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Chronic Pain

 

"Pain is a more terrible lord of mankind than even death itself." - Dr. Albert Schweitzer.

You know when it hurts. It signifies that something is not quite right. It affects our productivity and well-being. There are various types of pain, some subside with time, some don’t, some are intermittent while some can be excruciating.

Pain that extends for more than six months is known as chronic pain. Normal pain generally has a defined time period within which it heals. But chronic pain lasts more than its expected natural healing time. The intensity of chronic pain can vary from person to person. It can range anywhere between mild, severe, episodic or very incapacitating.

Statistics from the Institute of Medicine data shows that about more than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, and it costs the American health care system a whopping $635 billion annually. That amount exceeds the expenditure for cancer, heart disease and AIDS combined.

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Symptoms of Chronic Pain

There symptoms of chronic pain as listed as below. A person suffering from chronic pain will not necessarily experience all of them.

-          There is a general feeling of pain that doesn’t show any signs of subsiding.
-          It can be mild or severe, or it may feel like a shooting pain. There can be a burning sensation as well.
-          There can be a feeling of discomfort, tightness and soreness.

Along with different types of painful feelings, there are some other problems that can accompany chronic pain. They are:

-          Sleeplessness
-         
Fatigue
-         
Need to rest after little activity.
-         
Weakening immune system making one more susceptible to diseases.
-         
Mood swings

Classifications

Depending on how chronic pain gets activated in a person they can be classified into two categories.

- Nociceptive: In this case, the pain starts due to activation of nociceptors also known as pain receptors. It can be further divided into two categories: Superficial and Deep. Superficial pain is the one that is triggered due to activation of nociceptors on the skin. Deep pain consists of deep somatic pain and visceral pain. The first kind of deep pain is rooted in ligaments, bones, blood vessels, muscles or tendons. It is characterized by a dull, aching, persistent and poorly localized pain. The visceral kind of pain originates in organs due to inflammation of injury.

- Neuropathic: This type of pain can be categorized into ‘peripheral’, signifying that it originates in the peripheral nervous system and ‘central’, meaning it originates in the brain or spinal cord.

Whatever the reason for the chronic pain, it takes a toll on the physical and emotional health of the affected person. The most prevalent and commonly known causes of chronic pain results from headaches, joint pain, pain due to an external or internal injury, etc. The emotional effect of chronic pain is more detrimental for health. It results in stress, anxiety, anger, depression and other such negative feelings and reduces the body’s ability to produce natural painkillers. As a result of all these, the body produces harmful substances that increase the sensation of pain. To effectively treat chronic pain, a combination of psychological and physical therapy along with lifestyle and diet changes is needed.

Treatments

Medication/Drug Therapy

Medication and drug therapy are effective when the chronic pain is mild. Over the counter available pain relievers like Tylenol, which contains acetaminophen, are quite effective. Topical pain relievers like cream, lotions and sprays are also available which can be applied directly on the skin to get rid of the pain. If these regular medicines fail to relieve the pain, then stronger medications like prescription NSAIDs, muscle relaxants, etc., can be prescribed.

Bioelectric Therapy

In this pain management therapy, messages that register the sensation of pain are blocked. It is done by inducing the chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins are responsible for decreasing painful sensation.

Trigger point Injection

In this process, the areas of pain are injected with a local anesthetic. It helps in alleviating the pain.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation Therapy

Referred to as TENS, this therapy is helpful for short term pain relief. It makes use of electrical stimulation to relieve the pain. With this therapy, low voltage electric current through electrodes are placed near the source of pain.

Physical Therapy

This therapy is also called physiotherapy. It makes use of special techniques like cardiopulmonary, geriatrics, neurology, pediatrics, etc., to alleviate the pain and improve movement and function.

There are various alternative therapies like acupuncture, massage, herbal therapies, chiropractic, etc., that can prove helpful.

Dietary Suggestions

Along with all the treatments, certain dietary changes are also recommended that can help one in dealing with chronic pain. A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables and low fat protein is highly recommended. A well-balanced diet is the key. Some foods that should be included in your diet to help relieve pain are listed as follows:

  • Dark leafy vegetables
  • Walnuts
  • Ginger
  • Avocado
  • Cherries
  • Turmeric
  • Flax Seeds
  • Sea Vegetables.

Studies show that certain foods can induce the release of neurotransmitters that elevate the sensitivity to pain. Such foods should be avoided.

Reduce sugar: When insulin levels are raised, chronic pain increases. So it is advisable to limit sugar in your diet. In case you are obese or overweight or suffer from high cholesterol or diabetes, grains like gluten grains such as wheat should be limited. This is because they metabolize very similar to sugars.

A fresh foods rich diet: it goes without saying that a diet rich in fresh organic fruits and vegetable is very good for your health. It can be also very helpful in managing chronic pain. Make sure that the food you eat is free from preservatives, additives, pesticides and chemicals.

Get adequate rest and limit caffeine: Many people go for stimulants when they feel tired and fatigued. It can temporarily make you feel good, but it can be very harmful in the long run. Not resting adequately may trigger pain, so one should not substitute sleep with caffeine.

Avoid nightshade vegetables: Vegetable like tomatoes, potatoes and eggplants come under the night shade family. They should be avoided, as they can trigger arthritis and pain.

Know the fats you eat: Trans-fat can increase inflammation and hence may increase the intensity of chronic pain. So to avoid consuming too much trans-fat, one should cut down on fried foods. Omega-3 fatty acids are good for health, and hence food rich in it should be incorporated in your diet. They help reduce inflammation and thus ease pain.

Avoid using yeast: A yeast rich diet is said to contribute to the growth of yeast fungus, which can induce pain. So its consumption should be limited. 

Avoid artificial sweeteners: Artificial sweeteners like aspartame should be avoided as they activate neurons, which in turn elevate the intensity of chronic pain. Such artificial sweeteners are abundant in diet soda and in sugar-free foods.

Cut down on dairy: People suffering from chronic pain often show signs of dairy intolerance. Pasteurized dairy products have high levels of protein casein that can be difficult to digest. This can lead to inflammation.

Avoid additives. Food additives can stimulate pain receptors and can induce pain. So additives like monosodium glutamate (MSG), etc. should be eliminated from one’s diet.

With appropriate medical care and lifestyle changes, one can eventually get relief from chronic pain.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

 

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