Chronic Pain is a devastating illness that can strike anyone. In the last ten to fifteen years a quantum shift has occurred in the understanding and treatment of pain conditions. The most dramatic advance has been in the field of neuropathic pain, the type of pain that arises from nerve damage. Neuropathic pain is highly variable, difficult to diagnose, and can literally “spread” of its own accord. It is best considered as a disease unto its self. Neuropathic pain can cause physical as well as emotional disruption. Depression, anxiety and personality change are common correlates of chronic pain.
Although research and treatment advances in pain conditions are better all the time, it remains unlikely that most chronic pain patients will live a life that is fully pain free, This fact alone is often devastating to patients and their families. Chronic pain affects the body, psyche, work capacities, and relationships. It changes a person’s whole world. Excellent pain management is crucial, including proper diagnosis and state of the art pharmacologic and psychological treatment.
The first step in diagnosis is finding the “pain generator”. Usually there is more than one. Depending on the type and source of the pain, several physical modalities are available: physical therapy, massage, chiropractic treatments or acupuncture, injections, or even surgery in some cases.
Medications are an integral part of pain management. Medication management is somewhat complicated in the world of pain management because of the stronger types of drugs that are sometimes required. Families, patients, and physicians have to work together so that patients have their pain comfortably/adequately treated without being over-medicated or suffering side effects. As is true in all of medicine it is important to be as educated as you can about your disease and the available options. It is also wise to use practitioners that specialize in your disease. Because chronic pain can be psychologically as well as physically debilitating it is often helpful to consult with psychiatric as well as medical practitioners for pain conditions.
Self-education is a powerful tool in managing illness. The following website is a good place to start:
- www.aapainmanage.org – An organization with good links (under “patients” on the home page) to other specific pain organization. This is one of the most respected groups in the pain world, used by practitioners and patients.