Chronic Pain; A Chronic Problem
Most of us recognize what the term “chronic” means. And unfortunately, we’re all familiar with pain. But many people do not fully understand, specifically, what chronic pain is. It’s an issue that impacts millions of people in very different ways. There are reliable and proven methods for dealing with it, but before trying to tackle the issue it’s important first to get a handle on what it is and why it happens.
So, what is chronic pain?
The Definition of Chronic Pain
The word chronic is defined as “persisting for a long time or constantly recurring.” So chronic pain is an ache or ailment — usually tingling, prickling or crushing feelings — in a specific area that continually affects us over long periods of time. There are two categories of chronic pain: neuropathic and nociceptive.
Neuropathic pain is caused by damage to the nerves, or malfunctioning of the nerves themselves. Meanwhile, nociceptive pain is that which does not relate directly to improper nerve function.
If you’ve ever seen a diagram of the human body’s nervous system, then you recognize that our bodies contain a vast, complex network of nerves. They reach into every part of our anatomy and branch in hundreds of directions. The potential for miscommunications, misfires and malfunctions is unfortunately quite high. And as we age the risk of chronic pain becomes increasingly significant.
When we talk about neuropathic pain, we’re usually talking about damaged nerves, or general damage to the central nervous system. This type of chronic pain can be tough to treat because it requires acutely pinpointing the affected area. This isn’t as simple as finding a broken bone on an X-ray or pressing around the skin until you find tenderness.
Nociceptive pain refers to situations involving the nociceptors, which are the receptors on the nerves themselves that are responsible for transmitting messages of pain. Within the realm of nociceptive pain there are two sub-categories: somatic and visceral.
Somatic pain can be traced to specific body part like the skin, muscles, ligaments, bones or joints. This is easily the more common of the two. Visceral pain affects your internal organs, usually within your core (abdomen or chest). Many of our organs do not have pain receptors, but those that do can be troublesome sources of visceral chronic pain.
Common Types of Chronic Pain
Let’s take a look at the most frequently reported variations of chronic pain, and we’ll determine which of the above categories they fall under.
- Back Pain: This is number one on the list. Nearly everyone experiences pain in their back at times — if you sleep on it wrong, if you pull something while lifting, etc. — but only an ongoing reoccurring sensations that last six or more months would typically be diagnosed as chronic pain. People often routinely visit chiropractors or massage therapists to deal with this often inhibiting problem.
- Headache Pain: If you get a headache every now and then, that’s called episodic and it’s not too unusual. If it’s an extremely regular occurrence, then it may be chronic. People who experience migraines 15 or more days per month would fall under this umbrella.
- Joint Pain: It can affect your knees, shoulders, hips or any other joint in the body. It can be caused by trauma, arthritic conditions or sports injuries. And when it’s bad, chronic joint pain can be absolutely debilitating. This is an issue that increasingly tend to haunt people as they get older.
- Abdominal Pain: Sometimes this relates to the muscles, which would be a somatic pain. Other times it comes from the actual stomach and surrounding organs, which would be visceral pain. In either case, it’s tough to deal with.
- Chest Pain: Symptoms of chronic chest pain can include shortness of breath, discomfort and painful swallowing. Of course, given the potential severity of such problems, it’s advisable to see a physician if you’re experiencing these pains.
Now that we are familiar with the most common types of chronic pain, how do we deal with these issues and overcome them to get the most out of life? Check back soon and we’ll cover the best supplements and strategies for relieving chronic pain.