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How Chronic Pain Affects Your Overall Health

Move a finger. Now, stretch your leg a little. You can even twitch your eyebrows a bit. You don’t really need to think about those actions. Our brain is communicating with your fingers, legs and eyebrows, and it’s saying: “move!”

The human body is one giant communication network. At any given moment, your brain is talking to different parts of your body. This is how your body knows there’s something wrong. Any affected part of your body uses nerves to send signals to our brains that it needs attention.

We typically interpret these messages as pain — and it comes in many varieties: stings, burning sensations, aches, throbs, stabs, shooting sensations, pinches, and more. It can be as mild as a headache or as intense as breaking a bone.

Ouch!

As humans, we’ve developed many ways to describe these pain signals from our nerves. Chronic pain is used to describe pain we feel over an extended period of time with little to no relief. In this article, we will discuss the term further, complete with an examination of the other forms of pain brought on by this common public health problem and how chronic pain can affect nearly every aspect of your life. We’ll also provide you with nine of our top pain management tactics you can implement today.

What is Chronic Pain?

To understand chronic pain, you first need to know the difference between that and acute pain. The difference lies in the severity and the length of time the pain sensations.

  • Acute pain can be mild to severe and typically lasts no more than 6 months. It ranges from a papercut to a broken bone — which can be extremely painful but heals within a few months.
  • Chronic pain, on the other hand, lasts a long time — generally more than 6 months. In fact, it can last a lifetime. It can be dull and nagging to extremely debilitating.

Sometimes, chronic pain can be brought on by an acute injury, such as a herniated disc that wasn’t treated properly or following some type of surgery that did not heal as it should have. Other times, there is no past injury, and chronic pain can show up without any reason.

Arthritis patients suffer from both types. Arthritis flare-ups and gout attacks are common forms of acute pain that come and go. In contrast, nerve damage, lower back pain and headaches are all well-known examples of chronic pain.

How Chronic Pain Impacts Your Body

Chronic pain doesn’t just hurt physically — it hurts emotionally. It can create a chemical imbalance in your brain that spurs depression. It can also cause anxiety, sleep disorders, fear, fatigue and more. It can even impact your social circles, your work and your family — which can also lead to depression. Moreover, depression and anxiety can exacerbate the physical pain creating a vicious and quite dangerous cycle.

Besides psychological and social effects, chronic pain can affect other areas of your body biologically. According to the Cleveland Clinic, chronic pain can produce a stress reaction within our bodies that can cause:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Weakened immune systems
  • Increased risk for heart disease

Most patients with chronic pain are affected by at least one of these symptoms, which is why it’s so important to learn how to manage them.

How to Manage Your Chronic Pain

As we’ve outlined, you can experience many sources of chronic pain. This is why it’s so important to meet with your physician and specialists to create a treatment plan for you. Most often, they will recommend you first treat the underlying cause of your symptoms:

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for the chronic pain from arthritis. That’s why you should always speak with your physician before starting any treatment. That said, we can recommend implementing nine non-medical pain management tactics for your chronic pain:

  1. Eat a responsible diet. By responsible, we mean a diet that helps lower inflammation from arthritis. This includes foods such as turmeric, ginger, currants and fish with Omega-3 fatty acids.
  2. Have a good posture. Adjusting how you hold your body keeps your bones and joints in the correct alignment, which helps prevent the wear and tear your joints can experience  if they’re in an unnatural position.
  3. Move often and regularly. Even though you may not feel like it, increased movement can help your joints because it improves your range of motion and lessens stiffness.
  4. Exercise and attend physical therapy. It’s scientifically proven that regular exercise can reduce your arthritis pain. We have an entire blog about exercises that are easy on your joints.
  5. Lose weight. In terms of joint health, losing weight reduces the stress placed on your joints, and you can naturally lose weight if you eat right and exercise
  6. Do temperature therapy. This is the direct application of heat or cold to your joints. High temperatures ease joint stiffness, while cold temperatures reduce swelling.
  7. Attend therapy. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) helps cope with the mental health challenges of chronic pain by changing your negative thought patterns.
  8. Consider acupuncture. This treatment isn’t for everyone, but it may be worth a try if you’re curious about its extensively researched pain-relieving effects.
  9. Get a massage. Much like regular movement and exercise, massages can reduce pain and stiffness, reduce your anxiety and improve your range of motion.

Understand Your Options for Managing Your Chronic Pain

Remember: these are self-management tactics. More importantly, we will always recommend that you consult with a Pain Management specialist before you engage in these activities. It’s essential that experts help you determine if these tactics are right for you and your condition.

We get it — no one wants to feel unnecessary pain, and everyone wants to enjoy their lives. Arthritis Relief Centers can help you get on the right track today. If you’re suffering from chronic pain, contact us today, and we can get started on developing a treatment plan for you!

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Man waking up from bed stretching his backAn older women clutching her hand in pain