If you live each day with chronic pain, then you know exactly how debilitating, distressing, and intense the pain symptoms can be in your life. Millions of people worldwide are afflicted by chronic pain conditions on a daily basis and each situation can be difficult to address because chronic pain is a complex condition with various underlying causes. From medications to alternative therapies, the market is saturated with options that promise fast and lasting pain relief, but it’s tough to cut through the falsehoods and misleading statements to find actual treatments and solutions for chronic pain that work.
If you’re tired of living with chronic pain and want to find long-term relief from your symptoms, you’ve come to the right place: we’ve created this in-depth article just for you! We will explore a series of effective strategies and practical techniques that can provide real relief and improve your quality of life.
Understanding Chronic Pain and What Causes It
In order to fully determine which pain relief solutions are best fitted for your needs, it helps to first understand what causes your pain symptoms and when they developed. Chronic pain is an umbrella term that is best described as persistent pain that lasts for a prolonged period of time, typically longer than three months. It is distinctly different from acute pain conditions because acute pain is temporary (typically lasting no longer than a few days or weeks).
In most cases of chronic pain, the symptoms are localized to one or multiple body parts and can manifest as either a constant ache, a burning sensation, or sharp shooting pains. Some individuals may also experience associated symptoms such as fatigue, sleep disturbances, and mood changes, but the individual symptoms that you experience may differ from those of others because chronic pain conditions can be very different from one person to the next.
Chronic pain can arise from a multitude of causes and there’s a host of contributing factors that can worsen symptoms. In some cases, chronic pain conditions may develop without a clear, identifiable cause, which can make it even more confusing for those afflicted by the condition as to how they can treat the condition or mitigate its effects. And in most cases, chronic pain is not caused by a single factor, but rather a combination of circumstances and factors.
Nevertheless, it’s important to gain knowledge of the underlying factors of your chronic pain in order to identify the most appropriate and effective treatment strategies to enhance your quality of life. These are just a handful of the top causes of chronic pain and a few contributing factors.
1. Physical Injuries or Illnesses
While we all suffer from injuries or illnesses from time to time, there are certain injuries and afflictions that can lead to the development of long-term chronic pain. Traumatic injuries from things like car accidents will heal over time, but the incident can distort muscular tissue and proper alignment within the body, which may lead to chronic pain issues. Even everyday activities like lifting heavy boxes improperly or consistently carrying heavy objects can eventually contribute to the development of chronic pain symptoms, or worsen existing symptoms.
In addition, there are multiple health conditions and chronic inflammatory-based conditions that are primary catalysts for chronic pain issues, such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and even osteoarthritis. These chronic conditions are well-known culprits of chronic pain and can manifest all kinds of bodily discomforts like sharp or dull sensations, muscle stiffness, or joint discomfort. That said, many other conditions can also contribute to persistent pain in the body including ailments like stomach ulcers, gallbladder disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and so on.
In some rarer cases, healthcare providers have seen people afflicted by chronic pain without an identifiable injury or physical illness, and they diagnose these pains as psychogenic or psychosomatic because the pain is more driven by psychological factors like excessive stress, anxiety, and/or depression.
2. Lifestyle Factors
Hopefully, it comes as no surprise that the way you live your life directly affects how your body feels. Your lifestyle behaviors and patterns not only influence your physical health but also the presence of pain within the body. The following factors have the potential to contribute to chronic pain conditions and worsen symptoms:
- Years of poor posture
- A 9-to-5 office job sitting in front of a computer screen
- Being overweight and putting excess strain on your back and knees
- Wearing high heels
- Sleeping on a poor mattress
3. Side Effects from Certain Medications
The first line of defense against chronic is typically prescription medications and while they can provide temporary relief from pain symptoms, some of these prescribed medicines also come with side effects that need to be carefully considered. Recent research has suggested that anti-inflammatory drugs, which are commonly used to treat pain symptoms, can increase your risk of developing chronic pain symptoms and may actually worsen some.
Additional research has suggested that many common pain medicines such as paracetamol, aspirin, and opioid pain relievers can have adverse side effects that may exacerbate pain symptoms for many. Paracetamol, for instance, is generally well-tolerated for most individuals, however, there’s evidence that suggests this medication can cause liver damage if taken in high enough doses. Aspirin, one of the most common solutions for pain relief and inflammation, can also increase one’s risk of bleeding or stomach ulcers. And many opioid pain medicines, like morphine or oxycodone, can lead to constipation, drowsiness, nausea, and addiction, all of which can worsen the mental and physical state that you’re experiencing when dealing with chronic pain.
Make sure to consult with your primary care physician about your chronic pain solutions and the ideal medications for you. If you don’t notice any improvement across your symptoms, communicate this concern to your provider so that you can find a better option for your needs.
