The right time to seek help for chronic pain is different for each person. Pain from an injury or illness can linger and this is a good time to start asking questions. Then again, the pain can develop out of nowhere and you may not know the cause. Chronic pain lasts more than six months and can be moderate or excruciating. It can occur in episodes or in a continuous pattern. For some, it is a mild distraction. For others, it is a debilitating way of life. Some people even suffer with more than one chronic pain condition at a time.
Millions of people suffer with chronic pain. For some, it’s the result of a serious infection, a disease such as cancer or injury. Others may have chronic migraines, carpal tunnel syndrome or joint pain. And still others may be diagnosed with fibromyalgia or one of various forms of arthritis. Many people assume that the development of chronic pain comes from age or general wear and tear. This is often not the case, so it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis. But where do you begin?
First, it’s important to speak with your family doctor if you have one. If you have a doctor you’ve been seeing for some time, he or she should be familiar with your overall condition, medical history and possibly, family background. Patients should be honest with their doctors about symptoms, their onset and whether or not they have been taking anything for pain. A doctor may do a physical exam and order blood or diagnostic tests to try and rule out disease or infection. Though a family doctor may be limited in the treatment he or she can offer, a referral to a specialist can be made. It can take weeks or months to get an appointment with a specialist so a family doctor may prescribe medication to help you in the meantime.
Pain is an individual experience that changes over time and can be hard to describe. A pain journal can help patients and doctors explore patterns and evaluate the level of pain and length of each episode. Once a diagnosis is made, a specialist such as a rheumatologist, neurologist or osteopath, can develop a plan for pain management. This may include prescription medication, including painkillers, along with physical therapy or moderate exercise. Because chronic pain patients often suffer from depression, anxiety and stress, a referral to a psychologist may be necessary.
Patients should also take their condition and pain management into their own hands by arming themselves with all the information available. This can help them to explore alternative treatments that can compliment their medical care. This can include acupuncture, massage and chiropractic treatment.
Alternative Techniques for Chronic Pain
Opiate painkillers are usually not a good long-term solution for managing Chronic pain. Fortunately, there are other techniques that can really help alleviate some of the discomfort:
• Massage alleviates muscle tension and boosts circulation, causing the body to release natural (painkillers) endorphins .
• Biofeedback can actually control pain levels without your conscious awareness.
• Meditation has been consistently linked with lower chronic pain and improved mood.
• Acupuncture increases blood flow and releases of natural painkillers, successfully reducing chronic pain.