Understanding My Pain
“You are the best judge of your pain”
Pain is a personal experience. Everyone is unique in how he or she handles it. Some people cry out from a minor injury, while others in extreme pain say nothing. Your environment influences chronic pain. It involves more than tissue damage and physical disability. It can be affected by anything including your job, your family and where you live.
Back and neck pain occurs in all age groups. A surprising number of individuals ages 20 to 30 incur back or neck pain. This may be because previously active people start to work at sedentary jobs; their muscles lose some of their tone and flexibility and they become more injury prone.
The greatest number of injuries occurs in individuals ages 30 to 40, when people continue to do their normal activities and as the aging process begins to show. An individual’s spine normally deteriorates slowly and almost inconspicuously with age. Most of an individual’s muscular pain is due to injury even before he or she experiences back or neck pain due to the aging process.
Mind Vs. Body
The division of mind and body is a false one and nowhere is it more ineffective than in dealing with chronic pain. Chronic pain involves the mind, body and spirit. If you deny the pain and press on; or if you engage regularly in activities that increase the pain, you only aggravate your condition. Even if the consequences are not immediate, they do accumulate. Pretending nothing is wrong is not a solution for your pain. For example, your son or daughter wants to go to the movies. You know that sitting through the picture will increase your pain. You take an extra cushion and sit in the back row so that you can stand occasionally. Your pain probably will increase, but you feel it is worth it, and your child is thrilled. The decision is yours and is under your control.
What Is Acute Pain?
Acute pain begins suddenly and is usually sharp in quality. It serves as a warning of disease or a threat to the body. Acute pain has a short time limit and lasts long enough for healing to begin, usually from 24 hours to ten days. Acute pain may be caused by many events or circumstances, including:
- Broken bones
- Dental work
- Burns or cuts
- Labor and childbirth
Acute pain may be mild and last just a moment, or it may be severe and last for weeks or months. In most cases, acute pain does not last longer than six months and it disappears when the underlying cause of pain has been treated or has healed. Unrelieved acute pain, however, may lead to chronic pain.
What Is Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain persists despite the fact that an injury has healed. Pain signals remain active in the nervous system for weeks, months, or years. Physical effects include tense muscles, limited mobility, a lack of energy, and changes in appetite. Emotional effects include depression, anger, anxiety, and fear of re-injury. Such a fear may hinder a person’s ability to return to normal work or leisure activities. Common chronic pain complaints include:
- Low back pain
- Cancer pain
- Arthritis pain
- Neurogenic pain (pain resulting from damage to nerves)
- Psychogenic pain (pain not due to past disease or injury or any visible sign of damage inside)
Chronic pain may have originated with an initial trauma/injury or infection, or there may be an ongoing cause of pain. However, some people suffer chronic pain in the absence of any past injury or evidence of body damage.
A variation of chronic pain is chronic intermittent pain. Pain-free times alternate with weeks or even months of daily pain. Examples of chronic intermittent pain include migraines, cluster headaches and irritable bowel syndrome.
Your beliefs, attitudes, and moods influence your experience of chronic pain. Chronic pain may be affected by changes in weather (“This damp weather is not helping”), expectations (“If I have pain, I must be doing something wrong”), a search for meaning (“Why me?”), or cultural beliefs (“No pain, no gain”).
For months, you may have been experiencing the constant stimulation of pain. You feel anxious, depressed, and abandoned. You have become less sociable, and you have withdrawn from activities or the company of others. You think you are unable to meet the challenge of managing your pain. It is important for you to understand what chronic pain is and is not and what the ways for keeping it going are thought to be. Your enemy is not the pain, but what is causing it?
- Poor posture and body mechanics
- Weak, inflexible muscles
- Occupational/job-related risk factors
- Repetitive bending, lifting, or twisting
- Extensive vibration exposure
- Work dissatisfaction
- Prolonged sitting or standing