Archive for "Pain Management"

Living With Chronic Pain and Finding Gratitude

Pain Management Nov 16, 2017 No Comments

Chronic pain is one of the most misunderstood conditions a human being can struggle with, because it is so strange and unusual. Because of this, living with chronic pain can be extremely difficult. Most people understand pain as a sharp sensation, a temporary warning that accompanies some sort of immediate threat/danger, or injury.

If you cut yourself, your brain signals you to pay attention to the cut, treat it, and keep it away from any physical contact. Your skin becomes hyper-sensitive, and you prioritize getting away from that feeling of hurt.

Chronic pain is different. It doesn’t go away. It doesn’t have a good reason to exist in the first place. It’s just pain, coming and going, always there, making life miserable for anyone who suffers from it. But because it’s so difficult to comprehend, people often can’t help but say things like “it can’t be so bad” or “you’re just exaggerating”.

This makes living with chronic pain especially difficult. Not only do you have to deal with the pain, but with the stigma of not being able to do many “normal” things. However, even with these challenges, life is still worth it. And here’s how you can make it work.

 

What You Need to Know About Living With Chronic Pain

Firstly: you’re not alone. While chronic pain isn’t extremely prevalent, we do live in an increasingly small world, and there are countless places both locally and virtually where America’s chronic pain population can come together for support, motivation, and leisure.

It’s not just America. The Internet lets you see what it’s like living with chronic pain in other countries. It lets you see how different people from completely diverse backgrounds deal with many of the same issues, and still manage to find a little joy in life. There’s a whole community out there, ready to share with you what it’s like to not just struggle with chronic pain, but manage it. By interacting with others working with chronic pain management, you can do the same.

When living with chronic pain, it’s important to remember: you still have friends and family. People who care for you, are patient through the hard days, and make it possible for you to live a “normal” life with a clean home, healthy food and loving company.

No matter how bad some days get, life is still life. It goes on, and better days are always on the horizon. And even if you can’t do some of the things that you used to do, life can still make you smile, laugh, and love.

Finding Gratitude While Living With Chronic Pain | Comprehensive Pain Management Center

What Others Need to Know

The most important thing others should know about living with chronic pain is this: it’s seriously hard being in pain all the time.

It can cut into your appetite and keep you from moving, causing muscle atrophy, lowering your self-esteem and making you feel even more miserable. And when you just want to lie down and sleep, some nights the pain is so bad that you can’t even drift off in peace. Pain keeps you from enjoying time with your family, and time to yourself.

Thankfully, life isn’t all pain in most cases. Some days are good, good enough to allow walking. Some days, however, the pain is so much that you can’t even sit down, let alone stand or go for a stroll. Misunderstanding a good day for a sign of significant improvement just makes someone living with chronic pain feel worse about themselves.

Finally; they’re still human beings. They get angry. They can be miserable. It’s important to be patient and empathic.

 

The Role that Gratitude Plays When Living With Chronic Pain

When living with chronic pain, it’s important to appreciate the good things in life, because otherwise, the pain wins. It will swallow you whole and leave nothing but a shell of your former self. But you’re more than that. Just because you’re in pain doesn’t mean you’re no longer you – you’re still you, you’re still human, and you still have the power in your mind to mean something to others, have a purpose and achieve personal greatness.

The first step to realizing that, however, lies in being happy and grateful for the gifts of life that you can still enjoy to this day.

It’s true that life will never be easy living with chronic pain, but it can be great. Even with the pain, life is worth living if you have the power to feel grateful for the good days, and the happy memories. And with a little imagination, there is so much left for you to do despite the pain – far more than you could ever accomplish in a single lifetime.

Diseases like fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue don’t have to be a death sentence – they may be challenging, and hard to deal with, but with the help of your loved ones and your own sheer will, you can still live a fulfilling and happy life. Through different techniques for pain management, living with chronic pain can be easier.

Pain Assessment: How Bad is Your Pain?

blog, Pain Management Oct 18, 2017 No Comments

Science argues that pain is a subjective experience. Some pain experts agree that part of feeling the pain is how your brain is interpreting it. Fortunately, whether it’s all in your head or not, there are pain assessment tools to determine how bad your pain is. Here are different types of assessment tools to help you accurately portray your pain levels to professionals.

The 10-Point Pain Scale

Many doctors use a 10-point pain assessment scale, with 0 being no pain and 10 being an excruciating, debilitating pain. Yet, even this can be highly subjective. Two people with the same degree of pain might assess their pain differently – one at a level 5 and the other at a level 7 – depending upon their relative experiences. Because of this, there are other pain assessment tools to consider as well.

Other Pain Assessment Tools

To help people be more specific about their pain assessment and to determine just how severe pain might be, the LOCATES scale can help draw more information about the type of pain a person is experiencing. The LOCATES scale was developed by the American Pain Foundation (no longer in operation), and it continues to be a reliable tool to facilitate communication between health professionals and their patients.

The LOCATES pain assessment scale asks for the following information:

L – Location of the pain: Where is your pain and does it travels to other parts of your body?

OOther associated symptoms: Do you have nausea, numbness, or weakness with your pain?

C – Character of the pain: Is it throbbing, sharp, dull, or burning?

A – Aggravating and alleviating factors: What makes the pain better or worse?

T – Timing of the pain: How long does the pain last? Is it constant or intermittent?

E – Environment: Where do you experience the pain most often – for example, while working or at home?

S – Severity of the pain: How would you rate your pain on a 0-to-10 pain scale, from no pain to worst ever?

While the above tool does use a 10-point pain assessment scale, it also invites more details about the level, type, factors, and symptoms of the pain. Those experiencing pain may want to share their answers to the above questions with their healthcare provider. Conveying these answers to your doctor can help you both create a pain management plan.

Pain Assessment Tools | Comprehensive Pain Management Center

The Process of Pain

The process of pain is actually somewhat complex. It begins with the body’s vast neural network and millions of tiny sensors that exist throughout the body. Pain can be experienced when a nerve in the body has been triggered. However, there must be a certain amount of stimulus for pain to trigger.

