Pain is a subjective experience. There is no test or machine that can measure pain. Defining pain as sharp or dull, constant or on-and-off, or burning or aching, or 7 on a scale of 1 to 10, may give the best clues to the cause of the pain. In 1979, the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) defined pain as an “unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.” This is now a widely accepted definition of pain. Pain is what the person experience it says it is. Acute pain can be mild and last just a moment, or it might be severe and last for weeks or months. Acute pain is tied to specific illnesses or injuries. Acute pain doesn’t last as long as chronic pain. The main difference between acute pain and chronic pain is time.
What is Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain means long-term pain. Some doctors categorize chronic pain as pain lasting for more than 3 months. Others, define it as pain lasting 6 months or more. Chronic pain is considered a disease state. A thorough medical history is necessary before diagnosing chronic pain.
Despite the fact that your injury may have healed, more often you will experience chronic pain. The pain signals may remain active in your brain for days, weeks, months or even years. That is why there are a lot of people who are suffering from pains because they once had an injury yet the brain is still sending out signals of the same pain which may have been experienced during the time when the injury is still fresh.
Chronic pain may even lead to emotional distress which includes anger, depression especially the fear of being injured again. This will hinder the person to return to his normal life and daily activities. However, pain still continues for a very long time that the only resort a person has is to get treatment and medication. Among the common symptoms of chronic pain are the following;
- Lower back pain
- Arthritis pain
- Psychogenic pain
- Neurogenic pain
Basically, chronic pain is caused by an injury or trauma but some people suffer from it even after the injury has been healed. The best course of action when you are having pain is to talk to your doctor about it that you will be given due treatment and medication to alleviate the pain and treat the chronic pain for good.
Pain is a feeling that every individual experience sometime or other in one’s lifetime. Injuries, cuts, surgery, kidney stones, childbirth, all these can produce pain of different intensities. Basically, there are two types of pain, acute pain, and chronic pain. Acute pain is a warning from the body about some internal body problem and this pain resolves as soon as the cause of the pain is treated. Chronic pain means long-term pain, which leads to frustration and anger and prevents the individual from enjoying life. Chronic diseases and injuries result in chronic pain. Some pains have the unidentifiable cause. Chronic diseases are always difficult to diagnose, therefore treatment is also difficult. Cancer, fibromyalgia, spinal injury, headaches, back injury, arthritis, and nerve inflammation are conditions associated with chronic pain. Chronic pain usually leads to anxiety, depression and sleep deprivation.
Sometimes a psychologist or psychiatrist can provide the best solution for addressing and alleviatng chronic pain. For relief from the chronic physical pain, there are different treatment methods which range from traditional medicines to modern therapies. Analgesic medications, which are painkillers, are commonly used for relief from chronic pain. Narcotic medications, anti-convulsants, muscle relaxants and antidepressants are used to lessen pain. Exercise, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), cutaneous stimulation, radio frequency radio ablation, surgically embedded electrotherapy devices, prolotherapy, injections and other manual techniques are employed for pain management.
Lidocaine and mexiletine are anesthetics which are given as ointments or as oral medicines in small amounts to relieve the severity of chronic pain. Acupuncture is very effective for a migraine and back pain. Meditation and relaxation methods help in relieving anxiety, and calming the aching and tense muscles which enable one to take control over physical processes, is also an alternative medicine to reduce chronic pain. All these treatment methods help people who suffer from chronic pain recover from their distressing condition and lead a normal and happy life.
Often, those who have chronic pain believe they have an ongoing disease or that their body has not healed, when this may not be the case. Chronic pain is likely not warning you of possible injury or danger; instead, the pain centers in the brain may be causing you to hurt even though there are no new causes of pain occurring in the body. Anyone can develop chronic pain, at any age. The brain changes in chronic pain:
- When you are injured or develop a painful disease, nerves send information from the problem area to the brain.
- The brain analyzes this information coming from the body to determine if there is a threat to the body and whether action needs to be taken to prevent harm.
- When pain is constant or chronic, the brain and nervous system go on “high alert,” becoming more sensitive.
- Cells that conduct sensation in the nervous system can also become more sensitive when on high alert, making it easier for the brain to interpret these sensations as a threat and thus cause you to have more pain. These changes in the brain and central nervous system induce and maintain chronic pain symptoms.
- When pain is chronic: Pain sensations are activated in the brain; The brain continues to interpret all sensations from the problem areas as a danger, even when there is no more tissue damage occurring. This makes it easier for the pain centers in the brain to activate; Pain messages come from many different areas of the brain – areas that may control fight or fear reactions, movement, emotions, problem-solving, and learning. In fact, almost any system of the body can be affected by chronic pain.
- The brain and nervous system continue reacting by causing you to continue to be in pain. This process increases sensations, emotions, or thoughts about the problem area. At this point, any sensory input can activate the pain centers. Even thinking about it, or reading the word pain can trigger pain sensations. The pain is in the brain: In order to protect you, the brain is making the decision to increase the alert level for sensations you feel.
