What Is Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain is best defined in opposition to acute pain. Conventionally, chronic pain, unlike acute pain, lasts more than 3 months since onset. Although there is no consensus as to how long pain should last before it is considered chronic, the three month period is traditionally accepted as the borderline that differentiates acute and chronic pain. In addition to the medical explanation, chronic pain is also defined as the type of pain that extends beyond the expected time for healing.
Chronic pain may be caused by the activation of nociceptors, in which case it is referred to as nociceptive pain, or by the damage of the nervous system, in which case it is referred to as neuropathic pain. Nociceptive pain is divided into two categories depending on where it is located:
- Superficial chronic pain is triggered by nociceptors located in the skin or superficial tissues;
- Deep pain may be classified as somatic and visceral;
Somatic chronic pain starts with the stimulation of nociceptors in bones and associated structures (tendons, ligaments, muscles, blood vessels). This type of pain feels dull and aching and cannot be precisely localized. On the other hand, visceral pain is clearly localized and originates in the organs. Although visceral chronic pain has a clear origin, it is sometimes difficult to locate it as the pain tends to be felt in a different area than the site of the injury.
Neuropathic chronic pain can originate in the peripheral nervous system, in which case it is called peripheral or it can originate in the brain or the spinal cord, in which case it is referred to as central. The description of peripheral chronic pain differs from person to person, but it is most commonly described as pins and needles, electrical, burning, stabbing, or tingling.
It is rarely possible to achieve total and persistent remission of most neuropathies throughtherapy. The same is true for pain that extends beyond the expected period of healing. Remission is also difficult and often impossible to achieve when it comes to chronic pain that has no known underlying cause. However, chronic pain can be reduced and many patients can experience improved quality of life.
Chronic pain management is a relatively new branch of medicine that is concerned with pain relief and improvement of the quality of life for those affected by the debilitating effects of living with pain. Unlike any other medical branch, pain management entails a highly interdisciplinary approach that includes not only medical practitioners, but also clinical psychologists, physiotherapists, chiropractors, nurse practitioners, and occupational therapists. Effective chronic pain management requires the synchronized efforts of the entire treatment team.
In addition to the many medical chronic pain management techniques available, there are alternative therapies available for sufferers, such as acupuncture, chiropractic, and massages are just some of the most common techniques. There is hypnosis, structural integration, behavioral therapy, and prolotherapy available as well. Just like with all therapies, the results are different from patient to patient. However, most sufferers react positively to both alternative and traditional therapies.
If you are struggling with chronic pain, contact the team at Chiro-Med Rehab Centre today. We’d be happy to consult with you on your pain issues and develop a custom treatment plan for you.