For example, let’s say you have a bowling ball resting on your big toe. Yes, it’s heavy and it’s likely uncomfortable, but the weight of the ball isn’t enough to stimulate pain. Yet, if a bowling ball were to drop on your big toe from a few inches up, the falling weight of the bowling ball would stimulate a great deal of sensors, activating a nerve. This nerve, in turn, will produce a signal that travels up the spine to the brain. Interestingly, a person hasn’t yet experienced any pain. It is not until the signal from the nerve reaches the brain where it is processed and then you may have a response to what just happened.

Experiencing Pain

Your response and experience of the pain is based upon:

  • the information taken in from your senses
  • information from past experiences that may have been similar
  • your current mood
  • level of stress at the time
  • perception of the situation

All of this is factored into the equation, without you consciously being aware that the brain is processing all this information, and then you decide the degree to which you experience pain. Within milliseconds, the brain decides whether a response to the situation is necessary. In this case, a person might jerk their foot back, scream, sit down, or do another activity in response to what they are experiencing.

However, the brain might not register the pain at all. Take for instance someone who has a severe case of diabetes and who experiences nerve damage in their foot. A bowling ball may fall on their toe or they may step on a nail and not feel the pain at all. This happens because the nerve that would normally send the signal of pain up to the brain has been impaired.

Responding to and Preventing Pain | Comprehensive Pain Management Center

How to Respond to Pain

Depending upon your pain assessment; the type, location, and severity of your pain, you may want to respond to pain appropriately. There are some important tips to remember when it comes to experiencing pain in the body:

  1. Don’t ignore pain. Pain that is unknown to you or the result of an injury or disease should be assessed by a healthcare provider.
  2. Avoid painful movement. While your pain is still acute, it may be best to refrain from movement that causes more harm.
  3. Keep a pain diary. If you continue to experience pain and you’ve already consulted with a doctor or other healthcare provider, keep track of when, where, and how you experience pain. This can help build awareness around your pain.
  4. Take care of yourself. Be sure to eat well, get good sleep, and exercise (if you can) in order to keep your body healthy. This can help minimize your experience of pain.
  5. Drink plenty of water. It’s also important to keep the body hydrated.
  6. Be curious about your pain. Sometimes pain is not what you think. For example, pain in your neck and shoulders may have more to do with a misalignment in your hip. Again, talk to a healthcare professional if you suspect pain may be linked to something else.
  7. Reduce the amount of stress in your life. Experiencing pain is already a stressful experience. To help keep stress levels low, eliminate other sources of stress in your life as best you can.

These are general suggestions to keep the body healthy while facing pain. There are a great number of causes of pain. So, be sure to consult your doctor or a healthcare professional for suggestions to assist you in your unique situation.

When you do talk to a pain doctor or a healthcare professional, be sure to use the LOCATES pain assessment tool (or another pain assessment scale) to provide the most detail about your experience of pain. This can assist with getting the right treatment and professional support.

Natural Pain Relievers and Anti-Inflammatories

blog, Pain Management Jun 19, 2017 No Comments

Medication is not the only reliable way to relieve pain – and for many, long-term medication is not a very suitable way to relieve chronic pain, which can plague a person for years. While most of our pharmaceutical options rely on natural extracts anyway, there are specific benefits towards applying some of nature’s own natural pain relievers in their original form.

But to understand why the common advice of ginger, turmeric, and less known relievers such as cloves all work in the face of specific forms of pain, it’s important to cover the basics of chronic pain, and the common cofactor of physical inflammation in the human body.

Chronic Pain and Inflammation

Chronic pain is a condition wherein a person experiences the sensation of pain regularly for over twelve weeks. Pain experienced regularly within that period is most likely acute. This pain is a derivative of a specific wound or injury, and fading as per the body’s own natural healing.

But our bodies are far from perfect. Through a range of possibilities from nerve damage, to inflammation and psychological illness, the body can achieve a state of chronic pain. Permanently treating chronic pain isn’t always possible, depending on its origins. The primary focus for medicine and treatment is to first look towards effective, long-term relief, while trying to identify the cause and an ultimate solution.

That’s where the science of pain management is most significant. Chronic pain management is a very broad school of knowledge, but its roots lie in understanding how pain travels from the body to the brain and back, and how specific pain relievers can block or counteract the signals.

Types of Inflammation

Inflammation isn’t always directly related to chronic pain, but it’s most definitely a part of pain in general. Inflammation is most often seen in the form of arthritis, a widespread joint inflammation that causes chronic joint pain. It occurs when an injury, infection, or other type of physical irritation or sickness causes the body to heat up and increase the overall sensitivity of a specific part. An inflammation around a wound is typically a sign of infection, for example. As the body’s immune system is working hard to fight foreign bacteria through white blood cells, the increased activity results in heating up the wound, and making it more sensitive to discourage any contact.

If you cut yourself or break a bone, then any attempts to touch the injured area will result in extreme discomfort. Even with a mild or soft touch will hurt, to prevent further damage – the same thing happens in an inflammation.

The problem when inflammation is tied to chronic pain, is that the inflammation may not go away. Aside from the obvious drawback of near-constant pain, an inflammation anywhere in the body will weaken you tremendously, and sap your energy.

In many cases of chronic pain, fighting not just the pain but specifically fighting to lower any internal inflammation often works to further decrease pain. When it comes to natural pain relievers and anti-inflammation, the options for application remain the same: external, and internal.

Topical Natural Pain Relievers

Pain relief often comes in the form of creams and ointments. There are several naturally-derived ointments that are perfect for quick pain-relief, especially in cases of back pain and arthritis. A few examples include:

Among these three Cs, camphor is most often found in ointments and paired with menthol. Capsaicin is the active element in hot peppers. It’s unique nerve interaction causes it to become an effective numbing agent when used right. Comfrey shouldn’t be ingested, but is an active ingredient in a topical cream it is effective for pain management.

