It is estimated that approximately 50 million people in America suffer from chronic pain. Of those people, nearly 20 million American adults experience pain that impacts their life or work daily, with little to no relief. The American Academy of Pain Medicine reports that treatment of chronic pain, even with prescription pain medications, may only bring relief in about 58% of the population.
Some injuries may cause immediate, or acute pain, but when the pain is prolonged and does not respond to treatment, it is considered a chronic condition. The effects of chronic pain can linger and may result in long-term health issues; some are severe and may lead to disability.
Chronic pain is pain that persists over long periods of time, usually for twelve weeks or more. This does not mean that there is no break from pain during that time. However, a person who suffers from chronic pain will experience some pain almost on a daily basis. The pain may be intermittent, but it will be there.
Chronic pain may be felt anywhere in the body, and it may present differently in everyone who is affected. The cause of the pain and the part of the body that is affected may have some effect on what the pain feels like. Some sufferers may refer to a dull ache or throbbing pain that seems always to be present. Others may feel a burning sensation or describe the pain much like “needle pricks.”
Some causes of chronic pain may be associated with normal physiologic changes, such as arthritis. However, many times it is the result of an external factor, for example, an auto accident or injury at work.
About six million people are involved in auto accidents annually. Many of these accidents result in injuries. It is estimated that 26% of the people injured in an auto accident develop chronic pain from those injuries.
Injuries that are sustained in auto accidents can result in damage to the muscular, skeletal, and nervous systems in the body. When an auto accident occurs, the sudden impact may cause injuries to muscles, tendons or ligaments, as they may become torn or sprained.
Victims of car accidents may develop chronic headaches, back or joint pain, and often experience emotional trauma as a result of the injury. Depending upon the severity of the initial injury, many victims of auto accidents may be affected by chronic pain for years after the crash.
The most common cause of chronic pain after an auto accident is whiplash. In fact, it is estimated that whiplash is the result of more than one million injuries each year.
Whiplash is a neck injury that results from an abrupt forward or backward jerking of the head, much like the cracking of a whip. It occurs primarily in rear-end collisions.
Although whiplash primarily affects the neck, sufferers may experience long-term symptoms that affect the whole spine. It may result in bulging discs between the vertebrae of the spine. This can cause pain or the feeling of numbness in the arms and shoulders as nerves are compressed.
The pain of whiplash may not be felt right away, but once it manifests, it may last for years.
There are instances when someone may experience a traumatic injury at work, such as a fall, that could result in chronic pain. However, the most common worker’s compensation injuries are associated with repetitive movements or motions. The overuse of specific body parts can often result in swelling of tendons and may produce feelings of stiffness and pain, especially around the joints.
Individuals whose work requires heavy lifting, such as those who work in warehouses or at construction jobs, often experience chronic pain. The wear-and-tear associated with heavy lifting or twisting in these jobs can cause inflammation of the joints, as well as nerve pain. Low back pain or strain is common among individuals who are required to lift heavy objects often.
Additionally, people who perform repetitive motions, such as typing, or working with their hands in confined areas (such as an auto mechanic) may develop a chronic condition called tendonitis.
Some research indicates that 50 percent of the adult population reports headaches during the course of a year. It is estimated that more than 90 percent of those people report a lifetime history of headaches. Headaches are considered chronic when they occur for at least 15 days each month for at least three consecutive months.
Migraine headaches may be the result of central nervous system disorders, vascular system disorders, or injury. While not all migraines are chronic, if the underlying cause is not treated, they may develop into a chronic condition.
Victims of auto accidents often report headaches days, or even months, after the incident. Whether it is the sudden jolt of an impact or emotional stress from the accident, this complaint is very relevant.
Back pain is one of the leading causes of chronic pain among adults. Because of the far-reaching effects that it has on the body, back pain is commonly linked to long-term disability and loss of time at work. Often occurring in the lower back, the pain may be caused by an injury or may develop progressively due to arthritis, osteoporosis, or normal wear-and-tear.
According to the Mayo Clinic, car and motorcycle accidents are the leading cause of chronic back pain and spinal injuries, and they account for over 35% of new injuries each year.
A major complaint of many back pain sufferers is fatigue. The body’s natural response to pain is to “guard.” When a person guards the painful area, they often unconsciously tense their muscles. The tensing of muscles results in fatigue. Without proper treatment of the cause of back pain, fatigue may become chronic, as well.
Many physicians recommend some physical therapy to help educate patients on ways to manage chronic back pain. Often, physical therapists can teach proper stretching and other exercises that have been proven to help alleviate back pain. It is essential to have a primary care provider who communicates well with the other members of your care team and to be proactive in your plan of care.
Joint pain is another widespread source of chronic pain among American adults. While joint pain may be associated with age or infection, it is often the result of an injury or accident. Any time a joint is pulled or twisted out of the normal position or rotation; it can result in an injury to that joint. Car and sports accidents are common sources of joint pain.
