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Chronic Pain

Chronic pain seriously affects quality of life. As it can cause other physical ailments, it also creates serious mental problems. It can cause serious disruptions in business life, education life and daily life.

Therefore, patients with chronic pain complaints should initiate a treatment process in order to improve their quality of life. So what is chronic pain, how does it manifest itself, and what are the currently used treatment methods? Now let's take a look at all the details together...


What is Chronic Pain?

Pain that differs from person to person, the exact cause is usually unknown and lasts longer than 3 months is called chronic pain. These long-term pains can be of high intensity. It can be seen continuously for more than 3 months, or it can have a frequently recurring course. In acute pain, the problem is usually damaged tissues. However, this cannot be said for chronic pain. Chronic pain may occur due to damaged tissues, but also may result from pain memory in the relevant centers of the brain and sensitive areas around the spine.

Diagnosis and treatment in chronic pain is much more difficult than in normal pain. On the other hand, it is possible to talk about a relationship between the emotional states of patients and chronic pain. As a matter of fact, it has been observed that the pain intensifies when patients feel stressed, anxious or sad.

Normal pain is often a symptom of another disease. But rather than a symptom of a chronic disease, it is the disease itself. It is also possible to explain chronic pain that can be seen all over the body as follows: Even if the condition causing the pain disappears, pain messages continue to be sent to the brain.

Thus, pain creates a space for itself in the brain. We can list the damages that chronic pain will cause to the quality of life as follows:

  • It weakens the immune system,
  • It creates negative effects physically and psychologically and causes disruption of daily life routine,
  • There is a decrease in mobility, flexibility, endurance and strength,
  • Sleep problems begin to occur,
  • Productivity is reduced and workforce is negatively affected,
  • Social relations may deteriorate due to reasons such as anxiety and depression,
  • As the pain increases, depression may occur and the pain may worsen due to depression.

Therefore, chronic pain should be seen as a psychological disorder as well as a physical one. Today, approaches developed against chronic pain are like this.

Causes of Chronic Pain

It is not possible to talk about a single cause that causes chronic pain. However, we can list the most common types of chronic pain in the community as follows: Post-operative pain, post-traumatic pain, headache, cancer pain, low back pain, arthritis pain, psychogenic pain not caused by nerve damage, disease or injury, and neurogenic pain caused by nerve damage.

Chronic pain is often caused by problems such as muscle strain or injury. If these conditions have caused nerve damage, it is possible for the pain to become chronic. If your chronic pain isn't caused by injury or nerve damage, then finding the source of the pain can be much more difficult.

In such cases, it is suspected that the pain may have arisen from an underlying disease. The diseases in question are:

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Endometriosis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Temporomandibular joint dysfunction
  • Pelvic pain

These are some of the diseases that can cause chronic pain.

At the same time, it is useful to mention the risk factors that will facilitate the development of chronic pain:

  • Biological Risk Factors: Genetics, old age, race, history of a traumatic injury, and obesity.
  • Psychological Risk Factors: Mood disorders, childhood trauma.
  • Lifestyle Risk Factors: Chronic stress or post-traumatic stress disorder, smoking, and working in high-risk and strenuous jobs.

It is known that most of the patients with chronic pain complaints are among the risk factors mentioned above.

Symptoms of Chronic Pain

Chronic pain can manifest itself with many symptoms. However, the most common complaints of chronic pain in the community are:

Joint and muscle pain, burning pain, fatigue and sleep problems, sexual reluctance, anger, depression, anxiety and mood disorders, family problems, drug or alcohol addiction, job loss and suicidal ideation. In chronic pain, only a few of these symptoms can be seen, or all of them can be seen together.

How Is Chronic Pain Treated?

  • Medication: Painkillers can be used for mild chronic pain, and opioid type drugs such as morphine can be used for more severe pain. Antidepressants can be used when necessary.
  • Surgical implants: Two different surgical implants can be applied, namely intrathecal method and spinal cord stimulation. In the first case, medication can be given to the spinal cord, when necessary, with a small pump placed under the skin. In the second method, electricity is used to block the pain signals sent to the brain.
    TENS: Electrodes are placed on the skin near the pain area. A low voltage electric current is delivered using these electrodes. With the given electricity, the nerves in the area are stimulated and thus the pain signals to the brain are reversed.
  • Trigger Point Injections: Local anesthetic injections, including steroids, are made into the muscles to reduce pain. This method is mostly preferred in diseases such as fibromyalgia, myofascial pain syndrome or chronic pelvic pain.
  • Psychotherapy: In chronic pain caused by psychological problems, feelings such as depression or unhappiness may cause the pain to worsen. Therefore, psychotherapy can be applied both to improve psychology and to learn how to deal with pain.

Apart from all these, methods such as exercises, manual therapy and physical therapy can be applied, as well as treatment methods such as acupuncture, acupressure and biofeedback when necessary.

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