Acute pain is pain which is short-lived and goes away once the injury or the condition which caused it has healed. Chronic pain is when pain occurs on a regular weekly basis for more than three months.
In Australia, it is estimated that one in five adults experience chronic pain. The condition is often caused by injuries such as sporting injuries, car accidents, or accidents which have occurred either at home or in the office. Chronic pain can also be caused by ongoing diseases such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancers. There are even some cases in which no physical causes for pain can be detected, or the pain appears to persist long after the original injury has healed. Sometimes chronic pain can be looked at as a disorder itself instead of being an early symptom of a disease.
Assessing Chronic Pain
It is important to see a doctor to assess pain to ensure that there is no serious underlying condition. The doctor will most likely ask you about your medical history, perform a brief physical examination and possibly some tests. If there is anything you don’t understand about your condition or that worries you, make sure that you consult with your doctor.
Managing Chronic Pain
Each patient will have different needs for their chronic pain management programme, which is why a doctor will often be involved in drawing up a personal management programme individually tailored for you. Management methods can include medication and consulting other specialist therapists such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and clinical psychologists.
Although each patient will have an individualised chronic pain management programme, there are a number of non-pharmacological treatments many patients find helpful in pain management including;
- Learning to prioritise so that you can complete the most important tasks first.
- Pace yourself throughout your day so that you don’t become over-tired by attempting to do too much in one go.
- Learning and practising exercises which are appropriate to your condition.
- Learning and practising relaxation techniques to help distract you from focusing on your pain.
- Better sleep habits and remedies to assist you in getting a better night’s sleep.
- Massages and acupuncture to encourage the body to heal itself and release natural endorphins which can provide pain relief.
- Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). This is a form of therapy which can change the way you think, feel, and behave about pain and is a valuable strategy when it comes to self-managing chronic pain.
- Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) therapy. This is when a small electrical current passes through the skin via electrodes and stimulates a pain-relieving response from the body.
Patients who suffer from chronic pain are at a higher risk of developing anxiety and depression which can make the pain appear worse than it actually is. If you are feeling anxious or depressed, it’s essential to speak to your doctor who can help you manage your mental health and possibly prescribe appropriate medication.
Although you may not be able to completely relieve your chronic pain, following a good chronic pain management programme can be helpful.