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Chronic pain is something that no one ever would choose to have. Millions of people live with it everyday and it affects them more than just with the pain itself. Read this post to understand exactly what is chronic pain and the different ways it can affect you.
What is chronic pain – the definition
It is pain that lasts a long time despite treatment or medication. The time frame seems to vary from 3 months, to 6 months, to 12 months.
A different definition is “pain that extends beyond the expected period of healing“. Another way to describe chronic pain, is persistent pain. Basically, however you describe it, it’s pain that doesn’t go away on its own and you can have it for the rest of your life.
[The other type of pain you can get is acute pain, which is short-lived and usually occurs when you injure yourself. The purpose of acute pain is to tell you something is wrong, and to give your body time to recover and heal.]
I found this really interesting infographic from the Australian Physio Council website:
What is chronic pain – physically?
It hurts. A lot. The pain can be mild, moderate or severe, and often these pain signals aren’t serving a purpose. The pain can be felt constantly or it can come and go. People with back pain may feel it constantly, and people with migraines may feel it several times a week, but both are described as having chronic pain.
Chronic pain can be felt in many different ways, for example: stiffness, aching, shooting, burning, throbbing, stinging, and stabbing pains. Some people, like myself, struggle to describe their pain, and this just adds to the frustrations.
Pain is felt by sending signals to the brain via the nervous system. Once the injury or pain is healed, the pain signals stop. But when you have chronic pain, the nerves keep firing and your brain interprets that you’re still in pain.
Physically, there is very often nothing to see; it’s commonly referred to as an invisible condition. You can look at someone and think there is nothing wrong.
This type of pain can affect anyone; children and adults of all ages.
What is chronic pain – emotionally and mentally?
I’m sure we can all come up with some strong emotional words to describe how our pain can make us feel on our bad days – frustrated, angry, confused, lonely, overwhelmed, anxious, irritated, exhausted, guilty, jealous, miserable, embarrassed, fed up, the list goes on.
The good days find us seeing a little more hope – gratitude, kindness, self-love, interest, pride, contentment, enjoyment – but often it can take time to turn our negative feelings and emotions in to the more positive ones.
Living with constant pain very often leads to stress, depression and anxiety. Pain can cause a stress response in the body because it feels under threat. This is a natural and evolutionary response to help us survive. But with chronic pain, this response is repeated and unnecessary, and if untreated or unmanaged, it can make us unwell.
“Chronic Pain patients are 8 times more likely to experience anxiety.”Brandon at Elevation Process
Pain also makes you feel tired and exhausted. This makes the pain feel worse and also make things harder to manage and cope with.
Chronic pain is debilitating, life-stealing, and damn-well hard to live with. It affects your whole life and very often, those around you too. Although it can get easier to accept and cope with over time, it is always something you have to consider, manage, predict, and prepare for.
What is chronic pain to you?
How do you describe your pain to other people?
How does chronic pain impact on your life?
Resources used to help me write this blog post and further reading: