Are you dealing with a bad back? Muscle aches? Sore joints?
It may be cold comfort, but you’re not alone –most primary care visits in the United States are related to complaints like these, for chronic musculoskeletal pain.
Research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons found that chronic pain of the musculoskeletal system – our bones, muscles, and joints – is a widespread and growing problem.
In fact, chronic nagging pain affects about 100 million Americans. Considering that huge number, chronic bone and joint pain has a huge impact on productivity and the cost of healthcare. But even though more than a third of the country’s population is dealing with this issue, the authors of the literature review found that physicians are not necessarily good at providing these patients with pain relief. Why? Because of the numerous options available to treat chronic pain and sometime difficulty in identifying the underlying cause.
Chronic pain, let’s be clear, is pain which continues past the expected healing period. The causes of chronic back, muscle and joint pain are varied – some could result from accidents, others from degeneration due to age or conditions such as arthritis. Diabetes, in its advanced state, can also cause chronic neuropathic pain affecting nerves and tissues. Because of the many reasons why a patient might be experiencing chronic bone and joint pain, doctors have to consider a variety of treatment options for pain relief.
NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like Aspirin and Celebrex are the drug type most commonly prescribed for chronic pain – but surprisingly, the study found that they aren’t particularly effective for pain relief for a lot of patients.
They don’t seem like obvious choices, but antidepressants and anticonvulsants – drugs used to prevent seizures – can be alternative options for treating chronic bone and joint pain, and could be considered if NSAIDs haven’t done the trick.
If you’re suffering from chronic musculoskeletal pain, and NSAIDs are not doing the job, there are other pain-relief options to explore with your medical care team, along with the antidepressants and anticonvulsants already mentioned.
The first line of defense is to do what you can to prevent the pain. For example, if your pain in related to your job, wear proper safety and protective equipment and supportive footwear. If you work out or play a sport, it’s also important to make sure you have the proper footwear and equipment to prevent injury.
Building up muscle is also a viable option as it strengthens the ligaments which support the joints. Increased muscle strength can oftentimes prevent pain from reoccurring.
What if the cause of your pain hasn’t yet been determined? If you’re experiencing chronic bone and joint pain, and you don’t know why, it’s important to push to discover the source.
It’s difficult to get long-term pain relief from musculoskeletal pain if you don’t solve the underlying issue, whether it’s a tumor, infection, or other condition. Which highlights another point: If your medical team is not working together to help manage and relieve your chronic bone and joint pain – and paying attention to the conditions specific to you as an individual patient – then the job of pain relief is going to be that much more difficult.
Also, consider other health issues that may be contributing to chronic bone and joint pain. If you are diabetic, ensuring that your disease is well managed can help prevent the risk of developing neuropathic pain.
While the connection may not seem obvious, getting proper treatment for depression or other mood disorders can also help manage and relieve physical pain.
Lastly, healthy lifestyle choices, such as quitting smoking and improving your diet by cutting out junk food and boosting fresh fruits, vegetables and legumes on your plate, can also have a positive effect on pain relief.