Everyone experiences pain. You might cut your finger while cooking, stub your toe while walking through a dark room, or knock your elbow on a door frame. What is pain? It’s not the sharp knife, the rearranged chair, or the wild gesture. Those things resulted in pain, but pain itself is a signal in the nervous system. We may even experience pain long after the threat is gone and the tissues have healed. Chronic pain isn’t something to endure — it can be treated.
People experience pain in many different ways; it can be aching, throbbing, sharp, dull, or searing. Pain can cause discomfort, or it can be debilitating. You may experience pain briefly, or it may last for weeks, months, or even years. Stress, anxiety, and depression can make pain worse. Sometimes pain causes other symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, dizziness, or irritability.
Pain can’t be measured objectively — it must be self-reported. People also have different pain thresholds and tolerances for pain. This can make it difficult to identify the source of pain and treat pain. You don’t have to deal with pain alone, however. Your primary care physician can help diagnose and treat chronic pain.You don't have to tolerate pain; there are many different treatment options for pain management. Talk to your doctor if you experience chronic pain. Click To Tweet
Acute pain vs. chronic pain
Acute pain from a minor illness or injury doesn’t always require medical care. That nick on your finger and that knock on your elbow are examples of acute pain. These injuries hurt for a short period of time, but they get better and the pain goes away as the tissues heal.
Pain that lasts for an extended period of time is known as chronic, or persistent, pain. Some physicians diagnose chronic pain after three months of ongoing pain, while others wait for six months. Chronic pain can last for years, and — for some people — chronic pain may never go away.
What causes chronic pain?
Chronic pain often results from disease or injury. Infections, old injuries, arthritis, sedentary living, and chronic conditions or disease such as arthritis, cancer, and fibromyalgia can cause chronic pain. Sometimes the cause is unknown. Common sites for chronic pain include the back, shoulders, neck, arthritic pain, and headaches.
Medical treatment can help cure, relieve, or manage chronic pain.
Know when to see a doctor for pain
Sometimes making lifestyle changes can help prevent or reduce sensations of pain. Staying active, eating a healthy diet, avoiding unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and drinking alcohol, avoiding sedentary living, managing stress, and establishing a solid sleep routine can be effective pain management tools.
Making lifestyle changes might not be enough, however. Chronic pain is the leading cause of long-term disability and it can affect your quality of life.
Many people just accept pain as a normal part of their life. Maybe they have an old injury that causes chronic pain, or they relieve pain symptoms with over-the-counter medicine. This isn’t the best plan. Sometimes chronic pain is a sign of something more serious than an old football injury. And sometimes you don’t have to live with it. It’s essential to consult a medical professional to treat and manage chronic pain.
While some doctors may wait three months to diagnose chronic pain, you shouldn’t wait that long to see a doctor. If you have persistent pain, pain gets in the way of your daily life, or pain negatively affects your quality of life, schedule an appointment with your primary care provider.