Are you living with constant pain? Have you experienced a brief episode of intense pain? Most of us will do anything to avoid feeling pain, but managing pain is a healthy, protective response from your body. Pain is a way your body is telling you that something is not right and needs your immediate attention. Without pain, we would cut or burn ourselves constantly and not know that anything is wrong.
However, we all know that pain is a very unpleasant experience, whether it is from an insect sting, a cut, or illness. For many people, pain is something they have to live with, and they must find ways of managing pain.
Pain has many causes, and people respond to it differently. Although everyone experiences pain differently, pain can be categorized into different types.
In this article, I will discuss different types of pain, what are the causes of pain, the symptoms of pain, and seven strategies for managing pain.
Types of Pain
While pain can be categorized in a variety of ways, the most common categories are acute or chronic pain. Acute pain happens without notice and lasts for a short period. It is usually the result of damage to your skin, bones, muscles, or internal organs. Remember the pain you felt when you cut yourself accidentally or hit your finger with a hammer? That’s acute pain.
Chronic pain continues much longer than acute pain and is typically harder to treat. Chronic pain affects over 100 million Americans and can be defined as pain that extends for over six months. This type of pain is usually linked to an ongoing disease like osteoarthritis or fibromyalgia. If you experience chronic pain, the pain signals can last in your body for months or years, and this can be physically and emotionally debilitating.
Causes and Symptoms of Pain
Since chronic pain affects so many people and can be so devastating, I will focus on the causes of chronic pain. While there can be a variety of reasons for your chronic pain, the most common cause is the normal aging process that is affecting your bones and joints. For example, arthritis is a common age-related disease that develops naturally in many people. Chronic pain can also develop from nerve damage due to injuries that did not heal properly.
Constant pain can also be caused by diseases that are not age-related such as AIDS, cancer, ulcers, and fibromyalgia. Recurring pain, however, can be difficult to a point that it is impossible to pinpoint its cause. Sometimes, it develops from an illness or injury, but the pain continues with a psychological origin after the cause has healed physically. This makes developing a treatment plan problematic for medical providers and is why it is necessary to try different strategies for managing pain.
Look for these symptoms if you think you have chronic pain:
- Light to intense pain that does not stop
- Feeling a burning, sharp, or aching type of pain
- Having a general sensation of being tight, stiff, or sore
- Feel tired, weak, and lack of sleep
- Being depressed, anxious, fearful, and irritable
Ways to Manage Pain
While you cannot eliminate chronic pain, there are coping techniques you can incorporate into your daily routine to lessen the pain. The following are seven strategies you can start doing today to manage your pain:
1. Reduce the amount of stress – When you have too much stress in your life, your chronic pain feels worse. Your body becomes more sensitive to pain when you are depressed, anxious, sad, or stressed. Learn to control the stress in your life by relaxing and listening to soft music. Listen to CDs designed to relax your state of mind. Try using mental imagery, which is a type of mental escape that requires you to create a calm and peaceful picture in your head. Another way to relax is to use muscle relaxation techniques.
2. Meditate or do deep breathing exercises – Most meditation techniques involve concentrating on your breathing, clearing your mind of any thoughts, and repeating a phrase continuously. This type of meditation is claimed to release the tension from your body and allow your muscles to relax. A deep breathing technique you can try is to sit in a quiet spot, close your eyes, and focus your thoughts on an area underneath your navel. Breathe into this area, and fill your stomach with air. Slowly breathe out, and deflate your abdomen like releasing air from a balloon.
3. Document the amount of pain and activities you do – Between visits to your doctor, show him or her how you are managing your pain and the activities you do so that he or she can treat your pain better. Get a notebook, and write down your pain score every day. The pain score can be based on a pain scale from 1 to 10 with 1 for the least pain and 10 the most. Also, write down the activities you completed every day. Show your doctor this journal during each visit so that he she can understand whether your pain level is improving, whether the pain is affecting your physical abilities, and what more can be done to treat your pain.
4. Eat healthy foods – Eating a well-balanced, healthy diet is important if you are living with chronic pain. Healthy eating will help in the healing process and make you feel and look better. In this way, your constant pain will not be as apparent to you. Also, eating healthy foods reduces your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Choose low-fat and low-sodium foods like whole-grain bread, low-fat milk and cheese, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean meats.
5. Exercise regularly – Exercise helps with chronic pain because, when you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which are brain chemicals that block your body’s pain signals while also making you feel happier and stronger. Exercise also improves your health by reducing your weight and your risk of developing heart disease.
6. Participate in a support group – Meeting other individuals with chronic pain helps you to feel less isolated. You also learn from others what they are doing to manage their pain. Additionally, you should meet regularly with a medical professional to talk about your experience with pain.
7. Get a massage regularly – A good massage will help to relieve your body of excess stress and tension. An effective massage will also improve the blood circulation in your body and reduce the amount of pain you feel.
All of us have experienced pain at different levels of intensity and duration. Acute pain can sometimes have the highest intensity, but its duration is short. Chronic pain, on the other hand, can have low to medium intensity but a long duration. If you have chronic pain, the best way to manage pain is to adopt a healthy lifestyle that will reduce the stress you feel. This includes exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, meeting others with the same problem, and seeing a medical professional.