Pain Relief Through the Diet

Omega 3 Fatty Foods | Comprehensive Pain Management Center

Let food by thy medicine – and despite thousands of years of progress in the sciences, Hippocrates early wisdom still holds true. While a good diet won’t exactly patch up a knife wound or splint a broken arm, most preventative diseases can be greatly diminished and even avoided entirely through healthy lifestyle choices. Genetics, environmental factors such as pollution and even psychological factors can still skew the outcome against you. However, healthy food can keep you fit – or in this case, relieve a lot of pain.

Foods That Lower Inflammation

There are quite a few ways to relieve pain and lower inflammation through food, including:

  • Willow bark tea
  • Turmeric
  • Omega-3 and omega-6 foods
  • Other fats
  • Leafy greens
  • Berries and citrus fruits

Willow bark and turmeric are ancient natural pain relievers, and modern-day aspirin specifically derives from willows. Omega-3 fats are present in seed oils and most plants, while omega-6 fats are in seafood. The trick is doing your best to maintain a low ratio of the two. Research shows that doing this greatly decreases inflammation – rather than just eat more fish, cut down on all seed oils.

Healthy fats come in many shapes and forms. Avocados, coconut, lean meat, fish, and olives are great sources of fat, while seed-derived oils, lard and margarine aren’t. A healthy balance of green vegetables and various fruits also decreases inflammation. Although the jury is still out on exactly why this is, as antioxidants may not be as important as we’ve thought.

Foods to Avoid

Sometimes, what you don’t eat matters as well. There are specific foods to avoid when you’d like to decrease your pain and inflammation, and stay healthier in general. These include:

  • Refined sugars/carbs (including white bread and pasta)
  • Canned and/or processed meats
  • Trans fats, margarine, shortening
  • Fried foods (excessive seed oils)

Acupuncture

Other natural pain relievers to consider are a bit more exotic, but shows a kind of promise that is not to be ignored. Acupuncture, an ancient medical practice, is surprisingly effective in many cases of chronic pain although we can’t really say why. The answer might lie in future research, or in the simple placebo effect. Either way, it’s a type of therapy that, considering the odds, would be well worth a shot.

It’s possible that just like acupuncture, some of these topical or natural pain relievers won’t function well. We humans do have a shared biology, but we’re still individually unique – certain factors from genetics to diet and medical history may mean that some tools are far less effective than others. It all depends on the origin and kind of chronic pain being experienced, as well. In terms of anti-inflammation, however, it’s more straightforward and generally applicable. Diet is an effective way of controlling your body’s inflammation, and with time, a good diet and regular exercise can help you lead an enjoyable and fulfilling life even with the diagnosis of chronic pain.

 

How Fibromyalgia Pain Relates to Other Pain Conditions

blog, Pain Management May 18, 2017 No Comments

Pain is not something we’re particularly inclined to like, as its intended function is to be something we actively avoid and work against. But there is such a thing as useful pain. Pain that teaches us valuable lessons in life, like avoiding fire and minding our step.

But there is some pain that has absolutely no use, and no meaning. Medically, that pain is part of a series of disorders – conditions like fibromyalgia, which plagues roughly 5 million American adults. These people must live with chronic fatigue, constant soreness, and the combined blight of widespread pain and a heightened awareness towards it. We don’t know what causes this disease. We don’t know what cures it. But we have learned to help people deal with it, and live meaningful lives.

To properly understand this affliction, it’s important to first tackle how pain itself works – and why fibromyalgia is a massive physical ailment with system-wide consequences. We must first understand how fibromyalgia pain relates to other pain conditions before we can understand how to relieve this pain.

What It Means To Be In Pain

The human body processes stimuli and undergoes a series of brain functions to classify the experience and determine how to react to it. When you experience something pleasant, like a hug from someone you care about, your body interprets it accordingly by releasing certain neurochemicals that make us “feel” a certain way. It gets more complicated than that when you enter the realm of psychology and personality, but from a neurological perspective, it’s a mechanical process.

When the body experiences harmful stimuli, the brain receives a different kind of signal, one that lets it know that there’s a potential danger nearby. Before you can even think about contextualizing the pain, the body and your brain react instantly with irritation, or fear, or a reflexive action such as backing away or flinching. In some cases, pain activates our inner fight or flight response, and the release of adrenaline, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.

From an evolutionary standpoint, certain things make us feel pain so we can learn to avoid them. This ranges from something as obviously dangerous and malicious as a powerful smack to the head to something as unexpected as social rejection. When we feel pain, our initial reaction is not to like it, and then we can act on that info. Simple, and effective.

It gets more complicated on a person-to-person basis, though. Pain is generally objective, but the individual experience is subjective. What you consider painful will be different from what your spouse may consider painful, and tolerance levels for pain change from person to person. We also experience pain differently depending on our mood and emotional stability, our psychological state, our expectations of incoming pain, and quite significantly, the various experiences we might’ve had with pain in the past. Generally-speaking, pain can be split between “physical” pain (nociceptive), generated by a cut, a bruise, a broken bone or another injury; neuropathic pain, which isn’t generated by damage to the body but instead direct interaction with the nerves (nerve damage, spinal cord damage, pain disorders); and psychogenic pain, which is a feeling applied to existing pain by deep psychological troubles and worsening expectations.

While pain is meant to be our cautionary friend in most cases, there are times when it’s not quite so effective at doing its job of keeping us safe and healthy. In this case, the body and pain have a long-term toxic relationship, rather than the ideal distant acquaintance.

On Fibromyalgia Pain

Fibromyalgia pain is a full-body affliction that primarily affects your muscles and connective tissue, and the main symptom reported by those suffering from the condition is widespread chronic (more than 12 weeks) pain. In addition, fibromyalgia pain comes with weakness, nerve pain, muscle spasms and twitching, sleep disturbance and fatigue, and a heightened reaction to physical contact and touch (more pain).

While it affects the muscles and connective tissue, fibromyalgia is a disease of the brain. No one knows concretely what causes it other than an individual and subjective combination of genetics and environmental (lifestyle) factors, and there is no direct cure for the disease either. What basically happens when it develops is that your nervous system malfunctions and begins to sense pain when really there shouldn’t be any, and any painful stimuli are made much more powerfully repellent.

