The good news is that it is a symptom, your body’s way of telling your brain that something is wrong.
For those who suffer from chronic pain, it can be debilitating, affecting every aspect of life.
The most common conditions that cause chronic pain are: back issues, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, lupus, pelvis problems, chronic fatigue syndrome.
Traditional medicine has devised ways to deal with pain but sometimes the cure is almost as bad as the malady (but in a different way). As a symptom, the best way to manage pain is to find the root cause and fix it as best you can. Here are some ideas to help.
1. Back pain
Chronic back pain is the top reason for disability in the U.S. for people under 45. The causes are many, from repetitive physical actions to degenerative diseases like osteoporosis. A medical professional can perform many tests to determine the cause of the pain and there are fortunately effective therapies available. The pain may be nerve, muscle, emotion, or bone-related. Exercise is the best way to treat chronic back pain; ask your doctor or health care provider for the best ones for you. Building adequate muscle tone to provide proper support is key. Gentle stretching, walking, swimming, and yoga help to loosen tightened muscles and get things moving. Massage therapy and acupuncture are effective as well as other alternative treatments. Depending on the kind and cause of pain, hot or cold compresses (or alternating) can provide immediate relief.
The most common form of arthritis which is the degeneration of the cartilage that holds bones together at the joints, causing them to rub. Pain can then be exacerbated as the bones and cartilage break and tiny pieces float around the joints. The joints most often affected are in the hands, back, knees, and hips. There are natural remedies and nutritional supplements that have shown effective in slowing degeneration, thereby relieving pain. Acupuncture has also been found to help decrease pain. Doctors can prescribe or administer steroids, topical ointments, and injections to decrease pain, however, long-term use is certainly not the preferred option. Certain low-impact exercise can help as well as regular physical therapy to maintain or improve joint function.
3. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
This can occur when the median nerve passing through a band of tissues (called the carpal tunnel) in your wrist is pinched. It stems from inflammation caused by repetitive hand/finger movements (like typing, playing the guitar, knitting, or carpentry) and pregnancy or other conditions that cause swelling. To treat, doctors recommend resting your wrist and hand; using a splint; anti-inflammatories; physical therapy; and cortisone injections. In addition, there are many home remedies to reduce or eliminate the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, from maintaining positioning of your hand during sleep to icing the area to regular hand and wrist exercises—all found effective in treating this condition that has been on the rise since the 1980s. Surgery is a last resort.
There is no definitive cause for this syndrome. Difficult to diagnose, fibromyalgia is more common in women than men; its symptoms vary and include mood swings, sleep problems, memory loss and “foggy” thinking, fatigue, bowel and bladder issues, depression, tender points, and general chronic pain. Traditional medical treatment includes painkillers and most medical practitioners recommend exercise, yoga and/or meditation, and a regular sleep schedule. Other therapies include regular massage, acupuncture, and tai chi. To combat depression, cognitive behavioral therapy may help. It is a good idea to take a look at your diet; there may be links to certain foods you are eating (or not) and how your body is reacting to them. Because the cause is unknown, the prescription drugs commonly used to treat fibromyalgia are not curing it but simply managing the symptoms. Other treatments are worth exploring and a functional medicine physician will take a holistic approach.
An autoimmune disease plaguing 15 million people in the U.S.—mostly Black and Asian women—no one knows the cause but it is sometimes fatal. It is presumed that there are contributing factors from genetic, environmental, and hormonal sources. Lupus affects primarily the joints, skin, and other vital organs. Studies have shown correlation of condition improvement with additional herbs, supplements, and a change in diet. Traditional treatment includes rest, avoiding allergens, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, corticosteroids, and immunosuppressants.
6. Chronic pelvic pain
This condition can be caused by a variety of factors so the source is sometimes difficult to diagnose. There are a lot of things crammed into your abdomen and only a medical professional can pinpoint the origin of the pain, whether it’s your bladder, ovaries, prostate, intestines, or something else. Tests like colonoscopy, laparoscopy, cytoscopy, and a complete physical examination will help in diagnosis. To reduce pain until the cause is found, acupuncture, acupressure, biofeedback, and physical therapy have been known to help.
7. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Affecting about a million people (and again, women are much more likely to suffer from it) no one knows the cause of the severe fatigue, pain, trouble concentrating and sleeping, and lymph node tenderness associated with this condition. It may be a virus, stress, or a variety of converging factors. It is very difficult to diagnose and your doctor may prescribe an array of tests. It’s good to keep a journal of your symptoms and any trigger events to help her/him narrow the field. A combination of treatments for the combination of symptoms is the best approach. Consciously managing activity levels, diet, exercise, and sleep are important. Supplements can also relieve fatigue by feeding your body what it’s lacking. A support group can be helpful for the mental side of your health.
Don’t dismiss the emotional side of pain; anxiety and depression often result from any kind of chronic pain. Attend to your psyche as well as your body—they go together.