Chronic Pain Syndrome: Stopping the Pain
For some people, aging can mean more issues with pain.
Usually, pain is temporary and goes away within a number of days. But sometimes, it can persist for weeks or even months.
When pain persists for an indefinite period of time, it’s usually considered to be chronic pain.
Symptoms of Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is distinguished from other kinds of pain by how long it lasts. Officially, pain that persists for 3-6 months or longer is considered chronic.
Apart from the pain itself, chronic pain can be associated with:
- Disturbed sleep
- A loss of stamina and flexibility
- Limited mobility
- Depression, anxiety, and irritability
What Causes Chronic Pain Syndrome?
Any condition that causes pain can result in chronic pain.
Common causes include:
- Surgical trauma
- Injuries that don’t heal properly or completely
- Back pain
The interesting thing about pain is that the conditions listed above don’t necessarily result in chronic pain on their own. Most experts believe that chronic pain often happens due to a miscommunication between neurons in the brain and the injury site, as opposed to the injury itself. Specifically, it is believed that neurons in the brain become over-sensitive to pain signals.
Knee replacement surgery provides a good example of this phenomenon: It’s estimated that one out five people who have knee replacement surgery continue to suffer from pain, even when the surgery is considered successful.
Who is Most at Risk for Chronic Pain
Chronic pain doesn’t affect everyone. Which begs the question: Why might one person experience chronic pain where someone else does not?
Researchers don’t have an answer to this question yet. However, several risk factors have been identified:
- Chronic Health Conditions
- Poor Health Habits
- Depression and anxiety
People over the age of 60 are more likely to suffer from chronic conditions like back pain, which are likewise linked to chronic pain syndrome.
Women seem to be more likely to suffer from chronic pain syndrome than men. It may be that certain age-related hormone changes (such as estrogen loss) make women more susceptible to the conditions that are most likely to cause chronic pain (e.g. osteoporosis).
Pre-existing chronic conditions, such as arthritis, increase chronic pain risk.
People who are overweight are more likely to suffer from joint pain and other health conditions that increase chronic pain risk.
Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and poor eating habits correlate to increased chronic pain risk.
Research suggests that depression and anxiety can change the way brain cells process pain messages, thus increasing the risk for developing chronic pain.
Can Chronic Pain Be Treated?
Addressing chronic pain begins with trying to identify the underlying cause.
Conventional treatment for chronic pain often includes over-the-counter and prescription medications (both oral and topical). Physical therapy can be used to increase flexibility and reduce muscle strain. Behavior therapy can help to reduce stress. In extreme cases, nerve blocks can be used to interrupt pain signals.
More recently, non-traditional treatments like acupuncture, hypnosis, meditation, and biofeedback have shown promise in making chronic pain more manageable.
What Should You Do?
Rest assured that chronic pain isn’t “in your head”. It’s a real medical condition. That said, it can take time and patience to find the underlying cause and to come up with an effective treatment plan.
At Renew Youth, we understand how chronic pain syndrome can detract from your long-term quality of life.
If you’d like to learn more about ways to handle chronic pain, call Renew Youth at 800-859-7511 or use our contact form to set up your free 30-minute consultation.