When your pain gets really bad…

By: Dr. Victor Marchione | Pain Management | Friday, November 21, 2014 - 05:00 AM

pain, stressPain can ruin your days and make the nights long and unbearable. It’s said persistent pain is a “silent epidemic.” Some even call it an “invisible disability.”

It can affect every aspect of your life, from time with your family, your hobbies and social life, day in and day out.

Suffering in silence? You aren’t alone

The most unfortunate thing is one in five American adults – especially those between 60 and 69 – will experience pain every day for periods of three months or longer. In fact, it is estimated that 39 million Americans are in chronic pain. That’s more than the entire population of California, according to new analysis by Jae Kennedy. He’s the professor of health policy and administration at Washington State University, Spokane.

Kennedy’s study, which was recently published in the Journal of Pain, stemmed from the National Center for Health Statistics survey that measured persistent pain in 35,000 households.

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The results showed women are at a higher risk than men, and people with chronic pain are far more likely to report feelings of anxiety, depression and fatigue. As a result, it costs the United States hundreds of billions of dollars every year when it comes to lost output and health care.

There’s a difference between acute and chronic pain

Acute pain is a normal sensation that’s triggered in the nervous system. It calls your attention to potential injury and the general need to take care of yourself. But chronic pain is a little different. Its various signals keep occurring in your nervous system for weeks, months and even years. This is where the real problems start.

Chronic pain tends to be triggered by an accident, for example, a sprained back or a serious infection. Or there may be an ongoing source of pain, such as arthritis or cancer. But some people suffer chronic pain without being injured first, particularly older adults.

Common chronic pain complaints include headache, low back pain, arthritis pain and cancer pain. There’s neurogenic pain, too. That’s the pain that’s caused by damage to the peripheral nerves or the central nervous system itself. Another common type is psychogenic pain, which can’t be attributed to any injury, disease or damage inside or outside the nervous system.

No matter what type of pain you have, its effects can be all-consuming. But chronic pain can be helped if you understand the cause and take steps to undo the damage that has been done to your body.

Tips on how to relieve pain and stress

Treatments for chronic pain may include medication and even surgery. Some physicians use placebos. The risk is some pain medications can have side effects in the long-term, especially for people who are taking several prescription medications on a regular basis. For those who have diabetes or heart disease they may compromise their immune system.

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Ideally, too, you don’t want to just manage the symptoms, but identify and treat the cause of your pain.

Psychotherapy and behavior modification may help, too, along with physiotherapy. As you likely know, I’m in favor of natural therapy without pharmaceuticals, where possible.

Acupuncture, especially, can help remedy back, neck and knee pain, not to mention headaches and osteoarthritis. Scientists are only beginning to understand how it can help treat various other health conditions.

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese technique that involves the insertion of thin needles through your skin to stimulate specific points on your body for self-healing. It’s safe and effective as long as it’s performed by an experienced, well-trained practitioner.

If you suffer from pain, whether it’s chronic or acute, you may be well aware of the treatments that work best for you. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stop looking up new techniques to cut down on the ache.

Look out for your own interests, and remember to take an active role in working with doctors and other health providers to not only alleviate pain, but determine and treat the underlying cause.

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