Got pain? Nearly 100 million Americans experience chronic pain —more than those who have diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined. Pain Awareness Month was established in 2001 by a consortium of organizations coordinated by the American Chronic Pain Association (A.C.P.A.). Chronic pain is defined as long-standing pain that persists beyond the usual recovery period or occurs along with a chronic health condition, such as arthritis.
Pain can occur in many areas of the body and can occur at any time in life whether from an accident, a health condition, or other reasons. Knowing that you are not alone in this battle and that you have options for treating the pain can be very comforting for some people. Pain professionals and activists from all around the country get together to raise awareness about problems connected to chronic pain during this month.
Who gets chronic pain?
Almost four out of five older adults have multiple chronic conditions besides arthritis, like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. The combination can heighten pain and discomfort. Of the nearly 100 million people who suffer from chronic pain, women are more likely to develop chronic pain and often feel pain more intensely than men. Does chronic pain only affect a certain age group? According to a study as many as 75% of those 65 and older report persistent pain from arthritis and other chronic conditions.
Some of the highest profile stars have battled chronic diseases like scoliosis (a curvature of the spine), fibromyalgia, or complex regional pain syndrome since childhood. Morgan Freeman and Lady Gaga suffer from fibromyalgia, George Clooney suffers from an accident causing a spinal cord injury, Jackie Chan has chronic back pain, and Elizabeth Taylor deals with pain related to scoliosis.
What types of chronic pain are there?
Chronic pain can be a symptom of many different conditions, such as:
Arthritis, or joint pain
Cancer pain near a tumor
Headaches, including migraines
Testicular pain (orchialgia)
Lasting pain in scar tissue
Muscle pain all over (such as with fibromyalgia)
Arthritis refers to over 100 different conditions ranging from autoimmune disease to normal joint inflammation. There are more than 100 types of arthritis and related diseases, and all arthritis pain is alike. It can originate in different areas of the musculoskeletal system, triggering chemical and electrical signals that travel from the affected area and alert your brain that you’re hurt. From there, things get personal. Everyone’s threshold and tolerance for pain are unique.
In addition to arthritis, eight out of ten people will have back pain at some time in their life according to the National Institutes of Health. Nearly 65 million Americans report a recent episode of back pain. Some 16 million adults — 8 percent of all adults — experience persistent or chronic back pain, and as a result are limited in certain everyday activities. Back pain is the sixth most costly condition in the United States.
What are the options for treating chronic pain?
There are many different methods and techniques for treating pain, both chronic and acute.
Botox for pain relief — For patients who have a painful and debilitating nerve compression disorder called thoracic outlet syndrome, Botox may offer temporary relief and an alternative to rib-removal surgery. A small research study has shown promising results.
Attitude adjustment — If you have chronic pain, especially face and jaw pain, you may sleep better and experience less day-to-day pain if you learn to dwell less on your ailments. Researchers studied 214 people and found a correlation between negative thinking about pain and poor sleep and worse pain.
Newly discovered protein may turn pain off — Researchers have discovered a protein that holds together multiple elements in a complex system responsible for regulating pain, mental illnesses, and other complex neurological problems. In other words: this protein has the capability to turn off the receptors that keep pain lingering.
Burning away intractable pain — When a 31-year-old Marine was defusing a buried bomb in Afghanistan last December, it exploded, leaving him unconscious for nearly a month. When he woke up, his face was scarred, he was blind in one eye, he was missing half of his right arm and his left arm was paralyzed. And he was in pain. Neurosurgeons opened the patient’s spine and burned away the scar tissue to alleviate this pain.
Other methods for treating pain can include acupuncture, surgery, therapies, and exercise