Chronic Pain and Pain Management Treatment

Overview of Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is a complex and potentially debilitating condition that can affect every part of the human body. Everyone experiences pain of some kind, but chronic pain sufferers face reduced productivity at work, less energy at home, and a depleted sense of health and well-being brought on by prolonged periods of intense discomfort.

There are two basic types of pain:

Acute Pain — Pain that typically comes on suddenly, often as the result of an accident, illness, surgery or trauma, and is limited to a finite period of time and degree of severity.

While acute pain is a normal sensation triggered in the nervous system to alert you to possible injury and the need to take care of yourself, chronic pain is different. Chronic pain persists. Pain signals keep firing in the nervous system for weeks, months, even years. There may have been an initial mishap — sprained back, serious infection, or there may be an ongoing cause of pain — arthritis, cancer, ear infection, but some people suffer chronic pain in the absence of any past injury or evidence of body damage.

Chronic Pain — Pain that persists over a longer period of time or extends beyond the expected period of healing. It is pain that extends beyond what would be the time for normal healing for an injury, disease, or surgery. It affects an estimated 86 million American adults to various degrees and is widely believed to represent disease itself. It can be made much worse by environmental and psychological factors. Chronic pain persists over a longer period of time than acute pain and is resistant to most medical treatments. It can—and often does—cause severe problems for patients.

Causes of Chronic Pain

Pain can be caused by a single cause or a combination of causes. While each type of pain has its own origins, the following are some possible causes:

  • Aging
  • Nerve damage
  • Improperly healed injuries
  • Overweight
  • Congenital conditions
  • Diseases such as arthritis, cancer and multiple sclerosis

The causes of chronic pain are not always known. In some cases, pain can take on both physical and psychological dimensions, making it difficult to diagnose and treat.

Symptoms of Chronic Pain

Chronic pain comes in many forms, ranging from mild to incapacitating and episodic to continuous. Every individual’s experience of pain is unique. For some, pain takes the form of aching or soreness whereas others may describe pain as shooting or burning.

Symptoms of chronic pain can be vague and difficult to describe. Some of the most common chronic pain complaints include:

  • Back pain
  • Cancer pain
  • Arthritis
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Sinus pain
  • Joint pain
  • Tendinitis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Inflammatory bowel disease

Prolonged periods of pain can impact mind, body and spirit. Chronic pain sufferers may also struggle with mood changes, such as depression, anxiety, anger, fear, stress and fatigue, which can change the way the body perceives pain and fights illness and can decrease the amount of natural painkiller produced by the body.

Chronic pain is treatable. Whether pain is caused by physical, psycho-emotional, chemical, nutritional, behavioral or environmental factors, effective treatment requires a combination of medical and psychological interventions. Treatment for chronic pain may include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Medication
  • Psychotherapy (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy)
  • Biofeedback
  • Exercise
  • Electrical Stimulation
  • Relaxation Exercises
  • Chiropractic Care

Many of CRC’s treatment facilities offer specialized programs for pain management. Beginning with a thorough musculoskeletal and neurological exam, pain specialists determine the origin and nature of the pain, and develop an individualized treatment plan. Essential components of treatment may include medical consultations and care, physical therapy, sensory integration, dialectical behavior therapy, trigger point therapy, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, nutrition counseling, manual therapies, and other integrative therapies.

Many people with chronic pain can be helped if they understand all the causes of pain and the many and varied steps that can be taken to undo what chronic pain has done. Scientists believe that advances in neuroscience will lead to more and better treatments for chronic pain in the years to come.

Medications, acupuncture, local electrical stimulation, and brain stimulation, as well as surgery, are some treatments for chronic pain. Some physicians use placebos, which in some cases has resulted in a lessening or elimination of pain. Psychotherapy, relaxation and medication therapies, biofeedback, and behavior modification may also be employed to treat chronic pain.

As self-awareness, mood, sleep and physical ability improve, the patient’s quality of life returns, restoring hope for an active and productive future.

A Note About Chronic Pain and Opiate Addiction

Certain medications used to treat chronic pain can lead to physical and psychological dependence. This means that withdrawal symptoms may develop when stopping use of the drug and a tolerance may develop over time, causing the person to require higher doses of the drug to experience pain relief.

Painkiller addiction is another concern for individuals taking medication for chronic pain. Drug addiction is of particular concern when an individual is prescribed a drug in the opioid family. Examples of prescription opiates include:

  • Codeine
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin)
  • Morphine (MS Contin)
  • Meperidine (Demerol)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)

People with a personal or family history of drug addiction may be at greater risk for developing a painkiller addiction. You may have developed a prescription drug addiction if:

  • You feel unable to control your medication use
  • You have begun to take painkillers more frequently and in higher doses than prescribed
  • You have begun taking painkillers to ease depression, anxiety and other issues besides pain
  • You are taking medication prescribed for another person
  • You see more than one doctor to get larger amounts of medication than one doctor would be willing to prescribe

CRC Health’s chronic pain treatment programs use the fewest medications possible and when appropriate, prescribe non-addictive medications with the fewest side effects. As trained medical specialists target and treat the causes of pain, they are also well-equipped to address any co-occurring addictive behaviors.