Pain Awareness Month: Living With and Healing Chronic Pain
September is Pain Awareness Month. It’s a month dedicated to shedding light on a relatively unknown problem in society—the millions of people living with chronic pain. Many chronic pain sufferers live without ongoing chronic pain solutions and, as a result, their quality of life diminishes progressively over time, including their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
One study looked at what type of emotional and behavioral effects people with chronic pain experienced compared to people without chronic pain. The study clearly showed that pain sufferers are much more likely to:
- Experience more stress
- Have more bad moods
- Become more easily agitated
- Develop depression
- Feel tired and fatigued
This Pain Awareness Month, we’re helping bring awareness to the types of chronic conditions that cause pain, especially back pain, and the wellness solutions for managing chronic pain.
What Is Chronic Pain?
The medical definition of chronic pain is any pain lasting longer than 12 consecutive weeks. Unlike acute pain, which comes on suddenly for a clear reason and heals quickly, chronic pain is a long-term condition, often persisting for months. Chronic pain, also known as chronic pain syndrome, can become a “tolerable pain”, whereby the person experiencing the pain can ignore it or live with it long-term.
According to the National Institutes of Health, 25 million Americans suffer daily pain. Eight million of these daily pain sufferers have pain that interferes with their everyday activities. Many people suffer with pain in silence. They’re unsure of what’s causing their pain, and their symptoms may be too vague to know how to treat them.
Chronic pain affects every person differently, making it a difficult condition to identify the root cause of. Chronic pain can’t be measured. It’s often difficult to precisely locate because the nature of chronic pain is that it can appear in multiple places throughout the body.
Chronic Pain Causes
For people suffering from chronic pain syndrome, identifying the underlying cause can be a frustrating process as the reasons for chronic, non-specific pain aren’t always obvious. But uncovering the underlying cause contributing to your pain can help you implement necessary solutions for managing chronic pain.
The following are some of the most common causes of chronic pain—all of which can be managed holistically for a better quality of life.
More than a quarter of American adults have some form of arthritis, a group of more than 100 inflammatory diseases that target the joints and surround tissues. Arthritis symptoms can range, depending on the underlying cause, but it’s a major reason for daily, chronic pain. Generally, people with arthritis experience joint stiffness, inflammation and soreness in one or more joints throughout the body.
Repetitive motions, such as movements performed for work or in sports, are some of the leading contributing factors to a type of arthritis called osteoarthritis—joint degeneration caused by long-term wear and tear. Some other common types of arthritis include gout and rheumatoid arthritis.
Technically, fibromyalgia is considered a form of arthritis. Also known as widespread pain, fibromyalgia is pain that spreads across the entire body. Because it isn’t a localized pain, it’s difficult to identify a single underlying cause of fibromyalgia. It’s possible that people with fibromyalgia have a higher sensitivity to pain, so they perceive widespread pain throughout their bodies more intensely.
Fibromyalgia can cause sleep disturbances and can lead to emotional and psychological distress if not managed. Widespread pain can also make it tough to concentrate, affecting the person’s ability to work or go to school.
Sicatica is felt on one side of the buttock or down one leg. It’s a pain that starts at the low back and travels down the sciatic nerve, producing pain and possibly tingling or numbness. Not a condition in itself, sciatica is actually a symptom that indicates there’s a deeper, underlying health problem.
The sciatic nerve can become pinched when there’s a herniated disc, disc degeneration or spinal stenosis—narrowing of the spinal column. These conditions and others can put pressure on the sciatic nerve, producing sciatica.
Different people experience sciatica in different ways and may feel their pain worsens when standing, walking or sitting.
Spinal stenosis occurs when some components of the spine change over time. The spine’s discs and vertebrae or muscles and ligaments may start to degenerate or weaken, leading to a narrowing of the spinal column.
As the spine narrows, it puts pressure on the spinal nerves, causing pain, tingling or numbness in the area. Spinal stenosis can affect the neck and low back most commonly. Spinal stenosis in the low back (lumbar) can cause sciatica.
Wellness Solutions for Healing Chronic Pain
Many people live with chronic pain because they aren’t sure of how to manage or correct it. Life gets busy, and it’s common to sacrifice your health for the responsibility of work and family. Over time, it becomes natural to just put up with pain and you may become good at ignoring it.
But listening to your body is the important first step in healing. The reason your body produces pain is to alert you to a problem that needs addressing. Often, chronic pain is the body’s way of saying it needs greater overall wellbeing—more exercise, better diet and less stress.
As part of Pain Awareness Month, pain awareness advocates want to highlight ways to safely and holistically manage chronic pain without the use of pharmaceuticals like opioids. In many cases, you can choose alternative or complementary wellness solutions that focus on improving your quality of life so you feel less pain.
The below chronic pain solutions not only manage existing pain, but they also help correct health issues so you can prevent the condition from worsening.
A lack of exercise often worsens chronic pain. It actually becomes a vicious circle—the more pain you feel, the less you want to exercise. But the less you exercise, the more pain you will feel.
Physical activity helps increase mobility and range of motion, which are often limited by conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia. Some of the exercises you can perform to help heal chronic pain include:
- Walking: One of the simplest but most beneficial forms of exercise, walking can help ease chronic pain. Daily walking gets your muscles and joints moving and helps reduce stress.
- Strength Training: Chronic back, neck and hip pain can often stem from weak muscles. Building your leg, glute, back and shoulder strength can help prevent degenerative conditions that lead to chronic pain.
For many people, it’s during relaxation and sleep that pain intensifies because there isn’t anything to distract you from it. But becoming better at relaxation and prioritizing restful activities can help you manage pain more effectively.
Muscle tension is a major reason why people experience pain. Stiff, sore muscles need intentional care and relaxation to alleviate stress. Some relaxation solutions for healing chronic pain include:
- Massage Therapy: Massage therapists work tense muscles with their hands to loosen and smooth fibers and tissues that have become tightened due to stress and not enough stretching. Massage therapists also use special techniques to release pain in certain joints.
- Yoga and Stretching: A daily practice of yoga or deep stretching can help improve your flexibility, increase blood and oxygen flow to your joints, and improve your posture and alignment. Yoga, specifically, is also a proven way to enhance mindfulness and reduce the effects of stress.
Overcoming Chronic Pain
Pain Awareness Month is a way for us to discuss the widespread issue of chronic pain and the hidden issues it leads to. When people are in pain, it causes emotional and mental disruption that prevents people from living a better life. In turn, this can have an impact on families and communities.
By shedding light on the problem of chronic pain and the chronic pain solutions that are available, people can rely less on pain-killing drugs and rely more on creating a life of wellbeing for themselves.
If you’re living with chronic pain, there are chronic pain solutions you can implement in daily life to help achieve a neutral posture and relieve pressure from your spine. For back support products for work, home, exercise and on-the-go, shop Relax The Back online and find the wellness solution that’s right for you.