Understanding Chronic Pain

Chronic pain differs from other types of pain for many reasons. One of the main characteristics of this type of pain is that it persists in a particular area of the body. Pain signals fire through the nervous system for a prolonged time that could last up to years. This condition can also lead to other health complications such as endometriosis, cystitis, fibromyalgia between others. Upon diagnosis, patients may need to pursue chronic pain management techniques in order to continue with their daily lives.

Injuries are one of many common chronic pain causes, but individuals could experience this condition without suffering from any pre-existing damage. Moreover, a single patient could experience this type of pain in two or more areas. Depending on where the patient is experiencing the pain, he or she may receive different treatments, including therapy or medications. Below you can learn more about chronic pain treatment, symptoms and more.

What is chronic pain?

Patients usually identify chronic pain symptoms due to their persistence in certain areas of the body, which can last anywhere from weeks to years. The body typically transmits pain signals through the nervous system to identify areas of injury or concern. This can include back injuries, infections or conditions like arthritis. However, in some cases these signals may occur even if there is no source of trauma.

As a result, chronic pain is not always curable, though patients can seek treatments to manage their pain. Chronic pain treatment varies depending on the type of pain experienced and may include simple therapies or pain medication.

It is imperative that patients know the difference between the chronic and acute pain definitions. Severe pain is typically a normal sensation caused by an injury, and the nervous system’s response to this injury. While acute pain could lead to chronic pain, it is not always the case. Knowing how to classify their pain can help patients get the treatment they need.

Chronic Pain Symptoms

The symptoms of chronic pain range from mild to severe sensations, and can manifest in different parts of the body at the same time. This type of pain can also come and go regularly, or continue persistently for an extended period. Most patients describe this sensation as “shooting” or “burning” in the affected area. Other types of chronic pain can include:

  • Squeezing.
  • Stinging.
  • Soreness.
  • Stiffness.
  • Dull aching.

These sensations are not the only chronic pain examples, as they often appear with other symptoms as well. People that suffer from chronic pain may also experience a lack of energy and appetite. The pain could also cause the patient to experience trouble sleeping, changes in mood and general tiredness.  

As most chronic pain symptoms interfere with a patient’s daily life routine, it can also take a toll on his or her mental health. For this reason, it is also common to develop depression and anxiety. Patients who experience this kind of pain do so in a different way and must work along with their doctor to treat their symptoms and protect their mental health.  

Learn the Types of Chronic Pain

The different types of chronic pain can be divided into three main categories. These three larger categories include nociceptive pain, neuropathic pain and sensory hypersensitivities. However, to better understand and diagnose their patients’ symptoms, doctors may divide the types of pain into one of four subcategories.

Nociceptive pain is caused by caused by injury or trauma in the tissue. Patients feel this type of chronic pain in their body’s soft tissues, like the muscles or skin. This pain can also happen in organs with specialized sensory nerves. These nerves, or nociceptors, send painful stimuli to the spinal cord causing the patient to experience pain. This type of pain is the closest one to the acute pain definition. Other types of nociceptive pain include:

  • Somatic Pain. This is exclusive to the muscles, skin, and other soft tissues. Somatic pain is easy to locate due to the distribution of the nerves in the soft tissue.  
  • Visceral Pain. Patients feel this pain within the body’s internal organs. Irritable bowel syndrome, prostate pain and endometriosis are some chronic pain examples that fall under this category.

Neuropathic pain is caused by peripheral or central nerve damage. This kind of chronic pain happens when the nerves are not working correctly. It occurs when there are nerve disturbances, and there are automatic transmissions of pain. Patients often describe this pain more sharply than others.  

Sensory hypersensitivity, is caused due to irregularities in the nerves. Chronic pain caused by sensory hypersensitivity does not typically exhibit damage to soft or nerve tissue. Instead, this type of pain is caused by dysregulation in the nervous systems. The most common example of this type of pain is fibromyalgia. Other types of sensory hypersensitivity include:

  • Psychogenic pain. Anxiety or depression, and other types of psychological disorders are the leading cause of this type of pain. This type of pain can fall under the sensory hypersensitive pain category as it does not display signs of physical damage.  
  • Idiopathic pain. This type of pain does not have physical or psychological causes, but pre-existing disorders may cause it. It is the most challenging type of chronic pain to treat.

Chronic Pain Causes

Just as there are many types of chronic pain, there are also many causes. Chronic pain causes range from physical damage such as injuries, to psychological reasons and other pre-existing conditions. Depending on the type of pain, doctors can identify its origin on a patient. For instance, cancer and the presence of tumors can be a cause of chronic pain at the visceral level.

Learn About Chronic Pain Management

There are several chronic pain management techniques that doctors recommend, depending on the type of pain the patient is suffering. For example, when a mental disorder is the cause, doctors often recommend nonpharmacological treatment. This type of pain could be easily managed with psychiatric counseling, while other types of pain often require more extensive treatment.

However, chronic pain is difficult to eliminate entirely in many cases. Doctors aim to reduce the pain, maximize function and improve the overall quality of life when treating chronic pain symptoms.