This is a neurological disorder, rather than a psychiatric one, and it’s a disorder with such capacity for widespread emotional damage that dealing with it can be an absolute nightmare.

Fibromyalgia is at its core a problem with pain reception, but it’s also very often part of a comorbidity: the combination of different related afflictions. For example, the chronic pain from fibromyalgia can cause chronic headaches, myofascial pain syndrome (constant muscle soreness), and other forms of rheumatoid pain including arthritis in the joints. Like a multiplier, any acute pain or syndrome you’re suffering from is felt more intensely under fibromyalgia pain. A few common comorbidities for fibromyalgia include:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Temporomandibular joint dysfunction
  • Arthritis

These are forms of inflammation physical irritation, heightening the body’s sense of pain. This is factored in by the body on top of any subjective thoughts, attitudes and experiences you may already have regarding pain – the result is a chronic condition that can affect you either in a localized fashion (severe hip or shoulder pain, or a specific muscle soreness) or in a general fashion.

Dulling the Hurt

As mentioned previously, there is no direct cure for fibromyalgia pain currently available, but there are several non-steroidal and corticosteroid painkillers available per prescription and over-the-counter to combat the chronic pain brought along by fibromyalgia.

Like so many other pain conditions, the danger with this one is that constant pain is bound to complicate the emotional and psychiatric health of many patients, which only further deepens the possible pain and encourages the use of maladaptive coping strategies like addiction and reckless behavior to take the edge off.

Aside from medication, what seems to work best is a lifestyle change. The inflammatory symptoms and increased pain can be managed properly by following a strictly healthy living regimen, including:

  • A diet of fresh food, especially nutrient-rich vegetables and fresh seafood.
  • Regular albeit moderate exercise, to improve the body’s neurochemical balance and stave off muscle weakness.
  • Consistent and long sleep, to ensure as much rest as possible.
  • Movement therapies like tai chi and yoga to raise awareness and body control, useful for mentally dulling out the pain.

Every case is different, and every proposed pain management plan must be catered to the patient’s means, symptoms, and total diagnosis. While fibromyalgia isn’t curable, it is highly treatable and manageable, and a lot of people live with it without medication, relying simply on physical and psychological therapy to overcome the pain. Some rely on alternative treatments like acupuncture and cupping therapy. Like chronic pain in general, it’s a long and tough road – but it’s most definitely a life worth living.

When An Injury Turns Into Chronic Pain

blog, Pain Management Mar 17, 2017 No Comments

Research has shown that pain affects over one hundred million people, as reported by primary care physicians. Addressing pain can be simple for some and extensive for others, depending on the type of injury. You may have a simple fix, like a broken finger that gets a splint and is healed with a few months. Or you may have a pain that can’t be found through any scans, tests or examinations and lasts for years.

Sometimes it can be both. What you think is going to be a quick fix and starts out as an injury turns into chronic pain and a long treatment period. There are many different types of injuries and all of them have the potential to lead to chronic pain if not managed correctly.

Injuries

Acute pain is the pain typically associated with an injury. It is our body’s way of yelling,

“Hey you, there is a problem here. Fix it soon or else.”

Injury is defined as damage, harm or loss, usually from an outside source. There are many types of injuries, just ask any personal injury attorney. I bet you have experienced at least one in your lifetime, if not more. Have you ever sprained your ankle, cut yourself with a knife, or missed the nail and hit your thumb when using a hammer? Then you have had an injury. Ever been in a fender bender and for the two weeks following had a stiff neck? Then you have had an injury.

There are sports related injuries such as pulled muscles, dislocations and shin splints. There are work related injuries that include machine related or toxic substance exposure. There are also construction related injuries, pet related injuries, car related injuries, playground injuries, the list goes on and on. Basically, if you are living your life, you are susceptible to an injury. But that is no reason to stop living. Not at all. Injuries are very fixable and can heal within a short amount of time.

The medical world defines injuries in more specific terms, like soft tissue, bone, skin and by the body part that is injured. Injuries typically last less than 12 weeks. When an injury turns into chronic pain, it can lead to a long treatment period.

How Pain Becomes Chronic

If you are struggling with an injury in which the pain just won’t go away, then you may be experiencing chronic pain. Pain becomes chronic when it does not leave after three or four months. Your three or four months may be feeling more like three or four years. Persistent pain puts a strain on all parts of our lives and can slow us down or stop us altogether.

One study found that your body’s cells can keep a memory of the injury. Even though the injury is healed and gone, the memory of that pain stays with you in the nerves located around the injury. This happens because your nervous system remains sensitive long after the actual injury has healed.

Chronic pain tends to show up more in older adults, but it does not discriminate. It can affect people of all ages. People who have had surgeries, injuries and are obese tend to experience chronic pain more than others. So, just what is chronic pain?

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is the type of pain that loves to hang around and make your body its home for twelve weeks or more. It’s like that cousin who came for a week’s vacation and is still living with you three months later. It does not go away and it can interfere with your daily routine.

Chronic pain can appear in many different forms. A few examples are headaches, fibromyalgia, back pain, diabetes and arthritis. Sometimes pain can affect you with no diagnosable reason. Over 30 million people are suffering from chronic pain in the United States alone.

The good news, you can get help in managing your pain.

The Importance of Chronic Pain Management

Injury Turns Into Chronic Pain | Comprehensive Pain Management Center

Chronic pain is not something that will just magically disappear and it is not something you should try and manage on your own. A pain management physician is the person you need to help you overcome your pain related issues. He or she has a medical degree and specialized training in pain. They are experts on all things pain. Their goal is to treat your symptoms so you can live a functioning life.

A pain management physician will most likely recommend a variety of treatments and therapies to help you cope with your pain. This is because it is important to treat all areas of your body that will most likely be affected by your pain. The more experts helping you, the better. They will be your own special treatment team and all of them will have the same goal, easing your pain as best they can.

Build Your Team

Your team should consist of a variety of healthcare professionals, friends and family members who truly want to see you succeed in the management of your pain. You do not want people in your life who just want to give you pain pills and let you sleep all day.

