What is chronic pain?

Pain is the body’s normal reaction to illness or injury, warning you that something is wrong. When pain continues for 3-6 months, even after the original cause is gone, this is called chronic pain. Chronic pain can make life very challenging, as it limits and reduces mobility, flexibility, strength, and endurance. More than 1.5 billion people around the world have chronic pain. In the U.S., it is the most common cause of long-term disability, affecting nearly 100 million Americans. Chronic pain is most common in older adults but it can affect people of all ages. Other factors that increase the risk of developing chronic pain include: having an injury, having surgery, being female, and being overweight or obese.

How do I know if I have chronic pain?

If your pain lasts for 3-6 months, your pain is considered chronic and requires special consideration. 

What is causing my chronic pain?

Chronic pain usually starts from an injury where nerves become damaged. The nerve damage can make the pain more intense and long lasting. It’s possible that treating the underlying injury will not resolve the chronic pain. Some people can experience chronic pain without a previous injury. This is usually tied to an underlying health condition such as chronic fatigue syndrome, endometriosis, fibromyalgia, inflammatory bowel disease, interstitial cystitis, and temporomandibular joint dysfunction. 

What treatment is available for chronic pain?

Your doctor will work with you to create a treatment plan that addresses your symptoms and underlying health conditions. Treatment may include some combination of medication and lifestyle changes in an effort to reduce pain and boost mobility. Medication for chronic pain includes over the counter pain relievers, opioid pain relievers, and adjuvant analgesics. More invasive medical procedures for chronic pain include electrical stimulation, nerve blocks, acupuncture, and surgery. Self management of pain through lifestyle changes includes incorporating some of the following activities: physical therapy, tai chi, yoga, art and music therapy, pet therapy, psychotherapy, massage, and meditation. 

Because physical pain is related to emotional pain, it is really important to build emotional skills to help you cope with stress related to your condition. Chronic pain can increase stress levels but things like taking care of your body and seeking support can help you control these and better manage your pain.

What is a safer medication for managing pain?
Buprenorphine is a schedule III drug that has been proven to be safe and effective for treating chronic pain. As an opioid alternative, buprenorphine is a safer option as it has reduced potential for dependence while still delivering opioid-level strength pain management. Due to its non-addictive properties, doctors are able to prescribe them at higher levels than they would another opioid.

If you are experiencing chronic pain, consider making an appointment and speaking with one of our licensed providers.  Visit our Pain & Rehab practice website to learn more

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