Chronic pain awareness

Have you been experiencing long-lasting pain?

According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, more than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain every year, affecting more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined. Pain can result from a number of health concerns including injury, disease or physical conditions.

What is chronic pain?

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke defines chronic pain as pain that persists over a long period of time. Unlike short-term or acute pain, chronic pain is not a normal sensation; it is a continuous sensation of hurt that lasts for weeks, months or even years.  More often than not, pain is caused by an initial injury or condition such as a sprained wrist, arthritis, or an ear infection.

However, people may experience pain without having suffered a previous injury or health problem. Some of the most common complaints of chronic pain stem from headaches, lower back problems, cancer, arthritis and damage to nerves. The AAPM estimates that over 1.5 billion people suffer from chronic pain worldwide, with the top three leading causes resulting from low back pain, severe headache or migraine, and neck pain.

Effects of chronic pain

Chronic pain comes in many forms that can negatively affect your quality of life. For example, persistent pain may limit your ability to move around and perform everyday tasks. According to the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program, this can often lead to decreased activity and result in weakened muscles. When your muscles are weakened and your body is not used to performing daily activities, even the slightest use can result in more pain.

Chronic pain can also affect your mental state causing feelings of frustration, anger, anxiety or depression. These physical and mental challenges may intensify feelings and make it more difficult to deal with a painful situation.

Dealing with chronic pain

If you’re experiencing long-term pain, the chronic disease self-management program suggests talking with your healthcare provider about your symptoms to better address the cause of your pain. Providers may be able to prescribe treatment or medication to address the problem or alleviate your symptoms.

However, since the cause of chronic pain is not always certain, treatment and medication may not always work. A few other tools for pain management include:

∫ Exercise: Exercise provides many health benefits, including pain relief. Talk with your healthcare provider about which activities are best for you.

∫ Using your mind: Use methods of relaxation, such as deep breathing or muscle stretching to help ease your pain.

∫ Ice, heat or massage: Try icing, heating, or massaging local areas of pain such as the back, knees, or neck.

HealthLink currently offers programs that can aid in pain relief such as chair yoga, gentle yoga, senior steps, and chronic disease self-management.

For more information on chronic pain, talk to your healthcare provider, or call HealthLink Littauer at (518) 736-1120.  You can email us at healthlink@nlh.org or visit our wellness center on 2 Colonial Court in downtown Johnstown.  We’re your community health and wellness service of Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home.

Alicia DeRuscio, B.S., is a community health education assistant for HealthLink Littauer.

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