Aging adults and women are at a higher risk of developing chronic pain in their lifetimes. Chronic pain is a debilitating condition that causes physical and mental anguish for patients. This long-term pain can be managed for many people but quality of life can be seriously hampered if the right treatment is not found. Chronic pain can result from injuries, illnesses, certain conditions and for reasons unknown. People of any age and background can be affected, but there are certain groups of people who are more at risk.
Older adults are more prone to experiencing neuropathy and chronic conditions such as arthritis, diabetes and shingles. However, chronic pain is not looked at by the medical community as a normal part of getting older. Researchers say a higher proportion of women are affected by chronic pain conditions, such as fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. They also say women tend to experience more reoccurring pain, more severe pain and longer-lasting pain than men.
Lifestyle can play a role as to whether a person develops chronic pain. Improper diet, lack of sleep and smoking can all contribute to painful conditions in the long run. Nicotine is thought to increase pain and lessen the effects of certain medications. Lack of exercise and stress can also play a part in the development of chronic pain. So too can the existence of prior alcohol or substance abuse problems. Other factors that can increase the risk include prior injuries, relationship trouble, inactivity and a history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse.
The overall condition of your health can play a role in development of chronic pain. A weakened immune system can lead to frequent illnesses and infections. Past health problems may also be an indicator. If you have suffered injuries in the past, such as injuries of the joints, chronic pain can develop down the road. Previous surgeries can also contribute to the development of new pain. These surgeries may also do little to relieve pain, which can compound and progress over time. It should also be noted that pain from certain conditions, such as shingles, can be difficult to treat.
There are many health conditions that you may suffer from which can cause chronic pain. These include anxiety and depression; nerve pain from damaged nerve fibers; burns; “pinched” nerves; unresolved injury, such as sprains, strains and tears of muscles and joints; long-term illnesses such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia; degenerative diseases such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis; inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis; other conditions including migraines, ear infections and carpal tunnel syndrome; and certain vascular conditions. Having a limb amputated can also cause phantom limb pain, a condition where the nerve endings at the site of the amputation continue to send pain signals to the brain. This can make the brain believe that the limb is still there.
Treating chronic pain is not always easy. Patients may need to see more than one specialist and various treatments may be explored before the right one is found.