Chronic Pain

What Is Chronic Pain?

Be it back pain, headaches, joint problems, or full-blown fibromyalgia, chronic pain can persist. For many people, there is no end in sight to pain; it may even derail employment and relationships, setting one back for years. Some 30 million Americans suffer from some form of chronic pain. It can be influenced by many factors, including emotion and memory.

When an injury occurs, pain sensors light up, sending messages via electrical signal to the brain. Normal pain—as in a minor headache—can be relieved by a few aspirin or the passage of time. But chronic pain is something different; the brain continues to receive pain signals long after the original injury or onset of pain.

Pain from a chronic condition can range from a dull ache to throbbing agony. For those who are lucky, it will end within months, but for others, chronic pain can go on indefinitely. Other symptoms may include exhaustion, daytime fatigue, poor sleep, or mood swings.

How to Manage Chronic Pain

Though every individual's pain is different and may respond to different interventions, there are certain strategies that can help manage symptoms of chronic pain.

Breathing and meditation practices can help reduce symptoms of stress that may be exacerbating pain. To further manage pain, it may be best to not smoke and to limit alcohol. Practicing good sleep hygiene and eating healthfully can have beneficial effects as well, as can exercising self-compassion.

Chronic pain can contribute to the development of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Chronic pain sufferers who are struggling with such challenges can benefit from seeing a therapist; there are even clinicians who specialize in treating the negative emotions triggered by chronic pain.

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