Chronic pain can affect physical and mental health, as well as your personal and professional life. Find out how to cope with it.
Acute pain or chronic pain
Acute pain is short-lived, often lasting less than seven days and often occurs after an accident, an infection, or surgery. By limiting the affected person’s activities, pain can prevent or minimize an injury from worsening.
Chronic pain is characterized by localized or diffuse pain that can:
- persist beyond a normal recovery period (e.g., after shingles)
- be associated with a chronic, progressive or degenerative illness (e.g., diabetes, arthritis or cancer)
- occur without warning or gradually, without an identifiable cause, in several areas of the body (e.g., fibromyalgia), and
- persist for at least three months or occur at least three times in a three-month period
It is not normal or advisable to live with chronic pain. Fortunately, it can be reduced or controlled in various ways.
The causes of chronic pain
The causes of chronic pain are quite varied, as are therapeutic options. It is important to first understand its origin or the factors that contribute to it. Here are a few examples of common causes:
- a physical illness or condition
- trauma (e.g., injury or accident)
- poor posture, for example, at work
- repetitive movements (e.g., athlete or worker)
- poor living or working conditions, and
For instance, shoulder, neck and back problems can be work-related. In such a case, several strategies can be considered: physiotherapy, occupational therapy, massage therapy, chiropractic, etc. Some employers even provide services in ergonomics by trained professionals, who can adapt a work environment.
Sometimes the cause of chronic pain cannot be identified. This is called "idiopathic" pain.
The degree of pain felt varies depending on the source of the pain. It is important to describe your pain to the doctor with concise and accurate words to help them make a clear diagnosis, even if you don't see the connection between your symptoms.
The impact of chronic pain
Chronic pain can prevent the affected person from carrying out some of their daily activities. The impact can be physical, psychological, familial, social, and economic.
The possible impacts of chronic pain are many:
- sedentariness or insufficient physical activity
- decreased memory and concentration
- sleep disturbances
- altered mood
- stress, anxiety or depression
People with chronic pain can feel alone and misunderstood, because they are not always taken seriously. If you endure the repercussions of chronic pain, break the silence. There are resources at your disposal. Speaking to a doctor, psychologist or any professional who specializes in pain management could be beneficial.
You can also join a support group or an association dedicated to chronic pain management. Sharing your ordeal with others who have chronic pain can help you cope with your own situation. For additional information, visit the Association québécoise de la douleur chronique (AQDC) or Quebec Association for Chronic Pain website at: www.douleurchronique.org.
Solutions for chronic pain
If you suffer from chronic pain, you must act promptly before pain impacts all aspects of your life. You must take control of it, as chronic pain is generally harder to treat than acute pain. See a doctor. This is the most important thing that you can do. If the doctor considers it necessary, they can refer you to a specialized doctor at a pain clinic or to other specialists.
It is often a combination of several strategies that can help you manage your pain (medication, psychotherapy, physiotherapy, massage therapy, etc.). A team of professionals is often necessary. Pain self-management techniques can also be learned. You must invest in the treatment of your pain.
In closing, here are a few tips for coping with chronic pain:
- Get adequate sleep.
- Eat well and maintain a healthy weight.
- Reduce stress. Learn at least one relaxation technique (meditation, visualization, yoga, deep breathing, etc.).
- If you need to take medication, team up with your pharmacist and ask as many questions as necessary.
- Take care of yourself!
Speak to your pharmacist for additional information about chronic pain.