Have you ever heard your doctor saying that your injury is an acute or chronic one? What are their differences? you need to know exactly what they are and what you should do. Their symptoms are different and the treatment methods differ as well. After all, it is your own body and you will be the one affected by it.
Acute injury is a sudden injury that is usually associated with a traumatic event such as crashing into another player during sports or a fall from a bike. you body undergo changes during this period and often it is a negative one. A traumatic impact can cause your bone to crack, muscles to tear or ligaments to snap. you will experience a sudden sharp pain that is often severe, immediate swelling and even cold purple regions in your body that indicate a lack of proper blood circulation in that injured part. you may even lose your stability if your knee ligaments are torn and you will be unable to place your body weight on it.
Chronic injuries can be also called overuse injuries. Like the name suggests, it is caused by overuse of a particular part of your body either through sports or exercises. They develop slowly and last a long time. Their symptoms are mild compared to acute injuries and the pain they cause are also little. This causes the patient to ignore the injury and carry on with their activities. Over time, it will build up and cause more problems. Some common symptoms of chronic injuries include experiencing pain whenever you engage in sporting activities, swelling after each game and constant aching when you are not doing anything. In other words, chronic injuries are lifestyle threatening as they restrict you from participating in many things. Some examples of chronic injuries are stress fractures caused by repeated loading of a particular part, causing tiny cracks in your bone each time. Tennis players also commonly suffer from tennis elbow which effectively pains near the elbow due to overuse.
Signs and Symptoms
- Fearfulness. It is easy to begin to fear increased pain when you have a chronic pain condition. As a result, you may begin to avoid activity. you may find that you rely more on family members to help with daily functions.
- Body stiffness when you try to become more active. Stiffness may make you feel as if your body is less able to perform daily activities.
- Deconditioning. Not moving your body results in less tolerance when you want to become more active. If you are inactive for a long time, muscles weaken and shrink from not being used. This can also increase your risk of falling.
- Decreased circulation. Lack of activity decreases the circulation of much-needed blood to your cells. Tissues in your body may not get as much oxygen as they need. As a result, they may not be as healthy as they can be. This can cause you to feel fatigued and lack energy.
- Weight gain and/or a worsening of other conditions. Decreased activity can lead to unwanted weight gain. Added pounds and inactivity can aggravate symptoms of other conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Chronic pain conditions are also commonly associated with feelings of anxiety or depression.
- Increased use of medication. Chronic pain patients can have the tendency to increase their medication over time to seek relief.
Individual behaviors can include:
- Seeking out of many different doctors or health care providers and facilities to find relief.
- Difficulties with job performance. Some people with chronic pain even seek work disability.
- Avoidance of social situations or family members.
- When pain is ongoing, you may find you have feelings of bitterness, frustration, or depression. Some people report they have thoughts of suicide. If you are having these feelings, tell your doctor. This is important so that you can get appropriate medications to help you feel better.
Ability to Apply for Disability Benefits With Acute Pain and Chronic Pain
To qualify for Social Security or SSI disability benefits, you must first show the Social Security Administration (SSA) that you have a severe “medically determinable” physical or mental impairment. This means that your impairment must be established by medical evidence that includes objective symptoms and lab tests. To be considered a disability, your impairment cannot be established on the basis of symptoms alone. In other words, merely telling the Social Security Administration that you have disabling chronic pain is not enough.
Therefore, pain—even severe chronic pain that is disabling—will not qualify you for disability benefits unless your medical record includes things like lab tests, x-rays, and/or the results of a physical exam that show there is a physical impairment that could reasonably be expected to produce your symptoms. For example, if a doctor examines you and finds you have widespread pain and 11 out of 18 possible tender point sites, this would establish that you have fibromyalgia. your objective medical findings don’t need to support the severity of your pain, just that there is a physical impairment that is likely to produce pain.
Social Security Act Definition of Disability
Under Social Security law, an individual is considered disabled if he or she is:
- unable to do any substantial gainful work activity because of a medical condition (or conditions), that has lasted, or can be expected to last, for at least 12 months, or that is expected to result in death; or, in the case of an individual under the age of 18, if he or she suffers from any medically determinable physical or mental impairment that results in marked and severe functional limitations.
The medical condition(s) must be shown to exist by means of medically acceptable clinical and laboratory findings. Under the law, symptoms alone cannot be the basis for a finding of disability, although the effects of symptoms may be an important factor in the SSA decision whether a person is disabled. If the medical evidence alone shows that a person is clearly disabled or not disabled, SSA decides the applicant on that information. Otherwise, SSA considers other factors, such as functional capacity in light of the person’s impairment(s), age, education, and work background.
In general, the Social Security Administration looks at longitudinal clinical records and detailed historical notes discussing the course of the disorder, including treatment and response, and functional capabilities since the onset of CFS with that of his or her prior status will help. As stated above, and worth reiterating, the Social Security Act requires that a disabling impairment be documented by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory findings. Symptoms alone, or diagnosis alone is not sufficient to establish a compensable disability under the Social Security Act.
Generally, meeting the eligibility requirements under your individual disability insurance policy or employer provided long-term-disability plan is more forgiving compared with meeting the requirements of the Social Security Act.