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Chronic Pain: The Basics


Pain.  Chronic pain.


It’s invisible.  And in many ways it’s a symptom of deeper health concerns that is totally subjective.  How do you measure pain?  By the look on someone’s face?  By the number of times he winces when you touch the affected area?


The person who suffers with the chronic pain of fibromyalgia or with back pain appears no different physically than a healthy person free of such discomfort. But there’s a growing epidemic in this country.  Right now nearly 10 percent of the people in the United States suffer from 

moderate to severe pain.  The numbers only increase with age – and the Baby Boomers are just beginning to hit their golden years!


The ultimate goal of these individuals is, of course, complete relief from the situation.  Unfortunately, this is seldom the case.  Health care practitioners in this country, as competent as they are in many areas, are not really taught how to treat daily pain.


Both health care practitioners and patients alike though very often misunderstand the full effects of narcotics – one of the very few methods available to treat pain. Health care practitioners are often reluctant to prescribe opioids which can relieve not only acute, but chronic pain and eventually may avoid the development of chronic pain syndrome.


Patients similarly have reservations about these strong drugs, especially about the dependency aspect that is so often associated with the medications.


Pain though is a very real problem for very many people.  The problem with chronic pain is the “never ending” aspect of it.  It never really goes away.  No does it always respond to treatment as health care practitioners predict and patients pray it will.


Pain initially caused by an injury or an illness may persist long after the injury has healed or the illness has cleared up.  Permanent changes have occurred in the body which triggers this situation.


Mark Grant is a psychologist working in Australia specializing in chronic pain management.  He believes that the much heralded idea that “physical injury equals pain” is a far too simple way to view this.  “We now know that pain is caused and maintained by a combination of physical, psychological and neurological factors,” he explains.  And in the case of chronic pain, a persistent physical cause cannot be determined in every case.


Pain, it seems is far more complicated than we ever thought.  In fact, continuing pain can be caused by a variety of triggers, Grant explains, not the least of which are muscle tension, changes in circulation, postural imbalances, psychological distress as well as neurological changes.


But that’s not all.  Unrelieved pain, according to this expert, “is [also] associated with increased metabolic rate, spontaneous excitation of the central nervous system, changes in blood circulation to the brain and changes in the limbic-hypothalamic system.”  This last is the area of the brain that – believe it or not – regulates emotions. 




Note: Some statements in this article may not be approved by the FDA. This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as professional medical advice.

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