Results from a new study by Gallup-Healthways show that 47% of American adults suffer from chronic pain. The American Chronic Pain Association defines chronic pain as “pain that is ongoing or recurrent, lasting beyond the usual course of acute illness or injury or more than 3 to 6 months, and which adversely affects the individual’s well-being.”
According to the Harvard Mental Health Letter, people with chronic pain have three times the average risk of developing psychiatric symptoms – usually mood or anxiety disorders. It is certainly easy to understand how a person with chronic pain can develop symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. There is a physical and an emotional toll as chronic pain often limits what a person can do. Many people say that their pain symptoms fluctuate and can be tolerable one day but incapacitating the next day. Not knowing what to expect from day to day can produce anxiety and interfere with meaningful relationships. It can also result in isolation as people refrain from making plans for fear of a flare-up with their pain. Chronic pain results in varying degrees of immobility and curbs one’s activities of daily living. The inability to function can result in both anxiety and depression, and when coupled with self-imposed isolation, chronic pain sufferers are at considerable risk for severe depression. If depression becomes part of the equation, chronic pain can significantly worsen as patients endure increased fatigue, insomnia, and a weakened immune system, all of which impact pain. Depression also interferes with pain signals and can result in extended pain.
Patients with chronic pain need to have a multi-disciplinary approach to treatment, one that includes some element of support. People living with chronic pain understand that there will be “good” days and “not so good” days, but the key is to continue using the positive words. Employing effective coping mechanisms will also give chronic pain patients a feeling of control during a time when they might feel that they have no control over their situation. Patients are encouraged to talk about their conditions and to focus on their abilities rather than their disabilities. By setting short-term achievable goals, patients can see and feel their progress. Learning relaxation techniques will lessen tension in the body, thereby lessening pain caused by muscle tightness and/or spasms.
The American Chronic Pain Association has created a list of basic rights for chronic pain sufferers.
Here are a few examples. You have the right to:
- Be treated with respect.
- Feel good about yourself.
- Take time to slow down and think before you act.
- Ask for information.
As part of the information gathering process, if you or a loved one is suffering from chronic neck pain or chronic back pain, please contact Allied Neurology and Interventional Pain Practice today. We have many treatment options available to address your chronic pain including interventional pain management and minimally invasive surgical procedures. Our treatment goals include a reduction in pain and a restoration of function that will enable patients to enjoy their activities of daily living.