What Is Chronic Pain And Its Symptoms
Millions of Americans live with chronic pain of some form or another. In the United States it is the leading cause of disability.
Chronic pain can manifest in the form of osteoarthritis, arthritis, spinal stenosis, fibromyalgia, chronic abdominal pain, and other pain syndrome conditions. In fact, there are more than 130 medical conditions that feature pain as a major symptom, so it is really no wonder that millions suffer from pain.
What Is Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is defined as pain occurring steadily or intermittently for at least six months duration. Many with chronic pain live for many years and some for the rest of their lives, using various methods, including lifestyle changes, medication pain relief, and alternate medicine techniques to relieve the pain.
Chronic pain conditions include the following:
• Arthritis, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
• Chronic low back pain
• Multiple sclerosis
• Chronic headaches
• Neuropathy (chronic nerve damage)
• Shingles pain, also referred to as “post-herpetic neuralgia”
• Chronic abdominal pain like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome
What Are The Symptoms Of Chronic Pain?
The symptoms of chronic pain differ depending on the underlying disease leading the pain. For example, if you have chronic low back pain, you have aching pain in the back, especially with movement. The pain can remain in the back or can radiate down the back of one or both legs.
These are the symptoms of other chronic pain syndromes:
• Arthritis. There is pain in large and/or small joints that is worse when using the joints. This type of pain is often associated with stiffness of the joints, which is worse in the morning and better when the joints are warmed.
• Multiple sclerosis. People with this disease have all-over pain associated with nerve damage and immobility. Many are wheelchair bound and get sore from not being able to use their muscles as much as they would if they were active and from sores from sitting or lying in one place for too long.
• Chronic headaches. These people often have pain in the head that comes and goes according to stress levels and various headache triggers, such as exposure to excessive noise or excessive light. There are different kinds of headaches, including migraine headaches, tension headaches, and cluster headaches, all of which can lead to chronic pain.
• Fibromyalgia. People with fibromyalgia feel all-over muscle pain associated with tender points all over their body and morning stiffness. Fibromyalgia pain is commonly associated with many different other symptoms, including depression, anxiety, and cognitive difficulties. They also suffer from urinary tract problems and irritable bowel symptoms, which also contribute to pain.
• Neuropathy. Those with neuropathy experience burning or sharp pain in the area involved with nerve damage. For instance, those who have diabetic neuropathy experience pain in the feet and sometimes the hands due to excessively high blood sugar over a long period of time. Others will just have nerve pain in the area of just a single nerve that has become inflamed due to trauma or high blood sugar.
• Post Herpetic Neuralgia. This is a serious type of chronic pain that follows a case of the shingles. Shingles is a reactivation of the chicken pox virus in a single nerve and is usually on one side of the body or on the face. After the rash is over, the nerve continues to be inflamed, leading to chronic pain just in the area of the affected nerve.
• Chronic Abdominal Pain. People who have irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis will have chronic abdominal pain and cramping associated with diarrhea and/or constipation. The pain tends to be worse with eating certain foods and affects the individual for the duration of their life.
Other Symptoms Associated With Chronic Pain
Those with chronic pain often have other symptoms besides just the pain. For example, many are depressed or anxious because of their symptoms. Having chronic pain affects relationships, job performance, job attendance, and activities of everyday living.
The pain tends to be worse under situations of stress and often the treatment of chronic pain includes stress reduction techniques and the use of antidepressants, which act both on the pain and on the emotional symptoms associated with the pain.