Sometimes pain from an injury can be confusing. Although the initial injury might have been months ago, you may still have pain and immobility in the affected area – even after you thought it was healed. This means you may be suffering from chronic pain.
What Is Chronic Pain?
Acute pain is a kind of pain where you know the cause and treatment to relieve it, such as pain triggered by surgery, broken bones, or something readily identifiable. You know the cause, how to treat it, and know it will go away eventually. Chronic pain is different; you may not know the exact cause. This type of pain can continue even after the injury or illness that caused it has healed or gone away.
What Causes Chronic Pain?
According to Johns Hopkins Medical, “There are many causes of chronic pain. It may have started from an illness or injury, from which you may have long since recovered, but the pain remained. Or there may be an ongoing cause of pain, such as arthritis or cancer. Many people suffer chronic pain in the absence of any past injury or evidence of illness.” Several causes could overlap, like cancer, heart disease, migraines, or psychogenic issues.
Who Gets Chronic Pain?
The prevalence of chronic pain is stunning:
- In 2019, about 20 percent of U.S. adults experienced chronic pain. More than seven percent reported chronic pain that regularly inhibited life or work obligations during any three-month period.
- Chronic pain is known to worsen with age and was highest in those 65 and older.
- “Non-Hispanic white adults (23.6%) were more likely to have chronic pain compared with non-Hispanic black (19.3%), Hispanic (13.0%), and non-Hispanic Asian (6.8%) adults.”
The Effects Of Chronic Pain
If you suffer from chronic pain and it continues for months or even years, it’s not uncommon to experience symptoms typically associated with long-term discomfort. “Common symptoms of chronic pain include mild to very bad pain that does not go away as expected after an illness or injury. It may be shooting, burning, aching, or electrical. You may also feel sore, tight, or stiff in the affected area.” Many of these symptoms can be relieved.
Chronic pain & the brain
Pain signals in the brain can keep firing non-stop, almost indefinitely. This may be due to many factors, but faulty neurotransmitters (glutamate) are one culprit. Of course, the brain and chronic pain are intimately related, with several regions directly associated with pain. Each of these can be affected by chronic pain or even cause it to persist:
- The medial prefrontal cortex
- The amygdala
- The periaqueductal gray
- The anterior cingulate cortex
- The hippocampus
- The nucleus accumbens
Chronic pain and mental health
We all experience pain at some point in our lives, but the human body and mind aren’t designed to endure it non-stop for a lifetime. Living with daily pain is emotionally and physically demanding. We know that chronic stress alters the levels of neurochemicals and stress hormones found within the brain and nervous system; these can harm mood, thinking, and behavior. Disrupting the body’s balance of related chemicals can lead to depression in some people.
Millions of people suffer from chronic pain, and it’s sometimes directly related to certain conditions. If you experience long-term pain, it could be related to:
- Endometriosis, which is the development of endometrium (which usually covers the inside of a woman’s uterus) outside the uterus.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease, which is inflammation and irritation of the digestive tract. This can lead to abdominal pain, blood in the stool, diarrhea, and weight loss.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a condition where you experience abdominal pain and bloating. You may also get constipation, others diarrhea, and some people may suffer from both at different times.
Although chronic pain can be deeply debilitating, know that treatment options like ketamine infusion can help you find real relief. Contact us today at Minnesota Ketamine & Wellness Institute to get started.