Chronic pain. We use the description liberally. However, for the chronic pain sufferer, it is defined as pain that an individual has to contend with for six months or more. The chronic pain patient endures this as mild or excruciating, intermittent or ongoing; it may be simply inconvenient or incapacitating.
Chronic Pain is debilitating and impairs a person’s ability to function at full capacity. The indications of the pain can remain active in the nervous system for months or years. This residual effect can inflict a person, both physically and emotionally.
Headaches, injury pain and joint pain, and backaches are the most common examples. Other variants of chronic pain are sinus pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis. Shoulders, pelvis, and neck, and generalized muscle or nerve pain can also develop into a chronic condition.
Ongoing pain may originate from an infection or injury, or there may be a continuous cause of pain, maybe due to lifestyle such as sitting in front of laptops or repetitive strain injury with message texting! And there are some folk who suffer from ongoing pain from no apparent cause, but the pain is very real.
The emotional grind of ongoing pain is inflamed when the pain plus stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and anger interact in such complex ways with chronic pain and may decrease the body’s production of its own painkillers. Also, such negative emotions may increase the level of substances that increase pain sensations, causing an amplified cycle of pain.
Even the body’s instinctive defense system may suffer too. There is substantial evidence that unrelenting pain can suppress the immune system.
Chronic pain and key symptoms
There are three categories of symptoms:
- Mild to severe, persistent pain
- Pain that is highlighted as shooting, burning, aching, or electrical
- Discomfort variances of being described as being stiff, sore, tender or tight e.g. muscles, joints, bones.
Chronic pain is not a symptom that exists in isolation. Other problems that we experience in conjunction with chronic pain may include one or more of the following:
- The need to withdraw from activity and the consequent need to further rest
- Weakening of the immune system
- Mood swings including helplessness, hopelessness, fear, anxiety and depression, irritability, and stress
- Disability i.e. not fully functioning as able bodied previously.
Because of the mind-body links associated with chronic pain, effective treatment requires addressing psychological as well as physical aspects of the patient’s condition. Effective counselling is essential in attending to a patient, holistically.
The goal of treating patients with counselling is to understand the dynamic of the body-mind mutual impact, and to identify areas of strain, anxiety and obstruction which is preventing total healing.