By Margaret A. Caudill-Slosberg, MD
July 15, 2003
Chronic pain is a very serious health concern that affects more than 50 million Americans. Chronic pain is defined as pain that persists a month or more beyond what is considered normal for recovery from an injury or illness, or that goes on for months or years because of a chronic condition.
Just a few of the diseases associated with chronic pain include: arthritis, nerve damage, cancer, fibromyalgia, diabetic neuropathy, carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica, shingles, phantom limb pain and coronary artery disease. Sometimes pain persists for reasons that are not clear. This sort of pain is related to a "broken" pain system and does not respond well to medications normally used for acute pain.
Depending upon its severity, chronic pain can cause all kinds of devastation if the person suffering has no confidence that she/he can control or manage it. The first principle of controlling pain is to seek medical advice regarding the cause. When the cause has been determined, or when the more serious causes like cancer or infection have been eliminated from the list of possible culprits, you can begin to deal with the realities of your particular problem. Reflecting on your responses to the following questions will help you and your health care provider determine the cause:
When did it start?
How long has it been?
What makes it better?
What makes it worse?
What have you done to alleviate it thus far?
Describe the quality of the pain: burning, aching, sharp, or throbbing can be very helpful in making a diagnosis.
Acknowledging the emotional response is also helpful. Are you fearful, anxious, or angry?