mature woman neck pain
Pain Management (Knee Pain, Back Pain, Stomach Pain)

The Illness of Chronic Pain

A sprained ankle can be a real pain.  But injuries like sprains, bone fractures, pulled muscles, cuts, and even minor burns are everyday pain and a normal part of life.  While the pain may be acute, it’s not lasting, and the discomfort eventually subsides and resolves over time.

On the other hand, if pain lingers for more than three months without lessening, it is considered neuropathic or chronic — pain that won’t go away on its own.

Unlike acute pain, which is the body’s way of communicating that something is wrong, this chronic pain isn’t a benefit.  Instead, it’s a signal that something has gone amiss in the body, causing pain signals to get crossed or misinterpreted.  The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 11% of adults in the U.S. experience daily pain.

Some conditions and diseases that cause neuropathic or chronic pain include fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, multiple sclerosis, migraine, diabetic neuropathy, shingles, and specific types of back pain, such as spinal nerve injury or nerve root compression.

Those who live with chronic pain often describe their condition as omnipresent.  However, some chronic pain will come and go, with no trigger or warning.  Either way, the effect can be devastating, causing the person living with pain to experience long-term psychological effects.

According to a groundbreaking 2011 report and subsequent book, Relieving Pain in America, A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education and Research, chronic pain now affects more than 100 million adults in the U.S.  Additionally, the economic price – from direct medical treatment cost and lost productivity – now totals at least $635 billion annually.

The report’s findings conclude that chronic pain is a disease in itself.  The authors write: “Pain results from a combination of biological, psychological and social factors and often requires comprehensive approaches to prevention and management.”

Furthermore, the best outcomes result from a combination of interdisciplinary assessment and treatment.

For a long time, the medical community was stymied when faced with pain that didn’t go away and resisted treatment.  Doctors either expected their patients to ‘tough it out’ or they opted for a Band-Aid approach and immediately prescribed strong prescription painkillers, which has led to rising addiction rates, including opioids.

This all or nothing approach was mostly ineffective, and a huge shift is underway in the healthcare industry to treat and manage chronic pain differently.

Physicians and other providers are now encouraged to use a patient-centered approach when treating issues related to chronic pain.  This is especially important as everyone perceives and deals with pain differently, and what works with one person does not mean it will be successful with the next.