Chronic Pain

What is chronic pain?

There are 2 types of pain: acute and chronic. Acute pain doesn't last long and usually goes away as your body heals. Chronic pain lasts at least 6 months after your body has healed. Sometimes, people who have chronic pain don't know what is causing it. Along with discomfort, chronic pain can cause low self-esteem, depression and anger. It can also interfere with your daily activities.

How is chronic pain treated?

Treatment of chronic pain usually involves medicines and therapy. Medicines used for chronic pain include pain relievers, antidepressants and anticonvulsants. Different types of medicines help people who have different types of pain. You usually use long-acting medicines for constant pain. Short-acting medicines treat pain that comes and goes.

Several types of therapy can help ease your pain. Physical therapy (such as stretching and strengthening activities) and low-impact exercise (such as walking, swimming or biking) can help reduce the pain. However, exercising too much or not at all can hurt chronic pain patients. Occupational therapy teaches you how to pace yourself and how to do ordinary tasks differently so you won't hurt yourself. Behavioral therapy can reduce your pain through methods (such as meditation and yoga) that help you relax. It can also help decrease stress.

Lifestyle changes are an important part of treatment for chronic pain. Getting regular sleep at night and not taking daytime naps should help. Stopping smoking helps, also, because the nicotine in cigarettes can make some medicines less effective. Smokers also tend to have more pain than nonsmokers.

Most pain treatments will not take away all of your pain. Instead, treatment should reduce how much pain you have and how often it occurs. Talk to your doctor to learn how to best control your pain.

What should I tell my doctor about my pain?

Telling your doctor about your pain will help him or her find the right treatment for you. Tell your doctor where the pain is, how bad it is and how often your pain occurs. Also talk about what makes the pain better or worse.

Your doctor may review other health problems (such as arthritis, breathing problems and heart conditions) you may have because these may keep you from doing some types of therapy. Your doctor may also ask if you have had any problems with sleep, mood or anxiety.

More Information

For more information talk to your doctor.

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Source

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff.

Treatment of Nonmalignant Chronic Pain by DA Marcus, M.D. (American Family Physician March 1, 2000, http://www.aafp.org/afp/20000301/1331.html)

Reviewed/Updated: 03/09
Created: 03/00