A pain management physician is one who can prescribe appropriate medications and monitor you closely to make sure the medicines are working and if not, help you find other medical treatments. They can also examine you on a regular basis and measure for improvements.

A psychologist should be on your team. They can help you work through the mental health issues you may encounter when it comes to pain. They can also help you treat your depression, anxiety or stress that is related to the pain.

A physiatrist and an anesthesiologist are also good team members. A physiatrist has an education in physical medicine and rehabilitation and can treat problems with the brain, nerves, bones, muscles, tendons and more.

A physical therapist can teach you specific exercises and movements that will help you ease pain where it is persistent.

Alternative therapies can also be beneficial to help ease some of your pain. Therapies such as acupuncture, yoga, massages and herbal remedies. There are many holistic practitioners who can help you focus on the mind, spirit, body connection to ease your pain.

Your friends and family should be on your team to help you stay positive, get some exercise, eat healthy and meet other needs your doctors can’t. They are not in your life to enable you, however, only to assist you in completing your own tasks.

Just because you have chronic pain does not mean you can’t have a happy life. There are many resources to assist you in managing your pain. You are valuable, purposeful and worth the effort!

 

5 Common Causes of Chronic Pain

blog, Pain Management Feb 24, 2017 No Comments

If you suffer from chronic pain then you know just how devastating it can be to suffer without relief. You know you have a pain, you feel sick, but not one of the many doctors you have seen can identify a source for your pain. It must be very frustrating to know that even the doctors don’t have an answer for you.

After many tests, procedures an examinations, medical professionals have offered you no help and have begun to treat you like you are just making up the pain to continue to receive pain medication. But you would do anything not to need the pain medication or the doctors. There may be a new avenue to try, and it focuses on your mental health, not your medical health. There are different causes of chronic pain, which leads to different types of pain being felt by an individual. We’ll explore the common causes of chronic pain, and how to ease this pain.

Causes of Chronic Pain

The brain is so powerful it can make your body think it has pain. In fact, there are many mental illnesses that actually cause physical pains on a chronic basis.

Mental illnesses such as somatoform disorder, conversion disorder or pain disorder can literally make a person feel pain even though there is no medical cause for the pain. These types of pains can be acute or chronic. Acute pains are temporary and don’t last for very long but they are very noticeable and cause you a lot of discomfort. Chronic pain can last for months or even years without any resolution.

Physical pain can act like a signal, letting us know there is more emotional work to be done. This is why it is so important to address any mental health symptoms that could be causing your chronic pain. Some other mental health disorders that have been shown to produce pain are depression and even post-traumatic stress disorder.

Somatoform Disorder

Somatoform disorder is a mental health illness that makes a person feel chronic pain but there is no physical reason for the pain they are feeling. The diagnostic and statistical manual has defined somatoform disorder as a person having one or more physical complaints but when evaluated medically, no source of the pain can be found. Because of this, people seek medical attention rather than psychiatric care.

Unfortunately, they are rarely helped when they see a medical doctor for this because normally, no medical issue can be found. In addition, patients with this disorder do not believe their problem is psychological mainly because they do actually feel pain. They can’t associate their pain as being a brain problem. When someone feels an actual pain, whether real or not, it is hard to convince them that their pain is really in their mind and not their body.

Conversion Disorder

Conversion disorder is defined as losing the functioning of a physical body part but with no physiological reason for the malfunctioning. These can include paralysis, temporary blindness, loss of smell, or loss of voice.

Conversion disorder usually starts after a traumatic event or psychological conflict. People with personality disorders such as bipolar have proven to experience conversion disorder more times than those without a personality disorder.

Symptoms can last a few days or a few weeks. The best treatment is talk therapy and learning how to cope with stress. Working through your mental health issues with a therapist can help relieve and possibly prevent conversion disorder symptoms.

Pain DisorderCognitive Behavioral Therapy | Comprehensive Pain Management Center

This disorder also deals with the chronic pain felt by a person but the diagnosis is usually related to their psychological problem. Symptoms include feeling helpless about the ability to get relief from pain management, insomnia, fatigue, depression, and anxiety. The person with pain disorder cannot function in a job or in social settings due to their disability.

Sometimes doctors prescribe prescription medications such as opiates to these patients thinking they may have fibromyalgia. However, by the time they realize it is a psychological disorder, the patient is already addicted. Convincing the person they do not need pain medication is nearly impossible due to the brain becoming dependent on the drugs. The brain does not want to quit opiates and it will do what it takes to keep you medicated.

Withdrawal from pain medications is also a hindrance to people quitting their use of the drugs. Furthermore, people who are prescribed pain medications do not necessarily consider themselves addicts because their drugs were given to them by a doctor.

Depression and Chronic Pain

Depression contributes greatly to chronic pain involving arthritis, migraines and backaches. Some reports show that even chest pains and digestive problems can be related to depression. Many people diagnosed with mood disorders complain of physical ailments that have caused them physical and mental disabilities.

Depression can make you feel fatigued and it can be a struggle some days just to get out of bed. A person with severe depression can even become neglectful to their physical health as well as their mental health.

If you are dealing with pain that seems to come around for no reason, take an assessment of your level of depression. You may just find that a very treatable disorder like depression is leading to your physical ailments.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Pain

Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder. It can cause physical pains after a traumatic event. Some examples of post-traumatic stress disorder are fighting in combat during war, sexual abuse as a child or adult, witnessing a murder or even witnessing domestic abuse of a parent.

Post-traumatic stress disorder, if not dealt with in therapy, can start to show itself through physical pain. Suppressed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder can be damaging to mental and physical health. These symptoms may include body aches, stomach pains, headaches, and trouble sleeping. One report states that up to 35 percent of people with chronic pain have some form of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Healing

So how do you deal with chronic pain that may be related to a mental illness? Seeing a Psychologist is essential for improvement. A mental health professional can correctly diagnose your disorder and set up a treatment plan to help improve your mental health and ease the physical pains you are feeling. Cognitive behavioral therapy and possibly medication can be a great combination in helping you overcome chronic pain caused by mental health disorders.

