According to research from the Institute of Medicine, 100 million Americans deal with chronic pain. That’s more than heart disease, cancer and diabetes combined. Back pain is the most common form of chronic pain, while headaches, neck pain and joint pain are also prevalent.
First, let’s define chronic pain. Chronic pain is pain that lasts at least six months. It can be continuous or recurring, and it can range from mild discomfort to sharp, excruciating pain.
Second, let’s discuss how chronic pain affects our lives. There’s obviously physical discomfort. In some cases, the pain is debilitating. But physical pain is just the beginning.
People with chronic pain are more likely to become irritable and impatient, which affects our relationships with family, friends and co-workers. It can affect job performance. It can cause depression and fatigue. We have to expend more physical, mental and emotional energy just to get through the day.
Chronic pain can also lead to a more sedentary lifestyle because exercise becomes more uncomfortable and difficult. This can create a greater risk of obesity and a number of chronic conditions, including heart disease and type II diabetes.
According to research conducted at the Stanford University School of Medicine, mice suffering from chronic pain experienced a change in brain circuitry that sapped their motivation. In other words, the part of the brain structure known to influence reward-seeking behavior was affected. This suggests that chronic pain makes us less willing to work for a reward even though we want to experience the positive result.
Now, let’s discuss how we deal with chronic pain.
Sometimes we accept pain as part of life. It’s something we just have to deal with. Pain may motivate us to go to the doctor, but medical doctors aren’t always capable of diagnosing the cause, recognizing the downstream effects, and developing an effective treatment plan. In many cases, chronic pain leads to habitual use of over-the-counter medications, pain management epidurals and failed surgeries.
Finally, let’s talk about how we should deal with chronic pain. We should never accept any pain as normal. That’s our body’s way of telling us something is wrong.
We need to do something about what we call the chronic pain cycle. Although most forms of chronic pain are preventable and treatable, chronic pain won’t just go away on its own. We have to break the cycle.
That doesn’t mean we should simply allow the healthcare system to habitually medicate us. Breaking the chronic pain cycle requires work and diligence. It requires attention all three components of the Triad of Health – physical and nutritional and psychological.
Of course, breaking the chronic pain cycle is not a do-it-yourself project. Google is not qualified to break the cycle. Neither are most doctors. You need to find a clinical team with the knowledge and experience to pinpoint the cause of your pain. A team that can develop a comprehensive treatment plan designed to attack the cause, not the symptoms, and achieve a state of wellness.
That’s the only way to truly break the chronic pain cycle. And that’s how you feel better, function better, and live as many disease-free, pain-free years as possible.