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Chronic pain does not have to be a life sentence

woman with back painWe have talked before about physical pain, which Merriam-Webster.com defines as:

  • Usually localized physical suffering associated with bodily disorder (such as a disease or an injury)
  • A basic bodily sensation induced by a noxious stimulus, received by naked nerve endings, characterized by physical discomfort (such as pricking, throbbing, or aching), and typically leading to evasive action

We all experience pain for one reason or another, from stubbing your toe to a bee sting. Because we tend to associate pain with injury, we expect it to fade away as we heal. It may take months but fade it will. This kind of pain is called acute pain.

When acute pain becomes chronic

Pain that doesn’t fade away we call chronic pain.

This may have begun as acute pain with an obvious injury or illness. In some cases, there just isn’t a clear cause. Chronic pain is misery that often enjoys company – other issues like poor sleep patterns, fatigue, reduced appetite and mood swings often accompany it. Addressing these problems can reduce the severity of chronic pain, whatever its true root cause. Dietary habits, state of mental health, and a sedentary lifestyle can also aggravate chronic pain.

Chronic benign pain

Some people suffer pain that began as acute and turned chronic after the injury is long healed – so called chronic benign pain. The cause may be a misfiring nervous system that is sending a pain signal when there is no tissue damage. In this instance, pain isn’t a symptom, it is the disease.

From our perspective, it is important to distinguish chronic pain that has arisen from an ongoing injury versus cases where it is related to another medical condition or illness.

Many cases of chronic pain that are related to an ongoing illness or condition may be alleviated by Chiropractic care.

Chronic fatigue syndrome

One is chronic fatigue syndrome or CFS. While its root causes are poorly understood, inflammation of the brain and spinal cord may be involved. Chiropractic care to ensure a healthy spine may help alleviate the chronic pain that often accompanies CFS.

Temporomandibular joint dysfunction

Another is temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ). This is a condition that causes painful clicking, popping, or locking of the jaw. Chronic pain is common among TMJ patients. With TMJ, muscle tension in the neck and shoulders contributes to pain and discomfort. Chiropractic care to optimize the neck’s natural curve, combined with traction exercises at home and soft tissue therapies if necessary, may help relieve this tension and reduce the pain’s severity.
And then there are the chronic pain cases we see that arise from a back or spine injury, anywhere between the pelvis and the skull. Acute pain has become chronic because the injury or condition may not have been adequately addressed.

Common examples that can lead to chronic pain include:

  • Degenerative scoliosis: Wear and tear on the discs of your spinal column and the facet joints where two vertebrae meet. This is common with misalignments of the spine that have been left untreated for an extended period.
  • Spinal stenosis: Narrowing of the spinal canal – those holes through the middle of your vertebrae through which your spinal cord passes. It’s common in people over 50 who are suffering from spinal degeneration.
  • Sciatica: Inflammation, compression, or irritation of the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lumbar spine to the foot.

All these conditions can lead to chronic pain, even worsening chronic pain. That means lost mobility, lost flexibility, lost strength, and an overall poorer quality of life.

The good news is that all these conditions may benefit from Chiropractic care.

It’s always important to listen to your body when acute pain first flares up. Pain that lasts more than a few days merits attention. If the problem persists and you ignore it, the consequences may be severe.

Surgery is often not the answer

We consider surgery, an invasive procedure, a measure of last resort and too often an outcome that could have been avoided with early intervention with a non-invasive treatment option like Chiropractic.

Failed back surgery syndrome, in which surgery fails to relieve the patient’s pain, is a very real condition. According to a report from John Hopkins University, spinal fusion surgery is not successful 20 per cent of the time while disc and sciatica surgeries fail to deliver relief 30 per cent of the time. In addition, only five per cent of people suffering from chronic back pain are good candidates for surgery in the first place.

The verdict

Don’t let acute pain become chronic. Listen to your body and get the right help. Early intervention is key to a faster and more successful outcome. Many of our patients who have been told nothing can be done about their pain have found relief with Chiropractic.

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