Nearly 40 million adults in the United States suffer from some form of chronic pain. Perhaps even more staggering, the cumulative cost of treatment for chronic pain is estimated to clock in at $635 billion per year. Many times, too, doctors don’t properly identify the “invisible disability” of chronic pain, leaving people to develop their own coping skills for pain management. If that’s the case, seek the advice of specialists or physical therapists. But, in the meantime, here are some tips to minimizing your physical discomfort.
Causes and Symptoms
What is chronic pain? Although condition-specific, chronic pain differs from other pain in that it lasts longer than six months. Even more alarming, it persists after the original injury or condition that caused it goes away. The pain manifests in limited mobility, appetite changes and sensations of tense muscles, among others. Eventually, fatigue from being in pain for so long sets in, compounding the problem. Arthritis, headaches, back injuries, nerve damage and fibromyalgia (muscle pain that spreads throughout the body) can all cause chronic pain.
If you have chronic pain, there are resources to help you. Online databases offer therapist locator services, fact sheets on symptoms and treatment. These include the International Pain Foundation, the Chronic Pain Resource Alliance, and the Families for Intractable Pain Relief (FIPR). The American Chronic Pain Association website includes clinical trials, links to support groups and emergency room locations. Also, try to make appointments with physical therapists, since their training is in identifying and reducing pain of all sorts.
Imagine that your lower back is pounding so hard you wake up at night or an acute stabbing radiates out from your shoulder every time you lift it. Should you go to the ER, consult your doctor, or check into an inpatient rehabilitation program? The admission criteria for each inpatient facility varies. Generally, though, they necessitate a doctor’s referral, insurance information and that the physical complaint has persisted at least six months. Treatment services also vary by institution, but they can include medication, group therapy, and relaxation training. The goal is to cure your pain, but the search for its source can often lead to identifying an even deeper root of the pain.
Prescription Drug Abuse
Prescribing the right medication is primarily a doctor’s responsibility. But you can also follow precautions to ensure that the dosage you receive is appropriate for your condition. These include discarding any expired medications and following the instructions on the label. Be sure to research the effects of drinking alcohol while on your prescription. Never alter your dosing regimen without first checking with your doctor. Never use anyone else’s prescription. Finally, ask your pharmacist any questions that you may not have raised with your doctor.
The usual effects of being high on prescription drugs include nausea, sedation, dizziness and excessive fatigue, as if wandering through a fog. Consult your doctor immediately if any of these symptoms apply to you.
Nearly one-third of all Americans live day-to-day with some form of chronic pain. Perhaps the worst aspect of chronic pain is that it can’t always be fully healed. And for people without insurance, meeting with a doctor or physical therapist can sometimes be impossible. If that’s the case, be sure to observe some basic pain preventative measures. These might include exercising, eating a balanced diet, sleeping eight hours a night and reducing your stress as much as possible.
Chronic pain is debilitating yet elusive, but maintaining a healthy lifestyle, taking appropriate medication and consulting any resources available should aid you on your path to recovery.
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