Now is the time for you to deal with your pain. You deserve to live pain free and if healing your mental health can get you that life, it is worth every effort. Make today your day to start healing!

 

5 of the Biggest Myths about Chronic Pain

Pain Management Jan 10, 2017 No Comments

Chronic pain is a sadly misunderstood topic – and it’s easy to see why. It’s not exactly natural, nor intuitive to experience pain on a constant level – and when you are subjected to pain, it’s hard to constructively think or analyze the situation.

Understanding the Basics

This isn’t a well-defined condition, in that some of its mechanisms are still relatively unknown to us, and there’s no way to tell what the underlying cause of the condition is in one patient to the next without a careful, professional diagnosis. However, the actual definition of this type of pain is simple, and well-known – and may help shatter some of the first few myths associated with this dreadful condition.

As a medical condition, this type of pain can be defined as any pain lasting more than 12 weeks. Note that there is a difference between acute pain and chronic pain: that difference lies in the duration and intensity. Acute pain is normal, natural, and wholly necessary for the basic function of a human body.  Pain that is chronic, however, is not that. It’s like an alarm system gone rogue, in the worst of ways. Before anyone can help fix your condition, however, you must first understand what it is – and what it isn’t.

Without pain, we’re much more likely to injure ourselves, or even die of genetic or unforeseen complications without any warning signs, including common medical conditions like appendicitis. To make things easy and clarify some of the biggest questions surrounding pain, we’ll tackle five common myths.

Myth 1: It’s all in your Head

We can all trace the origins of this thought. You feel pain – it’s sharp, or dull, or it comes and goes, but in every case, it’s pain that has been there for weeks and just isn’t going away. So you go to the doctor and hope for a sound and clear-cut medical diagnosis that won’t set ablaze your finances, or increase your risk of a heart attack.

Instead, you’re told that there is no apparent physical cause for your pain. Your first natural reasoning?

“Well, then it must be in my head.”

There is a definition for this – it’s called psychosomatic pain. However, psychosomatic pain isn’t chronic pain, and it’s rare that the origin of your pain is actually psychological in nature. Most of the time, the keyword here is that the doctor said “apparent physical cause” – this pain is still a treatable condition that can be traced to a malfunction in your nervous system, and it must be managed, not ignored.

Myth 2: Rest is the Cure-all for Pain.

Short-term rest can help the body recuperate physically and psychologically after a long, stressful day – but opting to be bed-ridden because of your pain won’t help your body magically set itself right again because pain is often something that won’t just fix itself like a cut or a bruise would.

Instead, you should try and be more active. Light activity and exercise can alleviate the symptoms of pain by flooding your brain with dopamine and other endorphins, even in cases of fibromyalgia, which is a condition of widespread physical pain, moodiness and memory problems.

There is a limit to how much time you should be spending hitting the weights, of course. Sometimes, chronic pain may mask a different ache, and putting your body under excessive stress isn’t the best response to that.

Myth 3: Prescription Medication isn’t Addictive when you’re actually in Pain  

It’s common knowledge that pain medication, often in the form of opioids and benzodiazepines, is addictive. They’re not exactly as effective in getting people hooked as heroin is, but prescription drug abuse is still a concern with much validity, with as many as 2.4 million medication addicts within the past year.

Still, there’s this belief that pain medication isn’t addictive in cases where you actually are in chronic pain, or that you  — with absolutely no prior history of drug abuse, and a dislike for drinking – could never possibly develop an addiction from prescription medication.

The truth is that physically dependent addicts won’t know how a drug or medication affects them mentally until they try it – and yes, pain medication is still addictive even when you are struggling with real pain. Remember that popular medical TV series, “House, M.D.”?

Myth 4: You can just push through it

In relation to the second myth in this article: no, this pain isn’t a minor pain you should ignore, or just “walk off”.

Typically there is a physical underlying cause for this pain – but there are times when that isn’t the case, as with psychosomatic pain. In these cases, the pain may eventually just go away.

That doesn’t mean you have to put yourself under the torturous stress of chronic pain when a simple treatment plan or a medication may help out. Pain management exists in its many forms for the simple reason that every person is different – and some treatment options work better for certain individuals than they do for others.

Myth 5: It’s all Part of getting Old  

It’s easy to look at most aging individuals and assume that the aches and pains of aging are synonymous to this pain – but that’s a massive folly.

Yes, an aging body is more prone to injury, and depending on your genetics, age, environment and lifestyle, you’re likely to develop age-related conditions like arthritis and dementia not as a result of your age, but in correlation to it (that means aging doesn’t cause pain, but often the two go hand-in-hand).

This doesn’t mean that everyone ages into a senior life marked by pain – especially the chronic kind, which is by no means normal. The cause of your pain doesn’t relate directly to your age – and being a senior citizen doesn’t automatically mean you have to settle for a pain-riddled life because that’s the assumption you’ve held for decades.

Chronic Pain Management | Comprehensive Pain Management CenterWhat is Pain?

Pain is a part of life. It’s important for the body to be able to experience pain and use it to guide you through a safe, healthy path in life. However, chronic pain is fundamentally different from acute pain. In some cases, it can be seen as useless pain. There are times when this pain occurs because of an underlying disease – but far too often, it’s the result of nerve damage or some other cause that is unrelated to any actual illness of physical problem.

Defining pain itself is tricky – what qualifies as pain is different from person to person. Some experience their pain as a reoccurring, sharp sensation. In other cases, it remains steadily as a dull pain, accentuated by rarer surges of intensity. In some cases, it’s akin to a burning sensation, or perhaps something like a nerve pinch.

Chronic Pain Management

Because the underlying reason can come from a relatively lengthy list of options, the pain itself is experienced uniquely from person to person. It’s easy to see why pain confuses many in its vagueness and relative flexibility as a medical condition, especially in a field where technical precision is expected.

There is no magic pill, no 100% surefire answer, and no ideal treatment for any single case of chronic pain. But there are guidelines, tips, pain management techniques and treatment options to suit the needs of every single pain sufferer out there.