Chronic nerve pain, neuropathy, affects one out of every 10 Americans. The most common causes are compression of bones against nerves or damage from an accident. Additionally, some drugs affect the myelin sheath (the protective coating) of nerves.
Long-term injuries, such as the ones mentioned in this article, often result in people being unable to perform activities that were once a part of everyday life. Tasks that were once simple and effortless become more difficult. Sitting or standing for long periods may produce increased pain.
Individuals who suffer from chronic pain may experience lack of sleep. Lack of sleep can produce feelings of anxiety or other health issues. This, in turn, may increase the need for more medications and medical treatments. For many, the cycle of chronic pain and medications seems to be unending.
In addition to chronic pain, some people may experience more than one chronic condition. In fact, according to WebMD, “about 25% of people with chronic pain will go on to have a condition called chronic pain syndrome (CPS).” Chronic pain syndrome occurs when an individual has symptoms other than pain. Some examples may include chronic depression or chronic anxiety. While depression or anxiety can be a stand-alone diagnosis, if they occur about chronic pain, a person will be diagnosed with Chronic Pain Syndrome.
Human emotions play a huge role in a person’s overall well-being. When it comes to pain, emotional reactions appear to have an impact more significant than many realize. People who feel sadness or anxiety tend to dwell on their pain. The result is often an exacerbation (relapse or worsening) of the pain. Many of these individuals are at higher risk of experiencing a disability related to their chronic pain.
On the other hand, people who consciously make an effort to become more healthy and to find ways of relieving pain, rather than dwelling on it, have an increased likelihood of gaining control over their pain and living a healthier life. That is not to say that these individuals do not experience pain. They do, however, learn coping mechanisms that help them to live a more fulfilled life, despite their pain.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD, is a person’s emotional response to a traumatic event or events. While most people associate PTSD with events such as taking part in a military conflict or experiencing a personal attack, people who live with chronic pain may develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
When a person who is accustomed to living a very active or independent life is suddenly affected by chronic pain, they often have to adjust their activities and lifestyle to accommodate the pain. For some, this is a very traumatic event. Individuals who were once the primary source of income for their family may experience emotional trauma because of their inability to work related to pain. They often find that coping with the change in lifestyle is too much to bear.
With increased awareness and a proactive movement focused on mental health, many physicians and other health care providers encourage patients with chronic pain to seek counseling in addition to traditional pain management treatment.
No matter what area of the body is affected by chronic pain, the main objective of a treatment plan is to treat the underlying cause of the pain. Physicians today seek to find measures to treat pain that is focused on both the physical and psychological health of sufferers.
Unfortunately, many people who suffer from chronic pain may never receive permanent relief. Although pain may not be permanently relieved, there are ways to manage it and to help improve the quality of life for those affected.
Several medications are used to treat chronic back pain.
Before beginning any treatment regimen for chronic back pain, it is advisable to consult with your primary care provider or a pain management doctor. A Consultation with our healthcare provider is essential because there may be underlying factors that pain medications may mask. If you are injured during a work-accident in New York, make sure to visit a provider that is Authorized by the NYS WCB in order for our bills to be covered by the workers’ compensation insurance.
Unfortunately, there is no perfect answer to this. Every person is different about how they experience pain and what measures relieve pain. As mentioned in the above article, there are ways to help improve your health, which may help reduce some of the chronic back pain conditions. For example, low impact exercises like yoga or swimming, staying well hydrated, and getting adequate rest may help alleviate some of the stress on your body that contributes to pain.
Having a sound support system is suitable for anyone who suffers from chronic pain. The most important thing is to understand that, although you may not see a physical reason why your loved one is experiencing pain, that does not mean the pain is not real. Spend time with your loved one doing things that do not require taxing physical effort. Having the support of family and friends gives an emotional boost to people with pain and helps them to focus on things other than pain.
Many factors are used to determine if something causes a disability. Chronic pain, however, can lead to disability for many sufferers. Therefore it is vital for sufferers to have a trained healthcare professional who can monitor the progression of pain and document any changes.
Most of the commercially available insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, cover treatment for chronic pain. For that suffering from chronic pain as a result of an injury associated with a work-related or an auto accident, Worker’s Compensation and NY No-Fault insurance covers the medical treatment of chronic pain as well, as long as proper notices are given to the insurance company and related parties.
Dealing with pain, on any level, can be frustrating and often very disheartening. Chronic pain can leave those affected feeling frozen with fear and anxiety. This is especially true when the pain is the result of some traumatic event, such as an automobile accident or work-related injury. If the pain is not managed, the effects could change the trajectory of someone’s life.
Although all chronic pain sufferers may not experience permanent relief from pain, identifying the underlying factors that cause pain can help individuals live a healthier life. Whether physical therapies, cognitive therapies, or pharmaceutical pain medications are needed, all pain management should be under the supervision of a primary care physician or a pain management specialist.
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