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Is Chronic Pain Affecting You in One of These Ways?

Is Chronic Pain Affecting You in One of These Ways?

Approximately one in five adults in the United States struggles with chronic pain, which can have a surprisingly large impact on their lives that goes well past the discomfort. 

To give you an idea about the effects that chronic pain can have on your life, the team here at Comprehensive Pain Management, including Drs. Boris Shwartzman and Do Chan, wants to outline a few of the more common complications.

Defining chronic pain

We define chronic pain as pain that lasts for more than three months, though we hesitate to confine the problem to one single timeline. For example, if you develop spinal stenosis or osteoarthritis, these are progressive conditions and there's a good case to be made for the problem being chronic the moment we diagnose it.

Another point of discussion is whether chronic pain is a symptom — or its own pathology or disease. In many cases, chronic pain involves pain that lasts long after the underlying problem has been resolved, which may indicate that the pain has become a standalone problem.

No matter the definition or the timeline, there’s one universal truth about chronic pain: It can affect your life in myriad ways.

Mental health and chronic pain

Studies have found that chronic pain often induces depression, and that up to 85% of people who struggle with ongoing pain also have symptoms of severe depression.

When you’re in pain, your body is in a state of stress, which can cause an imbalance in your hormones. As an example, your body may produce more stress hormones, primarily cortisol, and reduce the production of “feel-good” hormones, such as endorphins and dopamine.

As well, the two neurotransmitters that influence pain signaling — serotonin and norepinephrine — also play a role in anxiety and depression.

While researchers are still trying to identify the exact cause-and-effect mechanism between chronic pain and mental health issues like anxiety and depression, we do know that a connection exists.

Social health and chronic pain

When you’re dealing with discomfort, you may not be in the mood to socialize with family and friends and find that you isolate yourself more. This effect on your social life can be significant and negatively affect your emotional and mental health.

Substance misuse and chronic pain

Another problem that we often see with chronic pain are co-occurring substance use disorders. In 2019, nearly 10 million people misused prescription painkillers, which is a slippery slope to a substance use disorder. As well, we also see people turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to self-medicate, which is a dangerous approach to pain management.

The limits of chronic pain

This last point may be an obvious one, but it’s significant. Of the 20% of the adult population in the US that has chronic pain, more than 7% had high-impact chronic pain, which is pain that limits your life or work activities. For these people, chronic pain can make their worlds much smaller, as they’re unable to participate in life as they once did because of the discomfort.

While the above represents some of the more common complications that often accompany chronic pain, the fact is that chronic pain can cast a very wide net over your overall health and wellness. 

If you recognize any of the side effects we’ve discussed above, we want you to know that we’re here to help. Through responsible and effective pain management practices, we can help you break free from the prison of chronic pain. To get started, contact one of our offices in Attleboro or Franklin, Massachusetts, or South Kingstown or Warwick, Rhode Island.

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