 

How to Change Your Diet for Chronic Pain Relief

Pain Management Dec 09, 2016 No Comments

Dealing with chronic pain can often be a life-long struggle, underlined by years of medication and therapy. To many, the only way out of the pain is through pills. But while medication can alleviate some of the pain, the long term side effects of medication-based pain management can be drastic, and in some cases, devastating. To list just a few, WebMD notes that most over-the-counter pain management meds may cause symptoms such as:

  • Nausea
  • Liver damage
  • Heartburn
  • Stomach ulcers
  • And more

No one can suggest that life without pain medication is easier when dealing with chronic pain – but a constant, long-term overexposure to NSAIDs and other related meds can bring a host of other unwelcome issues to the table, calling attention to the need for sustainable and healthier alternatives, or supplemental pain management tips.

And among these, few carry as many widespread benefits to overall health, longevity, and quality of life as a change in diet. Changing your diet to include more antioxidant-rich, heavily nutritious anti-inflammatory foods can do wonders for chronic pain relief. But before we take a look at how diet and food affects your body and its relationship with chronic pain, we need to step behind the issue and understand how pain works.

What is Chronic Pain?

Pain isn’t meant to last very long in a properly-functioning body – it works as a warning system, an alarm that goes off sharply and shortly to warn you that something is very wrong, or when an underlying health condition reaches critical levels of danger.

Chronic pain, defined as pain that lasts for longer than three months, often occurs when your warning system is broken. This is especially common after injuries, as per Healthline, when nerves may be damaged to the point that they misfire and malfunction, sending pain signals when nothing is effectively wrong.

In other cases, chronic pain is the symptom of an underlying medical condition, like arthritis or spinal stress. And finally, there is psychogenic chronic pain – not caused by any physical factors, but by mental conditions like depression or anxiety, as per Very Well. So how does food play into all of this?

The answer lies in inflammation. While your food choices do not always cause inflammation or pain, they can easily exacerbate your chronic pain, and multiply its effect – or, when managed properly, lessen your symptoms and provide chronic pain relief.

How Food Affects Inflammation

Inflammation occurs when the body is fighting to remove foreign objects or bodies from its system, or when it is healing itself. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, as in its natural, healthy state, inflammation can be defined as hyperactivity in a specific part of your body, highlighted by higher temperatures and swelling.

But chronic inflammation, like chronic pain, means something has gone wrong, and your body is stuck constantly fighting what it perceives to be foreign cells, even if these are your very own.

When your body is injured, it draws on its own resources to heal that injury. Yet, as we all know, you are what you eat – and if your diet is primarily consisting of inflammatory foods, then you exacerbate the effects of arthritis and chronic pain. Red meats, sugars, refined oils, and hydrogenated fats are all common food items that, as per Harvard, increase inflammation in the body.

That is not to say meat, sugar, or fat is bad. Sugar is necessary for your body, as a source of fuel – but it is best consumed in the form of starches, in potatoes, and grains like rice. Fat is absolutely necessary for every major function in the body, and the absorption of vitamins – but too many seed oils, or any amount of trans fats will harm your body. Cold-pressed olive and coconut oils and fish are better sources of fat.

Meat, finally, is a clean source of energy and protein – but eating meat excessively without sufficient amounts of fruits and vegetables can lead to health consequences. One study in particular links meat to oxidative stress, obesity and inflammation. The exact mechanisms behind it are not exhaustively researched, but a suggested culprit is advanced glycation end-products, or AGEs.

What are AGEs?

AGEs are proteins bound to a glucose molecule, and the trouble with them is that the body has a hard time breaking them down, and thus releases an excessive amount of inflammatory messengers called cytokines, as per nutrition expert Julie Daniluk on CNN.

AGEs are most commonly linked to sugars, but are also far more present in cooked meats than in vegetables, as per a study by Jaime Uribarri, MD et al. However, meat and sugar consumption aren’t the root cause of increased inflammation – while the evidence suggests that they certainly promote it, many people suffer from exacerbated levels of pain because of a lack of anti-inflammatory foods, perhaps even more so than due to a diet rich in meat.

A Basic Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Pain ReliefHow to Change Your Diet for Chronic Pain Relief | Comprehensive Pain Management Center

One study showed no increase in inflammation following two months of increased lean meat. Instead, it may be that markers for inflammation go down not because of an elimination of meat from the diet, but an increase in antioxidant-rich, heavily nutritious anti-inflammatory foods, such as:

  • Green leafy vegetables.
  • Tomatoes.
  • Fish fats.
  • Berries and citrus fruits.
  • Olive oils.

What all of these foods have in common are high levels of antioxidants, omega-3 fats, and polyphenols. Polyphenols are phytochemicals abundant in antioxidant-rich foods, and as per a study in the American Society for Clinical Nutrition, they are directly linked to the prevention of degenerative diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

Antioxidants, on the other hand, combat oxidative stress and help balance the body’s natural levels of oxidative stress. Oxidants, like inflammation, are necessary for a healthy immune system and fight to fend off foreign bacteria and viruses, but without antioxidants to limit the free radicals in your body, your risk of degenerative diseases like cancer and heart disease, and increased pain through inflammation, shoots up.

You don’t have to go vegan. As per Arthritis.org, a vegan or vegetarian diet greatly benefits from anti-inflammatory foods, but when mismanaged, can lead to deficits in B12 and iron. Aim to drastically reduce the amount of meat, sugar, and flour in your diet, and replace it with more the above foods, and other plant-based sources of starch and protein.

In Conclusion

Good food does a body good – that is about as simple as it gets. While the nutritional benefits of meat and dairy are noteworthy, excessive amounts of both is usually followed by a host of physical consequences.

More to the point, a diet lacking in fresh sources of micronutrients and phytochemicals – especially from dark leafy greens – can increase the lifetime risk of heart disease, cancer, and auto-immune diseases, and offer no chronic pain relief.

Do note, however, that not all forms of pain are managed effectively through a good diet. That being said, a good diet directly relates to the overall health and wellbeing of a person, bringing with it other benefits like a healthy weight, a stronger immune system, higher levels of alertness, and when paired with exercise, it can help keep a clear mind and boost self-esteem in cases of depression and anxiety.

