What Is Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts more than 12 weeks. It is different from acute pain, and it can persist for many months. When you have chronic pain, the brain continues to send pain signals even after an injury has healed. Chronic pain can occur in different locations of the body for different reasons. It’s important to accurately diagnose the root cause of chronic pain so it can be effectively treated. Typically, a healthcare professional will take a pain history from the patient along with ordering tests to determine an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan.
Causes of Chronic Pain
About 80 percent of adults experience chronic back pain at some point. Usually, it occurs in the lower back. It may be caused by an injury or due to osteoarthritis, arthritis and normal wear-and-tear. Back pain is an epidemic in our country. Common causes include compression fractures, bulging discs, soft tissue damage, spinal stenosis and structural deformities.
Over 90 percent of the adult population will report a history of headaches. Chronic headaches occur for two weeks a month and no less than three months consecutively. Tension headaches are caused by stress, and eye strain headaches are due to strained ocular muscles. Migraines are caused by nervous system triggers, and cluster headaches are due to an enlargement of the blood vessels.
Joint pain is a leading type of chronic pain. It’s generally due to advancing age, infection or injury. Osteoarthritis is common in the elderly and typically affects the larger joints. Rheumatoid arthritis causes swelling of the joint spaces. Tendinitis is due to the inflammation of the joint tendons, and a repetitive motion injury is common in athletes. All of these can cause chronic joint pain.
Chronic nerve pain occurs when the nerves are damaged, compressed or lose their myelin sheath. Sciatica, carpal tunnel syndrome, postherpetic neuralgia and diabetic neuropathy can cause chronic nerve pain.
How Physical Therapy Helps Chronic Pain
A physical therapist will help educate you about your chronic pain and find solutions to help improve your quality of life. A physical therapist will evaluate your clinical examination and create an individualized treatment program that targets the root problem. You’ll engage in flexibility and strengthening exercises for easier mobility with less discomfort. A graded exercise program will help train your brain to sense the problem area. With manual therapy, a physical therapist uses gentle hands-on techniques to move soft tissues and joint structures. This helps reduce pain and increase movement. With body mechanics instruction and posture awareness, you will learn to use your body more efficiently while performing activities. This also reduces pain and improves function. A physical therapist may also use heat, ice or electrical stimulation to help reduce chronic pain.
Are you suffering from chronic pain? Contact us to schedule a consultation today. We’ve helped many others manage their chronic pain and can help you, too.