If you are living with chronic pain, it might feel hopeless to think you will be in pain for the rest of your life. This pain infuses every area of your life, making it a challenge to complete simple tasks like cleaning the house or going to work.
Even though certain types of chronic pain aren’t curable, there is hope! Working with a pain management specialist can help you manage the symptoms and get back to a place of thriving in your life.
There’s no magic pill that will wipe away the pain forever. But there are treatment options that can help you feel better and enjoy more activities once again.
The Difference Between Chronic Pain and Acute Pain
The most notable difference between chronic pain and acute pain is the timeline.
With an acute injury, the pain is sudden and often associated with a specific accident or injury. As you go through the recovery period, the pain starts to subside and eventually goes away when you are healed.
Acute pain is often connected to an identifiable cause.
- Broken bones
- An accident
- Dental work
- Cuts or burns
When you heal from the injury, you go on with normal life again because you are no longer experiencing pain.
On the other hand, chronic pain sticks around for a while. It is classified as chronic pain if you have been in pain for over six months. Some patients don’t know when or why the pain started because it isn’t always connected with an injury or experience.
Even if you seek treatment and find a little relief from chronic pain, it seems like the pain keeps coming back. Traditional treatments, such as pain medications, aren’t enough because they are simply masking the symptoms.
Pain Is a Sign that Something Is Wrong
It’s common to feel like the pain is working against you. But the truth is that pain is a sign that something is wrong. Pain is the body’s way of signaling you that help is needed.
Chronic pain means that the pain signals remain active for months or years. The symptoms continue indefinitely if you have recovered from the illness or injury. Sometimes, patients experience chronic pain even when there is no apparent damage or past injury.
Pain medications might offer temporary relief for chronic pain. But the only way to find lasting relief is by addressing the underlying cause.
Chronic pain is often linked to a variety of conditions.
- Nerve damage
- Autoimmune conditions
- Back pain
Even stress can be a cause of chronic pain because it affects the physical function of the body. Stress can lead to many different types of chronic conditions, often resulting in other symptoms in addition to the pain. For example, you might have tense muscles, appetite changes, a lack of energy, limited movement, depression, anxiety, and more.
What Does Chronic Pain Feel Like?
Remember that pain symptoms are unique for every patient. Your description of pain might be very different compared to another patient with the same diagnosis.
Here are some examples of the way people describe their chronic pain.
When working with a pain management specialist, it can be helpful to explain your symptoms in as much detail as possible. Some patients choose to keep pain journals to document the way they feel after different types of activities.
The Diagnostic Process for Chronic Pain
The benefit of working with a pain management specialist is that the doctor is working on getting to the root of your chronic condition. Identifying the underlying cause is the best way to achieve long-lasting relief.
A pain management doctor takes a hands-on approach to understanding the unique nuances of every patient. During your consultation and follow-up appointments, you will be asked specific questions about your symptoms. It’s important that you answer these questions as honestly and thoroughly as possible.
- Where is the pain occurring?
- How intense is your pain? On a scale of 1 – 10
- How often do you experience pain?
- Is the pain affecting your work and home life?
- What makes your pain worse?
- What makes your pain better?
- How would you rate your anxiety and stress?
- Do you have any surgeries or illnesses associated with this pain?
In addition to the consultation and a physical examination, the doctor might request specific tests and diagnostics for more information.
- Blood tests
- Muscle activity tests (electromyography)
- Digital imaging (MRI or X-rays)
- Nerve conduction studies
- Spinal fluid tests
- Balance and reflex tests
- Urine tests
Pain Management: An Alternative to Pain Medications
One of the biggest concerns about treating patients with chronic pain is the reliance or dependence on pain medications. Over time, a body can build a tolerance to medications which means that pills are needed more often and at higher doses to experience relief.
The tragedy is that many of these prescription pain medications can lead to addictive behavior. A pain management specialist alleviates chronic pain while reducing the need to use pain medication so often.
Treatment Options for Chronic Pain
Your pain management doctor first tries to identify the underlying cause, then design a treatment plan to address the foundational issues. But there are times when a doctor can’t identify the source, which means the treatment focuses on symptom management.
Many options are available for chronic pain management, especially when working with a specialist.
- Medications: Different over-the-counter and prescription-strength medications might include pain relievers, muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatory drugs, topical products, antidepressants, corticosteroids, and more.
- Electrical Nerve Stimulation: TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) delivers small shocks through the skin, helping to relieve pain.
- Injections Nerve Blocks: An injected anesthetic medication that not only provides immediate relief but also helps with diagnostics to locate the source of the pain. Epidural steroid injections are another possibility.
- Radiofrequency: This procedure applies heat to specific nerves to interrupt the pain signals to the brain.
Consistency Is Key
The most effective results come when you are implementing multiple strategies. For example, your pain management doctor might recommend therapies, medications, and lifestyle changes.
Consistent application of these suggested treatments will produce the best results. Then, you continue working with the pain management team to adjust your treatment plan as needed in the future.
Consult with a Pain Management Doctor
Rest assured, knowing that chronic pain doesn’t mean that you will live with these symptoms permanently. Instead, you can find relief by working with a pain management specialist.
Reach out to our team at Kentuckiana Pain Specialists to learn more about our comprehensive pain management solutions. In addition, we help with a variety of alternative treatment options. We are located in the Louisville, Kentucky, area. Call our office when you need more information: (502) 995-4004.