Headache, toothache and backache are common pains that can cause annoyance for a short period of time. But what if there was little prospect of the pain subsiding and that instead of gaining relief, you would have to battle the unpleasant sensation every day?
That’s the reality of life for those who suffer from chronic pain syndrome.
Incapacitating and debilitating, chronic pain disorder can appear as a result of a number of different causes, but the end result is the same – a never-ending battle against what can be a deeply distressing condition.
The definition of chronic pain disorder
There’s no universal definition of chronic pain syndrome, but it’s often described as pain that has persisted for longer than 12 weeks or beyond what would be expected to have been the normal healing period.
Chronic pain syndrome is an umbrella term used to capture long-term pain which arises from a variety of sources, being caused by both known and unknown triggers.
In some cases, the pain can be attributed to known causes, such as nerve pain related to diabetes or the musculoskeletal pain associated with osteoarthritis.
The pain may be related to something which was been understandable at first, such as post-operative pain, but has now extended beyond what would normally be expected, with no obvious cause creating the persisting discomfort.
There’s also pain which arises out of the blue, and presents with pain as the primary symptom, rather than tagging along as a complication of another condition. These pain syndromes are complex and extremely difficult to treat, with medical science not yet properly equipped to either diagnose or manage the conditions effectively.
A debilitating condition
The degree of pain being suffered may fluctuate on a daily basis, or it may be more constant.
Some individuals have good days and bad days, often triggering a bad day by overdoing things on a day when they feel better!
There are lots of ways pain can be managed, with varying degrees of success, but at times the treatment itself can cause unwanted symptoms too, such as nausea, dizziness and drowsiness.
Therefore both the pain, and sometimes the treatments too, can result in a condition which is extremely debilitating, impacting on an individual’s ability to function.
Pain is exhausting to deal with and managing it on a long-term basis is hard for an individual to have to face. Fatigue, emotional distress and depression therefore often accompany chronic pain disorder, as the person battles to constantly deal with their symptoms.
Types of pain
As can be seen from the information above, there are lots of different possible causes for pain, but it’s even more complicated than that. There are many different categories and types of pain, and it’s essential to understand the nature of the pain in order to treat it effectively.
Neuropathic pain relates to the nerves, with pressure being put on one or a group of nerves, which in turn sends pain messages to the brain.
Nociceptive pain describes tissue damage and inflammation, such as being kicked or having a swollen knee.
Neuropathic and nociceptive are two of the main categories of pain but there are many others too.
Idiopathic pain is one which has persisted for a period exceeding six months and for which doctors can find no cause.
Allodynia is a symptom which can often arise in conditions such as fibromyalgia and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and refers to the sensation of pain being caused by stimuli which wouldn’t normally be painful.
Pain normally arises in the body as a result of a warning system designed to protect against harm, alerting to the presence of something which needs to be dealt with. Although the sensation is unpleasant, acute pain is useful because it serves a purpose. The signals travel through the special nerve fibres to the brain where transmitters ensure the pain message arrives at the right destination.
Chronic pain is rather different and appears to be caused by what can best be described as a short circuit in the body’s wiring. Pain signals are triggered and sent through the fibres for no apparent reason, with transmitters in the brain helping to amplify the effect.
As the pain signals pass through the emotion and mood centres in the brain, there’s an interaction with low mood somehow worsening the signals and creating more transmitters to pass the message along.
Chronic pain disorder, therefore, arises in the body but can be worsened by transmitters in the brain, including those responsible for mood and emotions, creating a very undesirable result.
Unlike acute pain, chronic pain signals serve no useful purpose and rather than alerting to a danger appear to simply be a malfunction in the bodily system. Unfortunately, as yet, doctors are not able to rectify the “short circuit” and are limited to simply trying to manage the symptoms, hoping they will ultimately burn out and disappear.
DISCLAIMER: The above information should not be used to substitute for medical advice and is provided for the purposes of guidance only. If you are suffering from any of the symptoms or conditions described, medical attention from a qualified professional should be sought immediately.