September is Pain Awareness Month.
Over 100 million Americans currently suffer from chronic pain, with that number growing from year to year. People living with chronic pain, know just how debilitating it can be. But, what is chronic pain and how does it differ from regular pain?
Everyone will experience pain at some point, a sprained ankle or hurt back, but once the injury has healed, the pain is gone. Chronic pain is defined as a persisting pain that lasts for weeks, months, even years. With chronic pain, pain signals continue to send messages through the nervous system that something is wrong long after an injury has healed. Pain can stem from an initial incident (injury, infection, surgery) or from an ongoing condition (arthritic, migraines, fibromyalgia). Some people will suffer from chronic pain in the absence of injury or ongoing conditions.
Three of the most common forms of pain are back pain, headaches, and osteoarthritis.
Back pain is the second most common reason for doctor’s visits, with low back pain affecting over 31 million Americans. Back pain can cause numbness, tingling, shooting pains, and weakness in the legs. A number of things can cause back pain, from pulling a muscle when you lift a box to your posture to a serve accident. It is important to monitor any back pain you are having so it does not worsen.
Headaches are classified into three major categories: primary headaches, secondary headaches, and cranial neuralgias/ facial pain. Some of the symptoms include: nausea, sensitivity to light, blurry vision, pupils getting smaller, and feeling dizzy. It is important to know that during a headache, a person can experience many different symptoms that are not consistent from one headache to the next. When experiencing a headache it is best to try to relax in a cool, dark space.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and is caused by the breakdown of cartilage that protects your joints from rubbing together. It typically worsens over time and is more prevalent in women than men. It can also be seen in people who have played sports throughout their lives or who have had a job that requires a lot of kneeling/ lifting. Make sure to protect your knees when exercising and always let knee injuries heal.
When experiencing chronic pain, it is important to speak with your doctor about symptoms to determine the best plan of action to manage your pain and get you back to the life you love!