Chronic pain is generally classified as pain that lasts at least three months and cannot be completely relieved. Pain that doesn't go away is more than frustrating. It can be harmful to your health and well-being. It can prevent you from sleeping well at night, eating well, and exercising.
It can affect your mood and work and can prevent you from spending time with your friends and family. If you're one of the 100 million Americans with long-term pain, also called chronic pain, you know how debilitating and frustrating it can be. The signal usually stops when the cause of the pain resolves; the body repairs the finger wound or torn muscle. But with chronic pain, nerve signals continue to skyrocket even after you've healed.
Milder forms of pain can be relieved with over-the-counter medications, such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Both acetaminophen and NSAIDs relieve pain caused by muscle aches and stiffness, and NSAIDs reduce inflammation (swelling and irritation). Topical pain relievers, such as creams, lotions, or sprays that are applied to the skin to relieve pain and inflammation of sore muscles and arthritis, are also available. To relieve chronic pain, healthcare providers first try to identify and treat the cause.
But sometimes they can't find the source. If so, they resort to treating or managing pain. COX-2 inhibitors are commonly used for arthritis and pain that results from muscle sprains, strains, back and neck injuries, or menstrual cramps. They are as effective as NSAIDs and may be the right choice if you need to manage long-term pain without increasing the risk of stomach damage.
Pain clinics generally employ a multidisciplinary approach, involving doctors, psychologists, and physical therapists. Research shows that, over time, the body adapts to these medications and they relieve pain less and less. Some people postpone going to the doctor because they think pain is part of aging and nothing can help. Research has shown that regular exercise can reduce long-term pain by improving muscle tone, strength, and flexibility.
If you find that your regular doctor can't help you, ask for the name of a pain reliever specialist. Because chronic pain often worsens depression, antidepressants can double benefit pain and mood symptoms. Because many conditions or injuries can cause chronic pain, there are several risk factors for experiencing it. Chronic pain usually doesn't go away, but you can manage it with a combination of strategies that work for you.
However, many older people have ongoing pain due to health problems such as arthritis, diabetes, shingles, or cancer. Many people who suffer from chronic pain can gain some control over it by trying many of the above treatments on their own. Several studies have demonstrated an improvement of up to 50% in pain reduction for patients with chronic pain after visiting a pain clinic, and most people learn to cope better and can resume normal activities. Hooten says that non-opioid pain relievers combined with other therapies, such as stress management, can help people manage pain and maintain a high quality of life.