Although we have all felt the pain at a certain point in our lives, the term is still difficult to define. According to the International Association for the Study of Pain, pain is “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with a potential or actual tissue injury, or described as existing”.
Acute pain is directly related to tissue damage and has an obvious cause, such as a bee sting, or months, such as severe burns or surgery. Painful signals are sent to the brain which decrease in intensity as the healing progresses. Also, acute pain has a limited duration and responds to treatment.
Chronic pain is persistent and is more difficult to identify its source. Sometimes after an acute wound has healed, painful signals are still sent to the brain. Chronic pain is often present in progressive diseases such as arthritis or cancer. In some cases, the pain comes and goes, or may be present permanently. Besides feeling real pain, chronic pain sufferers can get into a vicious cycle of pain, inactivity, insomnia, anger and sadness.
The most common forms of pain
Multiple factors, such as wounds, diseases or ageing can lead to the occurrence of pain. Pain therapists classify pain as mechanical, biochemical, or psychogenic. The mechanical pain occurs as a result of an apparent cause such as trauma, tumor or spinal stenosis. Biochemical pain can come from a herniated disc when the material of the intervertebral disc irritates the nearby spinal nerves. Psychogenic pain disorder is associated with emotional or mental problems. Pain classifications:
- Headaches: tension headache, vascular headache, migraines;
- Back pain: sciatica (leg pain caused by a spinal nerve irritation);
- Cancer-associated pain: constant pain due to a tumour, which presses on the spinal nerves, or the marks left by radiation therapy;
- Arthritic pain: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis;
- Neuropathic pain: trigeminal facial neuralgia, shingles, phantom limb pain;
- Psychogenic pain: emotional suffering that cannot be expressed and that turns into physical pain.
The consequences of chronic pain
Chronic pain or chronic pain syndrome (CPS) is common among adults, affecting about 20% of the European population, is found mostly in women and the elderly.
Often, chronic pain interferes with the patient’s daily activities (social, professional, domestic). Without effective treatment, the pain persists and leads to obvious degradation of the quality of life: the patient increasingly avoids activities that require physical stress and trigger the pain, including social or professional activities, leading to deconditioning – a physical and/or psychological decline in function. This creates a cycle of impaired quality of life, which invariably leads to chronic pain being intensified by the negative impact that it exercises over the patient’s emotional well-being.
Pain is part of life, but you must not let it lead your life. If the pain becomes chronic and affects your quality of life, make an appointment with a pain therapy specialist. Our online platform facilitates access to therapists in the UK who can help you with professional and innovative pain relief solutions.
What is pain therapy?
Pain therapy is an integrated approach to more easily tolerate pain by acquiring physical, emotional, intellectual and social skills. This may include sports, physiotherapy, medication, relaxation techniques, acupuncture, behaviour change, biofeedback, hypnosis, and psychological counselling.
The main objective for pain management is to improve quality of life, with the total or partial recovery of functional capabilities. Thus, during treatment the patient follows specific steps:
- Returning to daily activities and avoiding the chronic pain cycle
○ Most often, in the context of chronic pain, patients tend to give up the various activities undertaken before the onset of pain, altering their daily routine by the frequency of painful episodes. Over time, they may be prone to several mental disorders, including sleep disorders (insomnia, hypersomnia) or depression.
- Increasing resilience and addressing effective coping methods (response to chronic stress)
○ Resilience is the individual’s ability to adapt quickly to stressful situations, without exerting a negative impact on his psyche. Pain is a significant stress agent. In turn, stress can be a pain aggravating agent (eg. stress can lead to increased muscle tension, which may increase pain under certain conditions).
- Reducing the doses of analgesics (particularly opioids)
○ Different classes of medications (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, analgesics, antidepressants, etc.) are needed in the long-term treatment of chronic pain. To avoid the onset of addiction, it is necessary to strictly control the administration of opioid analgesics and/or replace them with alternative therapies (eg. opting for other types of analgesics, balneotherapy, electrotherapy, interventional pharmacological therapies).
- Increasing the patient’s autonomy to control pain over a long period.
○ As the suffering can sometimes persist the whole life, the patient with chronic pain must learn specific pain management techniques while following treatment, despite the difficulties he/she encounters.
Where to get help
The severity and persistence of pain may remain mostly undiagnosed and not treated properly; this translates into significant physical damage affecting the patient’s quality of life. If the source of the pain cannot be identified or treatment shows no improvement, a person can find guidance from an expert in pain therapy.
On Guide to Rehab, you will find treatment centres and specialists that help patients with complex, long-lasting pain, but also those with acute pain, which affects the patient’s quality of life.
The pain management specialists will treat your pain and coordinate the treatment programme, including physical therapy, rehabilitation, and counselling. A good pain programme will help you create a plan based on your goals and will monitor your progress.