Understanding Chronic Pain
Any physical discomfort that lasts for at least six months is diagnosed as chronic pain. Chronic pain affects over 50 million Americans, most of whom work full-time.
The most common forms of chronic pain include:
- Back pains
- Respiratory conditions
- Injuries or traumas caused by sports or vehicular accidents
“Generally speaking, chronic pain and other physical and mental disorders have been categorized as ‘silent disorders’ in the workplace simply because most employees are afraid of the consequences if employers find out,” – Wayne Hochwarter.
Wayne Hochwarter is an associate professor of management at Florida State University’s College of Business in Tallahassee. According to his research, he found out that chronic pain at work has a significant effect on both the employee and the employer.
Chronic pain is associated with:
- Less-effective communication
- Increase in conflict on the job
- Inability to focus on the tasks
- Less enthusiasm for the job
- Doesn’t want to interact with coworkers and supervisors
- More tension and pressure in the job
- Depression level increases
Chronic pain presents a significant burden to both the employees and employers. Musculoskeletal disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and back pain can be associated with chronic pain. Both of them imposes a negative impact on the quality of life for you as an employee. Chronic pain is also linked with other chronic diseases including cardiovascular conditions and cancer.
Causes of Chronic Pain
Chronic pain can be caused by a lot of factors. Most conditions that come with chronic pain is a person’s age. A person’s age can affect their bones and joints.
Back pain, for example, can be caused by:
- Years and years of bad posture
- Improper lifting of heavy objects
- Being overweight which can strain a person’s knees and back
- A congenital condition such as scoliosis
- Wearing high heels all the time
- Sleeping on a poor mattress
- Degenerative changes of the spine
Other factors that can influence pain:
- Psychological factors
- Social factors
- Past Experiences
- Long-term health problems
4 Common Types of Chronic Pain
Chronic Back Pain
Chronic pain usually lasts more than 12 weeks. According to research conducted by the University of North Carlina at Chapel Hill, more than 84 percent of American adults experience chronic back pain. The most common areas affected are a pain in the lower back, arthritis, osteoporosis, or normal wear-and-tear of the bones.
Back pain has become an epidemic in the United States and is now the leading cause of disability and lost productivity in the workplace.
Common causes of chronic back pain include:
- Spinal stenosis
- Compression fractures
- Soft tissue damage
- Slipped or bulging discs
- Spinal fractures
- Structural deformities such as scoliosis
According to a study, over 50 percent of the adult American population will report headaches in a year, while a staggering 90 percent will report a lifetime history of headaches.
A headache will be considered a chronic headache if pain occurs 15 days per month for no less than three continuous months.
The most common types of chronic headache include:
Eye strain headaches: when ocular muscles become strained
Tension headaches: when a person is overstressed, experiences fatigue, or sleeping wrong
Cluster headaches: when there is enlargement of blood vessels in the head
Migraines: when there are hormonal irregularities and nervous system triggers
Chronic Nerve Pain
According to a study conducted by the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, one in every ten Americans is affected by the chronic nerve (neuropathic). Chronic nerve happens when nerves are either compressed, damaged, or exposed to drugs that strip their protective exterior coating called the myelin sheath.
Types of chronic neuropathic pain:
Carpal tunnel syndrome: is associated with repetitive motion
Sciatica: caused by a compression in the nerves that triggers a shooting pain down the leg
Diabetic neuropathy: often occurs in the hands and feet
Trigeminal neuralgia: occurs when there is an injury to the trigeminal nerve of the face
Postherpetic neuralgia: usually persists after a shingles breakout
Chronic Joint Pain
Typically caused by injury, infection, or advancing age, joint pain is one of the leading types of chronic pain among American adults. According to U.S Bone and Joint Initiative, arthritis is affecting 51 million Americans which makes it the number one cause of chronic joint pain.
Common types of chronic joint pain include:
Rheumatoid Arthritis: it is an autoimmune disorder which makes the affected joint swell
Osteoarthritis: affects larger joints which commonly occurs to the elderly
Bursitis: it is caused by a swelling of the fluid-filled sacs that cushions the joints
Tendinitis: it is caused by the inflammation of joint tendons
How You Can Manage Chronic Pain
- Maintain a healthy diet and weight. Make sure you’re weight is proportionate to your height.
- Exercise regularly. Make sure you consult your doctor first before engaging into any physical activity.
- Do not prolong bed rest or inactivity. As much as possible, walk around as much as you can.
- Warm up or stretch before exercising or doing any physical activity.
- Always maintain proper posture especially when you’re sitting down because you have a desk job.
- Wear comfortable shoes. Wear high heels when necessary, not every day.
- Choose a sleeping mattress with medium firmness so that it can minimize any abnormal curves in your spine.
- When you lift an object, lift with your knees and keep the object close to your body. Avoid twisting.
- Do not smoke. Smoking impairs blood flow which can result in oxygen and nutrient deprivation to your spinal tissues.
- Regularly visit your doctor so monitor your chronic pain condition.
Chronic pain is not a joke. It can affect your productivity at work, your relationship with your loved ones, and it can prevent you from doing things you’re passionate about. Dr. Ronak Patelis a certified pain management doctor in NJ. If you think you need help with your chronic pain needs, book an appointment with him by calling (609) 269-4451.