Chronic pain is one of the worst contributors to a decreased quality of life. Pain is a neurological signal to the brain indicating to a person a threat to their well-being. There can be various reasons why this signal is broadcast through the nervous system regardless of any actual tissue damage.
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What Is Chronic Pain?
Chronic Pain occurs independently of any actual body tissue damage (due to injury or illness), and exists beyond normal tissue healing time.
It is estimated that 116 million Americans have chronic pain each year. The cost in the United States is $560–$635 billion annually for medical treatment, lost work time, and lost wages.
Chronic pain affects each person experiencing it differently. In some cases, chronic pain can lead to decreased activity levels, job loss, or financial difficulties, as well as anxiety, depression, and disability.
Physical therapists work together with chronic pain patients to lessen their pain and restore their activity to the highest possible levels. With treatment, the negative effects of chronic pain can be reduced.
CHRONIC PAIN PROGRAM
There are many different causes of chronic pain, but the most severe contributions to pain include:
- Trauma Injuries
- Limb Amputation
- Reflex Sympatric Dystrophy
- Spinal Related Problems
Pain is an unpleasant sensation that we usually associate with injury or tissue damage, but can actually be present in the absence of tissue damage as well. Pain can be acute or chronic.
Acute pain lasts for a short time – up to 12 weeks. It is a warning that tissue damage has occurred or may occur, or to help us prevent injury or disease. For instance, if we touch a hot stove, the body sends a danger message to the brain that there is a threat to tissues in order to prevent further injury. A sore foot can signal a need to change your footwear. In some cases, the danger messages may be due to some disease process, and your brain may interpret those messages as pain. This can cause you to seek medical attention – diagnosis and treatment – for what may be a serious condition. Signaling pain in this manner is the body’s way of protecting us and is a good thing.
Chronic pain is any discomfort or unpleasant sensation that lasts for more than 3 months – or beyond an expected normal healing time. Often, those who have chronic pain believe they have an ongoing disease or that their body has not healed, when this may not be the case. Chronic pain is likely not warning you of possible injury or danger; instead, the pain centers in the brain may be causing you to hurt even though there are no new causes of pain occurring in the body. Anyone can develop chronic pain, at any age.
How chronic pain feels varies with each individual; it is very personal. How often it occurs, how severe it is, or how long it lasts is not predictable from one person to another.
Common complaints related to chronic pain include:
- It may seem as if “everything hurts, everywhere.”
- There may be sudden stabs of pain.
- It may seem as if the pain “has a mind of its own.”
- You feel symptoms even if you are not doing anything to cause them.
- It feels worse when you think about it.
- It feels worse when you experience upsetting circumstances in your life.
- You may feel more anxious and depressed.
- You may feel your symptoms spread from one area to another area.
- You may feel fatigued, and afraid to do your normal activities.
These complaints are common when you have chronic pain. However, it does not necessarily mean that your physical condition is worsening; it may just mean that your system has become more sensitive.
Research finds the following signs may be associated with chronic pain syndrome:
- Body stiffness
- Long term inactivity
- Decreased circulation
- Weight gain and/or a worsening of other conditions
- Increased use of medication
Individual behaviors can include:
- Seeking out of many different doctors or health care providers and facilities to find relief.
- Difficulties with job performance. Some people with chronic pain even seek work disability.
- Avoidance of social situations or family members.
When pain is ongoing, you may find you have feelings of bitterness, frustration, or depression. Some people report they have thoughts of suicide. If you are having these feelings, tell your doctor. This is important, so that you can get appropriate medications to help you feel better.
CHRONIC PAIN TREATMENT
Your physical therapist will perform a thorough evaluation. He or she will:
- Ask specific questions about your past and present health and use of medication.
- Ask about your symptoms: their location, intensity, how and when the pain occurs, and other questions, to form a clear picture of your individual situation.
- Ask you to fill out pain and function questionnaires, to understand how the pain is affecting your daily life.
- Perform tests and movements with you. The tests help to identify problems with posture, flexibility, muscle strength, joint mobility, and movement. Special tests help to rule out any serious health problem such as pressure on a nerve or an underlying disease.
- Observe how you use your body for home, work, and social/leisure activities. This information helps your therapist prescribe a program that will boost your quality of life, and get you moving your best.
Imaging tests such as x-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are often not helpful for diagnosing the cause of chronic pain. However, if your physical therapist suspects that your pain might be caused by any serious underlying condition, he or she will refer you to your physician for evaluation.
Your physical therapist will work with you to educate you on chronic pain, find solutions to improve your quality of life, and get you moving again! He or she will help you improve movement, teach you pain management strategies, and, in many cases, reduce your pain.
Not all chronic pain is the same. Your therapist will evaluate your clinical examination and test results and design an individualized treatment plan that fits you best.
Physical therapy treatments may include:
- Strengthening and flexibility exercises
- Manual therapy
- Posture awareness and body mechanics instruction
The use of ice, heat, or electrical stimulation has not been found to be helpful with chronic pain. Your physical therapist, however, will determine if any of these treatments could benefit your unique condition.
Research shows that treating pain as soon as possible helps to prevent chronic pain. Don’t ignore pain. Serious pain or pain that does not get better as expected should be treated.
Your physical therapist will work with you to develop strategies to prevent chronic pain, such as:
- Keeping up with your normal activities as much as possible.
- Avoiding bed rest. Long periods of bed rest will not improve your pain and may make it worse. Prolonged bed rest puts you at risk of other complications as well, including increased muscle weakness, bone loss, weight gain, and poor circulation.
- Improving posture. Your therapist will help you adjust your posture so your body can work at optimal efficiency to reduce joint stress and help to reduce your symptoms.
- Performing exercises to improve and restore your sense of the involved body area. Your therapist will also teach you exercises to restore movement (range of motion), mobilize nervous tissue (main component of nervous system), and rebuild your strength for performing routine daily activities.
- Introducing meditation, relaxation, and imagery exercises to help reduce stress and muscle tension.
- Learning fully about your condition. This will help you better understand what is occurring in your body, so you don’t worry about every new ache, pain, or symptom.
- Maintaining healthy activity levels and improving your overall health.
GET THE RIGHT TREATMENT
Kleinpeter Physical Therapy offers our patients the most advanced technologies and treatments that offer proven, effective results. We are determined to work with you and get you back to your active life as quickly and safely as possible.
If you are ready to book an appointment, use the link below.
An Entire Team Focused On You
As experts in restoring and improving mobility and movement in people’s lives, physical therapists play an important role not only in treating persistent pain but developing a custom regimen so you can return to living your life.
You want a therapist who is dedicated to providing friendly, personalized attention to each and every patient. Someone who takes the time to get to know and understand you, for continuity of care that offers you better results.
Kleinpeter is here for you. Contact us today to help you begin living pain-free