Whether or not your chronic pain has anything to do with inflammation, the benefits of a nutritious diet should never be overlooked.

 

7 Tips to Help You Manage Chronic Back Pain

Back Pain, Back Pain Treatments, Pain Management Oct 20, 2016 2 Comments

Are you burdened by chronic back pain? You are not alone, back pain is the second most common reason people visit the doctor in the US. If you have reported your pain to your doctor and told that you don’t have an acute injury and are just plagued with back pain that seems to have no cause, then there are easy ways to manage your back pain, so it stops interfering with you being able to lead a happy, productive life. Try one or more of these seven tips to help you manage your chronic back pain.

1. Replace That Stiff Mattress That May Be Making Your Chronic Back Pain Worse

One way that many chronic back pain sufferers unknowingly contribute to their own symptoms is by sleeping on an old mattress or the wrong type of mattress. Years ago, doctors recommended that sufferers of back pain sleep on very firm mattresses. Today, mattress recommendations have changed, and a survey conducted by Harvard Medical School actually revealed that people who slept on the firmest mattresses experienced the worst quality of sleep.

What is the best mattress for back pain? The answer actually varies from person to person. Only super-soft and super-firm mattresses should be avoided. To find the best mattress for you, visit a showroom on a day when your back pain is acting up and choose the mattress type that helps relieve this pain when you lie on it.

2. Choose the Right Computer Chair

Whether you sit at a computer desk all day long while at work or just spend a few hours in the evening browsing social media websites, sitting in the wrong chair can cause your back pain to worsen. Make sure the seat of your chair is cushioned and the back of their chair offers lumbar support.

3. Position Your Computer Properly

You also want to make sure that your computer is properly aligned with your line of vision to keep back pain away. If your computer is too low, then you may hunch your back as you look down at the screen.

Make sure that when you sit down at your computer, you can comfortably view the screen when looking straight ahead. If not, then adjust the height of your computer chair or purchase a new chair or computer desk that allows you to view the screen in a more comfortable fashion.

4. Make Heat Therapy a Habit

There are many easy ways to apply heat to your achy back, and you shouldn’t wait until your back pain is at its worst to do it. Heat relieves pain immediately by disrupting the nerve signals your back is sending to your brain that sense pain. However, it also increases blood flow to your back that aids in healing.

Try a heating pad on a “low” setting when you are at home and try the self-heating pads that you can stick onto your aching back when you are away from home.

5. Try TENS

TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, and this therapy has been proven to help relieve back pain. There are small, portable TENS units on the market today that you can use at home.

Similar to heat, the low-intensity electronic impulses the machine sends to your back interferes with the “message” your body is sending to your brain that tells it you are in pain. The mild electric current also causes your brain to produce endorphins, which are your body’s natural pain-killing hormones.

6. Hit the Spice Cabinet and Try Turmeric

If you have ever eaten an Indian curry dish, then you may have already tried turmeric and not even realized it. Turmeric has reached new popularity due to not only its taste, but also its great health benefits.

Turmeric has natural anti-inflammatory properties that make it very beneficial to anyone dealing with chronic pain,including back pain. Just mix 1/4 teaspoon into a small glass of milk or sprinkle it on a meal each day, and you may be surprised at how much pain relief it gives you.

7. Strike a Few Pain-Relieving Poses at a Local Yoga Studio

Strengthening your back muscles can help aid in pain relief as well as gentle stretching of them several times each week. You can help strengthen your muscles while stretching at the same time by performing yoga.

 

Simple Tips to Help You Manage Chronic Pain

blog, Pain Management, Wellness Aug 31, 2016 No Comments

Pain indicates that something is wrong with the body. It can slowly show up over time or it can come on suddenly after an injury. Pain can range from mild to severe, and can come and go or occur on an acute basis. Acute pain comes on all at once and is usually brief, commonly in response to an injury. Acute pain disappears once the underlying cause has been treated. So, if you develop acute pain after a broken arm, it should go away once the arm is treated.

Chronic pain, on the other hand, is long-lasting and returns often. It may result from an injury that did not heal correctly or an illness. Sometimes, no cause can be found. Chronic pain can persist for years. It affects your physical and emotional well-being.

Chronic pain causes more disability than heart disease or cancer, according to experts. How can you best manage chronic pain? Here are a few tips.

Eat the Right Foods

Diet can have a significant effect on your well-being. Inflammation in the body can be reduced through diet, treating the underlying cause of many chronic pain conditions. Research has found that patients that follow a strict Mediterranean or vegan diet have reduced levels of chronic pain. If possible, adopt a diet that includes large amounts of vegetables, olives, and other healthy oils. Foods that cause inflammation include chocolate, high-fat red meat, and processed foods. It is best to stay away from these foods if you suffer from chronic pain.

Yoga

Yoga has long been used to manage pain. This centuries-old practice provides stress-relief and helps to calm the mind. Pain often occurs because of chronic muscle spasms, and practicing the postures of yoga can help you train your muscles how to relax and lengthen, decreasing muscle spasms.

Check Your Hormones

Hormones are chemicals that are produced by your endocrine glands. They work much like messengers in the body. They send signals to the rest of your body to keep it functioning. Hormones control your metabolism, as well as many other important body functions.

Hormones are essential to your body and when released in excessive amounts or at wrong timings can disrupt major body systems. New research indicates that hormones are useful in treating chronic pain. Your physician can talk to you about hormone replacement therapy, which can help regulate your emotions and reduce pain.

Talk to a Professional

Talking to a therapist about your pain may help reduce it, according to the American Psychological Association. They have found that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is effective for chronic pain. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy teaches you how to change your thoughts regarding troubles in your life before they become destructive. It also teaches stress management and coping skills for use during times of high stress.

Additional Ways to Manage Chronic Pain

When lifestyle and diet changes are not enough, you may need to seek additional methods to treat your pain. Always check with a chronic pain specialist to decide which alternatives are best for you. They can help you identify additional ways to manage chronic pain safely.

 

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