve compression.
The main signs of neuropathic pain are shooting pains as well as tingling sensations. Much like arthritis, there is no cure to neuropathic pain but there are treatments available to reduce the symptoms associated with the pain.
Headaches are another common cause for chronic pain in some people. Everyone has experienced a headache at some point or another, and while the pain associated with headaches can be immense, they typically only last a few hours. Chronic headaches are a similar experience to normal headaches except they are recurring on a nearly daily basis.
Daily chronic headaches is a condition where individuals experience daily headaches for at least 15 days out of the month for 3 months. These can be incredibly difficult chronic issues to effectively treat and live with.
Injuries are typically thought of as causing acute (short-term) pain. While acute pain can be a part of accidents, many chronic pains begin from an accident. A common point of chronic pain that results from an injury is an automobile accident. In a crash, spinal injuries like whiplash can result in chronic back pain and neck pain. When a nerve is pinched or severed it can cause neuropathy as well as nerve pain along the compressed nerve.
Injuries are not only confined to spinal injuries as knee, shoulder, and foot injuries can all result in long-lasting chronic pain.
While there are many known causes of chronic pain, there are some conditions that have relatively unknown causes. One such condition is fibromyalgia which is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain.
With no known cause, this disorder is difficult to find effective treatments for. As such, the available treatment options for fibromyalgia focus on alleviating symptoms rather than treating the disorder.
Ways to Help Chronic Pain
While prescription and even non-prescription pain relievers are a common way to help relieve the symptoms of pain, they are not always the most viable long-term solutions. Here are some suggestions that may help.
Routine exercise has many positive effects on the human body, with one of those being the ability to reduce chronic pain. Exercise is a method with few to no negative effects that can help to reduce chronic pain, making it a great option for those suffering from chronic recurring pain.
Some types of low-impact, low-risk exercises include the following:
- Walking – Walking outside for at least 30 minutes a day has been shown to improve mental health and mood, and as such, can have a positive impact on the perception of pain.
- Swimming – Swimming is a great way to get in your exercise in a low impact manner. This exercise method is ideal for those suffering from chronic joint pain as being in the water greatly reduces the amount of strain placed on joints when on land,
- Dancing – Dancing is a good way to fit exercise into your daily routine in a way that doesn’t feel like exercise. Getting a close friend or family member to attend a dance class can be a great way to create more lasting relationships while simultaneously giving your body the benefits of exercise.
The TENS machine is a device that utilizes electrodes attached to the skin to send an electrical pulse. This pulse is translated into muscular movement. Each time an electrical pulse is sent across the electrodes, the muscle twitches in response because it simulates the electrical pulse sent by the neurons to the muscle cells.
With the TENS unit, the user is able to manipulate the muscle by changing the frequency and intensity of the twitching to a desired therapeutic setting. The TENS unit is a perfect chronic pain solution for those that experience chronic muscle pain as it circumvents the need for pharmacological derived analgesics.
Constantly being bombarded with chronic pain can take a toll mentally on an individual and as such can cause a worsened sensation of pain. To limit this and help chronic pain, an individual can practice different relaxation techniques to become more mindful and attempt to gain a better mindset.
Relaxation techniques like guided meditations can allow for an individual suffering from chronic pain to step back and gain a new perspective and better outlook on life. Having a better mindset through meditation can greatly improve an individual’s perception of pain and their outlook on life.
Topical Pain Relievers
Chronic illnesses that impact the joints can become incredibly painful when there is an inflammation flare-up. To combat this, the utilization of topical pain relief solutions like creams and gels can help to temporarily alleviate and soothe the discomfort of a flare-up. Hempvana Pain Relief Cream can soothe joint discomfort while also providing nourishing nutrients to your skin.
Another topical pain reliever that can be utilized to help temporarily alleviate pain is Hempvana Cold as Ice Gel. Cold as Ice utilizes the active ingredient menthol to stimulate the cold sensing receptors in the skin. This tricks the body into thinking there is something cold on the surface of the skin when in reality the gel is being applied at room temperature. The result of the cooling sensation from the menthol is temporary pain relief that can effectively reduce the sensation of muscle soreness.
Bracing and Support
Another great way to help chronic pain is to provide compression and support for areas that are trouble points for some chronic disorders. Common chronic pains from arthritis, back injuries, and knee injuries can be supported through the utilization of arthritis compression gloves, back support braces, and compression knee braces. These supports offer stabilization of the joints as well as compression which can decrease inflammation which thereby decreases the sensation of pain.
Chronic pain is characterized as a persistent recurring pain that has been present for at least 12 weeks. There are many different diseases and ailments that can result in chronic pain. This can include arthritis, neuropathy, headaches, injuries, and unknown causes like fibromyalgia.
Discerning the difference between chronic pain and acute pain can be tricky. An even trickier task is to find an effective way to lessen chronic pain for those who consistently have to endure pain.
Ways to help lessen chronic pain include the utilization of exercise, a TENS machine, relaxation techniques, topical analgesics, and compression and support devices. While these devices do not cure chronic pain, they may be able to alleviate the pain to some degree.
Being able to decrease the perceived pain of an individual suffering from chronic pain can be a huge accomplishment, and it all starts with small steps like the suggestions above. Good luck!