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Acute pain is a type of pain that typically lasts less than 3 to 6 months, or pain that is directly related to soft tissue damage such as a sprained ankle or a paper cut. Acute pain is of short duration but it gradually resolves as the injured tissues heal.
Chronic pain is pain that is ongoing and usually lasts longer than six months. This type of pain can continue even after the injury or illness that caused it has healed or gone away. Pain signals remain active in the nervous system for weeks, months, or years.
Intractable pain refers to a type of pain that can't be controlled with standard medical care. Intractable essentially means difficult to treat or manage. This type of pain isn't curable, so the focus of treatment is to reduce your discomfort. The condition is also known as intractable pain disease, or IP.
Pain is entirely unique to each one of us and so is the treatment from one patient to another. One treatment that works well for one individual may not work for someone else. People with pain often go through a long process of tests to identify what is causing their pain. Frustration is certainly part of trying to find the cause and what therapy option is going to work or not work for you, don’t give up. You must remember that everyone is different and what works for one may not work for you so try all therapies offered to you, do your homework and understand what is causing your pain. Usually, a multidisciplinary approach is the best, chronic pain causes other things to be off so treating mind body and spirit seem to help the most.
There are many factors that can increase your risk of chronic pain. These factors can be environmental or biological, and include but not limited to:
Being overweight or obese
Stress or mood disorders
Doctors typically will do diagnostic tests to determine the cause of the pain, and to identify appropriate treatments. Doctors also rely on the patient’s report of his or her pain and when it started for diagnosis, which is why mutual respect and trust is essential. Some of the diagnostic tests that doctors may use to determine where the pain is coming from include but are not limited to:
Imaging, such as MRI, X-rays, CT scans, ultrasound
Electromyography (used to assess muscle health and function)
EMG-Nerve conduction testing (used to assess nerve health and function)
Mobility and strength assessments
Accurate diagnosis is vital to effective treatment. Your type of pain will usually determine which
diagnostic tools are right for you.
Degenerative Disc Disease
Sickle Cell Anemia
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
Superior Mesenteric Artery Syndrome
Chronic Addiction and Other Co-Morbidities
Theses are just some of the painful diseases that people deal with.
While an experienced pain specialist will have a lot of suggestions for treatment, it’s important to educate yourself on the various strategies and techniques available for pain relief. The list of treatment options in the next section is a great place to start. Keep in mind, too, that researchers are always making headway in discovering new treatments. Don’t lose hope!
Here is a list of treatment options for pain by category. There are many things you can do to help your pain, keeping an open mind and trying new things is part of it. Things that you wouldn’t usually think of can often help.
A lot of pain patients have a hard time with this category, but it is very important to keep moving and keep a good outlook. These may not or may help the pain directly but by staying in a positive mindset it will offset depression that can go along with chronic pain. Please keep an open mind and stay in the moment when trying these options.
This is important because what you are putting into your body helps the body heal. You want to stay away from processed foods and sugary foods as much as possible. There is also a long list of foods that help with inflammation such as Ginger and Turmeric. The healthier you try and keep your body in the better off you will be, this means you should try and stay moving even if you can’t go to the gym and work out try and take a walk every day.
A thoughtful, balanced diet is key to maintaining a healthy weight and getting important nutrients that support your overall wellbeing. Some people find that certain types of diets lessen their pain, such as an anti-inflammatory diet; a vegetarian or vegan diet; a paleo diet; a gluten-free diet; and so on. Explore different diets to find out what works for you!
Regardless of whether you follow a specific set of guidelines surrounding food, here are some key principals that hold true:
Eat as many fresh vegetables and fruits as humanly possible.
Limit extremely sugary and processed foods.
Avoid foods with “bad” fats, like trans fats and saturated fats.
Eat more foods that have “good” fats, like fish, avocados, nuts, and olive oil.
Stay hydrated. The Institute of Medicine recommends7 liters (15 cups) for the average adult male and 2.7 liters (11 cups) for the average adult female.
If you’re interested in extra help with your diet, consider meeting with a licensed nutritionist.
A lot of pain patients have a hard time with this category, but it is very important to keep moving and keep a good out look. These may not or may help the pain directly but by staying in a positive mindset it will offset depression that can go along with chronic pain. Please keep an open mind and stay in the moment when trying these
Exercise and strengthening programs
Meditation and mindfulness
Stress reduction techniques, including visualization or body scanning
Stretching and mobility programs
Complementary and alternative medicine.
