Pain Management 101
At some time in our lives, the vast majority of us will experience the agony of pain. If you are lucky, your pain will be short lived. If not, you will have to do battle with the monster known as chronic pain. Some of us will quickly learn how to adapt to this monster. For others, the battle with chronic pain will result in unnecessary suffering, sleeplessness, hopelessness, sadness, financial hardship, and divorce.
For an individual suffering from chronic pain, it is difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Many have seen multiple doctors and received endless treatments and yet still suffer from chronic pain. So what is the answer? Has modern medicine not yet discovered the magical pill or surgery to extinguish the pain? The answer is yes and no.
While our knowledge and treatments in medicine continue to improve, miracle treatments are rare. Many times we become over reliant on the medical system to fix our problems. When we visit the doctor to complain about a backache we are really trying to hand over our pain to the doctor and telling him to “fix me”. Unfortunately this type of belief becomes self defeating. In the endless search for the magical cure, visiting doctor after doctor, we overlook our most powerful tool-the ability of each one of us to effect our own health. One of the first steps in conquering pain is to understand the burden of your own pain and to decide to do something about it.
You’re not Alone – The Scope of the Pain Problem
It is estimated that as many as 30% of people living in the United States suffer from chronic pain. In fact, more than 50 million Americans are either partly or completely disabled by pain for a few days each month. Between the losses of 700 million working days a year, the cost of health care bills, compensation payments, and attorney’s fees, the price of pain soars to almost $100 billion a year.
In general, pain is divided into two categories, acute and chronic. Acute pain is temporary and usually results from tissue damage. Acute pain serves as an alarm system to warn us or protect us. We quickly pull our hand away from a hot stove to prevent us from burning our hand.
Acute pain can last from a few seconds to many months, but it generally goes away as healing occurs. Pain from a fracture, a burn, or an overused muscle is examples of acute pain.
Chronic pain is pain that simply doesn’t go away; it lingers long after the normal healing has occurred. It is triggered by trauma or a physical condition and persists although there is no ongoing tissue damage occurring. As opposed to acute pain, chronic pain serves no physiological or protective purpose.
Psychosocial factors strongly impact chronic pain. Everything from your upbringing and cultural attitudes toward pain, to your age, to previous experiences with pain impacts the intensity of your pain experience.