Chronic pain is a type of pain that lasts longer than three months and feels like it’s not getting any better. There are many conditions that can cause chronic pain, and sometimes the cause is unknown. The management of your chronic pain can depend on your specific condition and other needs.
In this guide we go through all of your options for managing chronic pain.
Chronic pain is any pain the lasts longer than 3 months. Pain can be an unpleasant physical or emotional experience caused by actual or possible damage to our bodies.
An example of chronic pain is long-lasting knee pain. You might need to take medicines or practise daily exercises to manage the knee pain.
For some people there is an obvious ongoing cause of the pain. For others the cause of the pain has gone, or there was no obvious cause to start with. Every person’s pain is as unique as they are and should be managed individually.
There are many common causes of chronic pain. These can include problems with the muscles, bones and joints, such as arthritis and back pain. Other causes include injury to nerves, cancer, or surgery.
Whether there is an underlying cause for your chronic pain or not, there are many options to improve what you can do and how you feel.
Common symptoms of chronic pain include:
Your experience of chronic pain is unique to you. Pain can be constant, or it comes and goes. You might find there are specific triggers that can increase how much pain you feel. This sudden increase in pain is known as a flare-up.
Some people with chronic pain have what we call neuropathic symptoms. These are unusual feelings that may be due to nerve damage. They are often described as a burning, tingling or numb feeling in the area where they get pain.
Your chronic pain might be from another source or have no obvious condition causing it.
It’s worth seeing a medical expert, such as a doctor that specialises in chronic pain, to understand your needs and help you manage your chronic pain. They can also try to determine what the cause of the chronic pain could be and offer effective ways to treat it.
Common conditions that cause chronic pain include bone, muscle and joint issues, such as:
Problems with the brain or nerves can cause chronic pain, including:
Pain from internal organs that can cause chronic pain include:
Chronic pain is usually diagnosed by taking a thorough history and examination to identify the type of pain, severity, functional impact and context.
Patients with musculoskeletal pain may benefit from X-Rays of the affected joint(s).
In neuropathic pain, nerve conduction studies and electromyography are frequently used to identify which nerves are affected.
A clinician may make recommendations for other investigations depending on the underlying cause of the pain.
NICE is the National Institute for Health Care and Excellence. The NICE chronic pain guidelines help doctors and other healthcare professionals in the UK decide how to treat chronic pain.
In the NICE chronic pain guidelines, they state that the team that treats you should:
There are specific NICE chronic pain guidelines for conditions like:
For chronic primary pain, NICE recommends these chronic pain treatments:
Here are some helpful ways to relieve chronic pain without medication:
You may need to try more than one way to relieve chronic pain, and some ways will work better for you than othersWatch this documentary online to see how others deal with living with chronic pain.
Medications that are used for chronic pain include those you can buy yourself without a prescription. These are called over the counter (OTC) medications which you get from a pharmacy, and include:
Some medications need to be prescribed by a doctor and include:
In pain clinics or hospitals, doctors might suggest an injection to areas that are causing chronic pain. These injections may contain corticosteroid medicines to reduce swelling and numb pain. They can relieve chronic pain for a long time. In some cases, pain can be relieved for a few months or years.
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