Conquering Chronic Pain
Battling the discomfort of chronic pain can be an enormous problem for people living with this ongoing health problem. Pain that is chronic can last anywhere from a few months to years and can range from intermittent discomfort like headaches to excruciating back pain. Chronic pain is one of the leading causes of lost productivity in the U.S. work force. The U.S. Department of Labor statistics indicate that over 50 million days of work are lost due to chronic pain. Chronic pain can play havoc with your quality of life. You may have great difficulty sleeping, and during the day you may experience mood swings, irritability and have difficulty concentrating on reading the newspaper. Everything seems to bother you. The pain that regularly creeps into your shoulders, neck or back may put damper on your social life. You may feel more like staying home with an ice pack on your sore joints than going out with friends and joining in lighthearted conversation.
How does chronic pain get started? Often the true origins of chronic pain are not understood which means treatment can be difficult. Think of your body as having a series of internal pathways that move messages back and forth to the brain. Pain starts in receptor nerve cells beneath the skin and in the body’s organs. If you have an injury, illness or other painful condition, the receptor cells send messages that something is wrong along nerve pathways to the spinal cord and then deliver these messages to the brain. One of the most significant health problems in the U.S. is back pain. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that almost everyone—70-85 percent of people in the U.S. will experience the ill effects of back pain at least once in their life. But there is hope, with guidance from your health care team and knowledge and education about new health-related options, chronic pain suffers are finding needed relief from many resources.
Look at the big picture One of the best things chronic pain sufferers can do for themselves is to change their attitude. If you reframe your belief that you can do something to control your pain, your positive attitude may be able to ease the burden of living in continual misery. The best football players often talk about seeing the whole field. Good personal health management is similar. Successful treatment of chronic pain means being open to variety of causation; what may be one symptom, such as a headache, could have multiple causes. Recent research has linked chronic pain with powerful memories lodged in part of brain that specializes in emotional intelligence and learning. The memories aggravate that part of brain like a wound that won’t heal. Just as your physical health is key to wellbeing, your brain health may matter more.
Stress is also a common underlying cause of pain that may develop as seemingly unrelated physical symptoms. Seeing the whole board for chronic pain suffers means being open and ready to evaluate your current health with a detective’s gaze.
Create a pain management plan
In addition to utilizing a traditional approach to pain management, you may want to include various therapies such as acupuncture, massage and other appropriate therapies.
Look for clues.
- What time of day does the pain occur most often?
- Are there other patterns with your chronic pain?
- Do you eat well and exercise?
- Are there other things going on in your life that could be causing stress and adding to your pain?
Understand how these clues may fit into larger picture of your overall well being. While there may not be a definitive cure for your pain, there are many effective and safe types of therapies designed to help you feel better.
Don’t forget to take time to listen to your body. Pain is an essential message that something is wrong. It may take some time and patience, but chronic pain can be conquered if you believe there is hope to start living the way you want again.
Mark Underwood is a neuroscience researcher, president and co-founder of Quincy Bioscience, a biotech company located in Madison, Wisconsin focused on the discovery and development of medicines to treat age related memory loss and the diseases of aging. Mark has been taped as an expert in the field of neuroscience for The Wall Street Journal Morning Radio, CBS and CNN Radio among others. Mark is also a contributor to the “Brain Health Guide” which highlights the research at Quincy Bioscience and offers practical tips to help keep health brain function in aging. Visit www.TheGoodNewsAboutAging.com for more articles and tips for healthy aging.