Everyone, thanks to the structure of the human brain and other factors, perceives discomfort in different ways. We can think of acute, localized pain as a temporary annoyance. But other pain, which lasts for months or longer without a cause, may then be described as chronic pain.
What is chronic pain?
“Pain signals keep firing in the nervous system for weeks, months, even years. There may have been an initial mishap — sprained back, serious infection, or there may be an ongoing cause of pain — arthritis, cancer, ear infection, but some people suffer chronic pain in the absence of any past injury or evidence of body damage. Many chronic pain conditions affect older adults.”
Maybe I just have acute pain
Acute pain isn’t perpetual, and seldom lasts longer than six months. It disappears as its underlying cause vanishes with time. Chronic pain is persistent. Causes of acute pain may include:
- Broken bones
- Dental work
- Cuts or burns
- Pregnancy and childbirth
After acute pain subsides, you can resume normal life as usual.
Chronic pain symptoms
Stanford Health Care offers this perspective on chronic pain: “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 symptoms are treatable with store-bought or over-the-counter pain relievers, occupational and physical therapy, psychotherapy, and new treatments such as ketamine.
How widespread is chronic pain?
According to a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, chronic pain affects more than 50 million people 18-years old and older. Of that total:
- 2,082,000 – 18- to 24-years old are affected.
- 11,042,000 – 25- to 44-years old are affected.
- 23,269,000 – 45- to 64-years old are affected.
- 11,808,000 – 65- to 84-years old are affected.
- 1,766,000 – older than 85-years old are affected.
The numbers show that more women (28,049,000) are affected than men (21,989,000). White, non-Hispanic adults are the most widely affected group, followed by Hispanic, Black, and other non-Hispanic ethnic groups.
Chronic pain also affects a quarter to one-third of children and adolescents.
Is chronic pain a disability?
Chronic pain doesn’t appear in the Listing of Impairments published by the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA). Also known as the “blue book,” the publication describes ailments in 14 different categories which may qualify a person for disability benefits through the SSA. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to collect disability benefits. You need to prove that you can’t work because of your condition, and that it’s lasted more than a year or is life-threatening.
Diagnosing chronic pain
Chronic pain is diagnosed by undergoing a physical examination. You’ll be asked to describe your pain and talk about your medical history, which will assist your doctor in finding the best treatment. Diagnosis may include tests and diagnostic procedures, like blood tests, X-Rays, bone scans, ultrasound imaging, and magnetic resonance imaging, among others.
The best way to treat chronic pain
The best way to treat chronic pain may be through the use of ketamine, a medicine known to reduce symptoms for weeks at a time. But your doctor or therapist could recommend other therapies, such as dietary and lifestyle changes, psychotherapy, store-bought or over-the-counter pain relievers, even exercise or other medicine. The advantage of talking to a medical professional about chronic pain is the breadth of expertise they can bring to the discussion. Besides their own knowledge and experience, your doctor or therapist can rely on others for diagnosis and to suggest treatment options:
- Neurologists and neurosurgeons
- Orthopedists and orthopedic surgeons
- Physical therapists
- Occupational therapists
- Social workers
- Case managers
- Vocational counselors
If you experience chronic pain or any other kind of discomfort, don’t assume it’ll go away on its own. Acute pain may have specific causes and vanishes on its own, but lingering chronic pain could be the sign of a serious problem.
If you or a loved one are dealing with the symptoms of a chronic pain condition we can help. Learn more about the clinical use of ketamine and to see if you’re a good candidate for this treatment alternative.