What is Chronic Pain?
If you are reading this, you or someone you know has probably been in pain for a while. It is my hope that this will clarify exactly what chronic pain is.
Chronic pain is persistent pain or discomfort that has continued for longer than 12 weeks, regardless of medical interventions and treatments.
When people suffer from normal pain following an injury or accident, the pain subsides within a few weeks. When someone suffers from chronic pain the pain continues longer and it can often be the result of something other than an injury or operation and have no known cause.
Different types of pain can become chronic pain.
Chronic pain is only one type of pain. As stated above it is defined as pain that persists longer than twelve weeks. However, there are other types of pain that can become chronic pain. The most common types are:
Acute pain usually comes from an injury or surgery. It can last up to six months. When a person has surgery to correct posture or a torn ligament; any damage to soft tissue can cause acute pain that can last for a few months or more. For most people, the pain then subsides as the injury heals. When the pain continues, one reason could be because the healing didn’t progress like it was supposed to, that is when acute pain becomes chronic pain.
Neuropathic pain is caused by nerve damage. This is the type of pain that is caused by peripheral neuropathy – often a side effect of shingles. It can also be caused by a nerve that was nicked in surgery. With this pain some people have difficulty feeling hot and cold on the pain sight, they just feel pain. The affected area is often sensitive to touch. Sometimes it is so sensitive that it hurts to wear clothes. The pain can come and go or be consistent. Some of the words used to describe neuropathic pain are:
Pins and needles
Nociceptive pain often arises from a bodily injury resulting in torn tissue and swelling. This is the type of pain that occurs from a sprained ankle, a burn, or a sports injury. This type of pain usually only lasts a few weeks, and most injuries of this type heal without any lingering issues. There are cases when the pain seems to linger after the swelling subsides and the injury is healed. Lingering pain can be caused by a nerve root being activated, or even an organ is affected. This is when nociceptive pain becomes chronic pain. Words people often use to describe this type of pain are;
Radicular pain is specifically caused by a compressed and irritated nerve root. Also known as a pinched nerve. This type of pain can be caused by falls, accidents, bone spurs, or herniated discs. People who are living with Radicular pain often have an exercise and stretching regime that has been designed for their specific condition. Words used to describe this type of pain are:
Sometimes chronic pain is a result of health conditions that just seem to appear. A good example of this is migraine headaches, arthritis, and fibromyalgia. These conditions seem to affect seemingly healthy people, of all ages. It is also important to know that migraines can affect any part of the body where there are a lot of neurons. Some people experience migraines in their stomachs or intestines. I will discuss that in more detail at a different time.
The Levels of Pain
The Numerical Rating Pain Scale is a simple pain scale that grades pain levels from 0-10.
0 = No Pain
1 – 3 = Mild Pain
4 – 6 = Moderate Pain
7 – 9 = Severe Pain
10 = Worst Pain Possible
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People who are managing chronic pain are often asked to rate the level of pain that they are experiencing. This scale helps the treating professional to determine how well the pain management techniques are working.
How to Identify You or Somone is in Pain
Often you can tell when someone is in pain. There are signs and symptoms that a person may exhibit to watch for if you or someone you love is experiencing pain. Even children. They may not always tell mommy or daddy so these signs are really important to pay attention to.
Facial grimacing or a frown. Most than just once or twice
Writhing or constant shifting in bed.
Moaning, groaning, or whimpering.
Restlessness and agitation.
Appearing uneasy and tense
Perhaps drawing their legs up or kicking.
Pain can also feel like…
A dull ache.
It can even manifest itself in the form of fatigue or a feeling of being completely wiped out. In addition, pain can affect your appetite and you may not be hungry or want to eat. And finally, it can wreak havoc with sleep.
If you find yourself struggling in any of these areas for a period of time, I strongly encourage you to speak with your doctor or a professional that can help you determine what the symptoms could be.
How do I Describe my Pain?
This is one of those things that can be easy or extremely difficult – explain your pain to someone else.
NIH – National Institute of Child Health
and Human Development talks about the importance of accurately describing your pain to your provider in order to find the because and treat it. Here is helpful information they give…
Information that is helpful to your doctor includes:1
How long you have had your pain
Where you feel the pain
Whether your pain is in one spot or spread out
How the pain feels and how severe it is
Whether the pain is constant or comes and goes
What activities make pain worse or improve it
How your pain limits what you can do
How often the pain occurs and how long it lasts
Anything that triggers the pain
Keeping a pain diary or record of your pain is a good way to track your pain triggers as well as symptoms over time. Be as specific as possible. Some words that can help you describe the way your pain feels include:2
Hot or burning
Punishing or cruel
Tiring or exhausting
How do I know which pain management strategies to use?
You may have been in pain for some time or this is all new to you and you are just beginning your journey to health. Either way, this is your time to be curious.
I encourage you to look into different types of pain management strategies and determine what you would like to try. This is your time to develop a lifestyle that incorporates pain management as the central part of your self-care. In addition, I am happy to explore with you the management strategies that would be the best fit for your lifestyle.
Dr. Long Gillespie says,
“If it feels like an emergency, then it’s worth getting checked out. If your pain seems to fluctuate, there are no other symptoms, and you can generally do your activities, it’s better to be seen by your primary care provider.”
If you would like to learn more about clinical hypnosis to gain the skills to manage chronic pain, contact me here and we will strategize together to help you plan your path of pain management.