The month of September has been declared Pain Awareness Month. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, chronic pain is the nation’s primary cause of lost workdays. It affects more people than cancer, heart disease and diabetes combined, with over 100 million Americans suffering from it. Pain is a costly epidemic that causes millions of Americans to suffer and Pain Awareness Month initiatives are intended to get citizens to recognize the effects of pain and the symptoms associated with pain so that individuals can find appropriate relief and regain a strong quality of life.
Pain is associated with a wide range of injury and disease, and is sometimes the disease itself. Some conditions may have pain and associated symptoms arising from a discrete cause, such as postoperative pain or pain associated with a malignancy, or may be conditions in which pain constitutes the primary problem, such as neuropathic pains or headaches. While acute pain is a normal sensation triggered in the nervous system to alert you to possible injury and the need to take care of yourself, chronic pain is different. Chronic pain persists. Pain signals keep firing in the nervous system for weeks, months, even years.
Once the cause of the pain is found and proper treatment is started, the pain may serve the useful function of keeping the affected individual at rest so that the injury or illness can heal. But if the pain is from an illness that is incurable and will never heal, the pain loses its usefulness and becomes harmful. This type of pain keeps a person from normal activity, and inactivity decreases strength. If you hurt and it doesn’t seem to get better, see your primary care doctor or a pain specialist. They can help you find relief so pain won’t keep you from living your life. Some options include medicine, relaxation therapy, physical therapy, acupuncture, and lifestyle changes, such as getting enough sleep and not smoking. There are several types of medications are available that can help treat chronic pain or certain medical procedures that can also provide relief from chronic pain.
There isn’t a cure for chronic pain, but the condition can be managed. It’s important to stick to your pain management plan to help relieve symptoms. Physical pain is related to emotional pain, so chronic pain can increase your stress levels. Building emotional skills can help you cope with any stress related to your condition.
You may always have some pain. But in most cases, chronic pain can be managed so that you can get on with your life and do your daily activities. You can use home treatment for mild pain or pain that you have now and then. Using over-the-counter pain medicines such as acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen may also help. You may want to try complementary therapies such as massage and yoga. Chronic pain may make it challenging to perform certain tasks. But isolating yourself can give you a more negative outlook on your condition and increase your sensitivity to pain.