Acceptance and commitment therapy
Biofeedback or neurofeedback
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Meditation and mindfulness
Stress reduction techniques
Virtual reality technology
As a pain patient myself I know I feel better when I take a shower and get in the sun rather then not taking a shower and sitting around feeding into negativity.
An estimated 50 percent to percent of people with chronic pain have ongoing sleep difficulties. Studies show that inadequate sleep, however, can exacerbate pain. Here are some tips for ensuring you get a good night’s rest despite pain.
Establish a routine. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day—even on the weekends—reinforces the natural sleep-wake cycle in your body. You can also help reinforce bedtime by establishing a wind-down routine, e.g. by taking a bath, meditating, reading or listening to soothing music.
Create a restful environment. Turn on white noise, use ear plugs, invest in comfortable bedding, and keep the room temperature cool. Exposure to light is especially important: dim or turn off the lights in your house 30 to 60 minutes before going to bed. The light from cell phone and TV screens can also interfere with circadian rhythms, so shut down all devices as you prepare for bed.
Watch what you eat and drink. Caffeinated products—like tea or coffee, chocolate—anything containing nicotine, or any other stimulants should be avoided for at least four to six hours before you plan to go to sleep. Even alcohol, which initially makes you feel tired, makes it harder to get high-quality sleepy.
Furthermore, heavy meals and too many fluids before bed might keep you up because you are
uncomfortable or need to use the bathroom.
Get tired! Napping during the day can interfere with sleep at night. If you must, limit your snooze to 30 minutes, and give yourself at least four hours between the nap and bedtime. In addition, exercising during the day helps tire out your body and can foster better sleep at night.
Try to work out at least a few hours before bed, if possible. Still struggling? Ask your doctor about meeting with a sleep specialist.
Pain increases stress, and stress increases pain. But you can break this cycle by proactively trying to reduce stress wherever possible. Multiple studies have shown that reducing stress and relaxation techniques can improve overall health and well being, and may even reduce pain or improve the perception of pain.
Some examples of stress reduction techniques and strategies include:
Relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, visual imagery, and mindfulness
Music, art or dance therapy
Counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy
Generally speaking, reducing stress with chronic pain also requires:
Pacing yourself to allow for sufficient rest and recovery.
Learning to say no and putting your health first.
Focusing on the things you can do and not what you can’t.
Communicating clearly with your loved ones about your needs and challenges.
Letting go of guilt and shame surrounding pain.
Chronic pain hurts, but suffering is optional. For more advice on managing stress when you have pain, find a psychologist, counselor or life coach in your area.
As difficult as it is to get yourself moving when you have chronic pain, it’s also extremely important.
Here are four key reasons to get moving.
Maintaining a healthy weight. Excess body weight puts extra strain on your joints, muscles and organs.
Cardiovascular health. Too little activity can result in disabling cardiovascular conditions, from
orthostatic intolerance to heart disease. Your body already has enough to deal with chronic pain – don’t add heart, circulation, and lung problems to the list!
Strength, flexibility, and stamina. Chronic pain can negatively impact your strength, flexibility, and stamina, which in turn increase your pain and level of disability.
Endorphins! Aerobic exercise produces endorphins, the feel-good chemicals that act as your body’s natural painkillers.
Start small and increase the intensity of your workout as your body allows. Remember that any exercise is better than nothing at all; just do the best you can. Here are some ideas for exercise to get you started:
Yoga or Tai chi. Some types of yoga are directly tailored to individuals who have physical limitations. Try searching for a YouTube video for “Restorative yoga,” or “chair yoga.” Tai chi is also a fabulous, gentle way to encourage flexibility and stability.
Aquatic exercise. Pool therapy is great for those with musculoskeletal problems. It provides a gentle, low-impact way to get a workout. You can try your own exercises, find a group class, or a physical therapist who specializes in designing one-on-one aquatic exercises. Some pools are heated, to make it even easier on your joints and muscles.
Even a short walk is good! Turn on your headphones and listen to a podcast or audiobook to help distract and encourage yourself.
Short bursts of cardio. Science has shown that even one minute of all-out exercise has benefits. The key is to get your heart rate up and your blood bumping. Start small with a few minutes of exercise and build up slowly. Chronic pain-friendly cardio ideas include using reclining bikes and elliptical machines.
Please note: we recommend checking with a clinician before beginning any exercise program to ensure it is safe for you.