Dealing with chronic pain

By news-medical.net — From news-medical.net Published at August 11, 2011 Views 2,165 Comments 6 Likes 4

For people with severe chronic pain like Kelly Young and Teresa Shaffer—both of whom have become patient advocates —coping with agony is a fact of life. Young suffers from rheumatoid arthritis while Shaffer's pain is linked primarily to another degenerative bone disease.

Chronic pain is one of the most difficult—and common—medical conditions. Estimated to affect 76 million Americans—more than diabetes, cancer and heart disease combined—it accompanies illnesses and injuries ranging from cancer to various forms of arthritis, multiple sclerosis and physical trauma.

Pain is defined as chronic when it persists after an injury or illness has otherwise healed, or when it lasts three months or longer. The experience of pain can vary dramatically, depending in part on whether it is affecting bones, muscles, nerves, joints or skin. Untreated pain can itself become a disease when the brain wrongly signals agony when there is no new injury or discernable other cause. Fibromyalgia— a disease in which pain in joints, muscles and other soft tissues is the primary symptom—is believed to be linked to incorrect signaling in the brain's pain regions.

Finding a Doctor

The first step to deal with chronic pain is to find a physician or medical team who can accurately diagnose your condition and work with you to lessen pain.

"It's not easy," says Shaffer, "You have to find someone [with whom you can] build a relationship of trust and open communication."

Dr. Russell Portenoy, chairman of pain medicine and palliative care at Beth Israel Medical Center, agrees. "You need to identify someone with a high level of knowledge and competence, good communication skills and a network of professionals with whom they work, someone who has compassion," he says.

Dr. Paul Christo, director of the multidisciplinary pain fellowship program at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, also suggests looking for someone who has completed at least a year-long certification in pain management. This information can usually be obtained on the doctor's website or by asking about his or her qualifications.

Comprehensive Treatment

Experts agree that comprehensive care—which can involve medications, exercise, psychological therapy, massage, physical therapy, injections and complementary treatments, depending on the patient and condition—is essential.

"The reason we now call chronic pain an illness is that we recognize that it is more than just a sensation in the body," Portenoy says, "It affects your ability to function as a human being, your relationships, your ability to be productive, to think straight."

Unfortunately, because they have so often been dismissed as having a problem that's "all in your head," many people with chronic pain resist considering talk therapy as a part of treatment.

"A lot of people have the misconception that what I'm telling them [when recommending therapy] is that their pain is a figment of their imagination," Christo says. "That's not what we mean. Pain has such an emotional component and psychotherapy is extremely useful in terms of helping patients reorganize and rethink how they interpret it and how it affects their lives."

Says Shaffer, "Pain encompasses the entire person. It's not just in your leg or back. It encompasses the entire being of who you are and what you can do and don't do. So physically, mentally psychologically: you have to take care of all of those things."

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dapeck
dapeck September 28, 2011 at 10:03 am   

i have had 1 hip, 1 knee replacement and 1 back surgery. i have another knee i have had 2 rounds of halogen shots. i exercise 45 to 60 minutes daily. the biggest help i got was from a physical therapist who gave me several lower back, hip, hamstring and knee stretches to do. i do them every day and it has greatly improved my life. i am 70.

Marjin
Marjin September 28, 2011 at 6:47 am   

I have not yet found a doctor who can help me sort out my pain. I am not sure if the pain in my hips down thru my legs and feet comes from my knees, arthritis, or my restless legs syndrome. Doctor just gives me more pills and now I am taking Bayer back and body caplets every day just to get by the pain. I am still looking for someone to really help me.

qitxn
qitxn September 22, 2011 at 10:36 pm   

Chronic pain is terrible. It starts to wear on you mentally and physically. I have tried everything, I need spine surgery but can't afford it. Maybe oneday I will get the surgery I need and have some relief, for now I get along the best I can. I still have one of my boys at home for another year, then he'll go to college. I'm really dreading being alone and not getting all the things done that my family has always helped me accomplish…laundry, vaccuuming, yardwork, not to mention companionship and hugs. Love to all who have chronic pain. I really believe in stretching, meditation and positive thinking. Many Blessings to you!

wolfie or booboo
wolfie or booboo September 22, 2011 at 10:05 pm   

I know all about chronec pain and I do believe it to be the worst! When i lost my leg I thought it was over butboy did I have a major wake up call. Then years later I find out that the loss of my leg caused me to have my spine begin to degenerate on me which causes more cronic pain thatn I could ever imagine.Then I found out I have scoliosis of the spine.Thats just a slight case but all combined is almost unbarable! But all I can do is what the Dr.s tell me to and prey for relief! So I do alot of Preyin but it seems I prey for everyone else instead of for me! But I think he blesses me for that so I keep preying for others and once in a while I prey for myself! and it helps! Don't stop preying because it was GOD who gave the DR.s their intelegence! Along with their Schooling of course. But in my life GOD means every thing to me! But I still believe in Dr.s too! I believe one without the other it would probably not work as well as it does, even though some times I truly wish it all worked better! And can you believe they want me to go back to work!!!!!!!!!! I just can't see my self working again. after working for a communications office where they had me in a small booth, now I have a slight case of closterfobia that I just deal with on my own! I hope that something I have said might help someone else some how!

bugs46
bugs46 September 22, 2011 at 4:48 pm   

RIGHT NOW I AM TRYING TO FINISH THIS SURVAY

MWmelbourne
MWmelbourne September 22, 2011 at 4:25 pm   

chronic "anything" tends to narrow the focus.. we need to look at the whole or "big" picture and not just the disease! Good food for thought.

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