What is chronic pain and how can it be treated?

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Chronic pain is defined as pain suffered most days or every day for six months and the bad news is that 20.4% of Americans are reported as suffering from it. That is an astonishing 50 million people in the United States whose lives are affected.

What can be done to treat it? There are a number of options ranging from traditional anti-inflammatory drugs and pain killers to physical activities and alternative treatments such as acupuncture.

If you suffer from chronic pain, then it is important to consider all the options. What works well for one person might not work for another, and there are various side effects that you should also be aware of.

To get you started, here are four treatment options for chronic pain.

Anti-inflammatory drugs

Anti-inflammatory drugs are good for the treatment of chronic pain due to how they target swelling which can be one of the main causes of the condition. They work by lowering levels of chemicals called prostaglandins in the body, which are responsible for causing inflammation. Less inflammation equals less swelling which should equal less pain. There is a whole range of anti-inflammatory drugs available, some of which will require a prescription and others which are available over the counter. You can speak to either your doctor or a pharmacist to find out which will work best for you.

Opioids

When used appropriately, opioids can be extremely effective at controlling certain types of chronic pain, especially if the problem isn’t related to nerve pain. They are also good if the pain is present day and night with a long-acting opioid having the ability to counter it around the clock. There is a downside, however, and that is that opioids can be hugely addictive. Every day, over 130 people in the United States overdoses because of opioids, with the economic burden of misuse estimated to be around $78.5 billion a year. Opioid addiction is a huge problem, and as such, some have suggested the use of cannabinoids instead. Doctors are yet to be convinced, but you can read this article to find out more about the benefits of cannabinoids.

Exercise

Exercising with chronic pain can be challenging because the pain can limit the amount of physical exertion that you can carry out, but it is a useful tool in managing it. Being inactive causes your muscles and joints to weaken, and weaker muscles are going to be more susceptible to problems down the line. By not exercising to save yourself from chronic pain, you could be making your suffering worse. The other way that exercise can help is by releasing endorphins. After a workout, our brain releases these positive chemicals into the body, and they can help block pain signals reaching the mind, reducing the pain that we are in as a result. Check out these exercises that can help manage chronic pain.

Acupuncture

Depending on where the pain is, acupuncture could be used to help to manage it. It’s particularly effective on pain that affects the back and neck and can even help to block out the pain in the same way that it can help prevent tension headaches and migraines.

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