Health Care Provider Options for Treating Chronic Pain
When your healthcare provider understands what’s causing your chronic pain symptoms, they can effectively address it by treating the root cause of the issue. For instance, if your pain is mainly caused by a dormant injury following a car crash, the best solution may be massage therapy to work out the knots and issues within your muscular tissues. However, if there are multiple factors contributing to your pain or your provider can’t identify the cause, they’ll likely recommend a variety of strategies that are personalized to your needs and preferences.
Here are just a few of the most reliable and practical solutions that you can explore to alleviate your pain in the short and long term.
1. Lifestyle Changes
As previously discussed here, the lifestyle that you lead can directly contribute to the way you process and experience pain on a daily basis. By making a handful of minor tweaks to your lifestyle, you may effectively alleviate many of your symptoms without the need for more intensive treatments or therapies, which include:
- Stress Reduction Activities: Research has shown that stress and anxiety can play significant roles in chronic pain, so it’s in your best interest to explore ways to alleviate your stress. The right activities for you may differ from those of others, so take some time to explore a variety of options like meditation, deep breathing exercises, journaling, and self-care activities that can work wonders for your stress and your pain symptoms.
- Physical Exercise: Of course, it’s important to be mindful of your mobility and physical limitations when exploring physical activities, especially if your pain is due to a pre-existing injury. However, low-intensity exercises like light swimming or walking can help reduce pain and they can help alleviate stress too. At the very least, get into the habit of stretching for at least 15 minutes every single day: those stretches can help alleviate kinks in your system and re-align muscles with your skeletal system too.
- Optimize Your Nutrition: Try integrating more anti-inflammatory foods into your daily diet like fatty fish, green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, nuts, and fruits. These snacks and foods are high in natural antioxidants and polyphenols, which can greatly reduce inflammation within the body and can benefit chronic diseases too.
- Get Enough Sleep: Try to get at least 6-8 hours of consistent, deep sleep every night. A lack of consistent and good sleep can actually worsen chronic pain symptoms.
2. Physical Therapy
Physical therapy is one of the most effective therapeutic interventions for chronic pain cases because it provides a non-invasive and evidence-based approach. Physical therapists utilize a combination of mobility exercises, dynamic stretching, and hands-on manual manipulation techniques to help individuals manage and alleviate their chronic pain symptoms.
Physical therapy focuses on addressing the root causes of chronic pain rather than just masking the symptoms by having the patient work to strengthen the afflicted regions through targeted exercises. Your physical therapist can develop a personalized treatment plan for your chronic pain symptoms that integrates various techniques such as manual therapies, electrical nerve stimulation, and spinal mobilization to further reduce pain and improve overall function.
In addition, it’s also worth seeking out chiropractic care services alongside your physical therapy, especially if your chronic pain affects your central nervous system more than other parts of your body. Chiropractors can provide spinal adjustments and skeletal re-alignments for you through a wealth of manual techniques, which makes your chiropractic appointments a valuable adjunct therapy in your comprehensive pain management plan.
3. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
While it may sound far-fetched to some, cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) stands out as an effective psychological treatment option for managing chronic pain because it helps patients think differently about pain and teaches individuals how to effectively cope. Through CBT, your practitioner will help you consciously change your thinking patterns by helping you recognize distortion in your thoughts, gain a better understanding of your behaviors, learn to develop a greater sense of confidence in your own abilities, and more.
During your treatments, CBT will help you target and modify negative thoughts and beliefs about pain, while also imparting coping strategies to help you better manage your pain symptoms. Given enough time, CBT can really start to make a difference in your pain symptoms and help you find the lasting relief you’ve been looking for.
4. Biofeedback Therapy
Within the past few decades, biofeedback therapies have become more mainstream because of the innovative technology that they use and the lasting changes that the therapies can have on well-being. Biofeedback is an advanced therapeutic intervention that uses real-time data to help you gain better awareness and control of physiological patterns and behaviors. Put simply, biofeedback can help teach you how to consciously tweak the way your body works.
Most commonly, biofeedback can measure things like heart rate, breathing, and muscle tension and through iterative feedback and training, you can learn how to control those behaviors to mitigate pain symptoms. If, for instance, your chronic pain was caused by muscular issues, the training can help you subconsciously release muscular tension by making minor changes to your physiological habits.
Find the Relief You Need Today with These Strategies
Chronic pain can be a debilitating condition, but that doesn’t mean it should control and dominate every aspect of your life! By implementing these practical and science-backed solutions, you can take back control of your wellness and find lasting relief from your symptoms that actually work.
Remember, everyone’s journey with chronic pain is unique, so don’t get frustrated if these solutions for chronic pain don’t deliver the results right away: be patient and persistent in finding what works best for you. Take the necessary steps to alleviate your chronic pain and live a life full of joy, comfort, and freedom.
To a Fitter Healthier You,
The Fitness Wellness Mentor