September is National Pain Awareness Month, a time when pain specialists across the country make an extra effort to talk about common chronic pain issues and innovative treatments for them. At Houston Pain Centers, we know that unrelieved pain is a serious health problem. We believe that pain management is the process of providing medical care in order to ease or reduce someone’s pain. It is a basic part of good patient care, because every patient has the right to expect relief from pain.
When pain is poorly managed, complications can develop, such as:
- Slow-healing wounds
- Anxiety and depression
- Loss of strength and mobility
- A lack of interest in eating and drinking
- Disturbed sleep patterns
- Thoughts of suicide
- Needless suffering
- A sensation that hurts, causing discomfort, distress or even agony.
- An uncomfortable feeling that tells you something may be wrong in your body.
- A message that travels between the brain and nerve cells throughout the body.
- Difficult to define because the sensation is different for each individual.
Pain is NOT:
- A normal part of getting older.
- Necessary to “build character”.
- Something that can be measured with a blood test or an X-ray.
- “All in people’s heads.”
- As well-managed as possible for many people, especially those over age sixty-five.
- Pain is considered chronic when it is long term, lasting for six months or more.
- Often, chronic pain comes on gradually. People may have a hard time pinpointing when it started and/or describing it to others.
- Chronic pain serves no purpose since it keeps on long after the healing process is complete.
- The cause of chronic pain can be difficult to diagnose and may persist despite treatment.
- When people are experiencing chronic pain, the source of their discomfort may not be obvious to others. They may just seem depressed. This is because chronic pain can slow down the body, causing a decrease in both heart rate and blood pressure.
- Other people may not understand or fell sympathy for someone’s chronic pain because there may be no visible cause of the discomfort.
- Chronic pain can touch nearly every part of a person’s daily life. It also has an impact on the patient’s family. Because of its economic and social consequences, it affects us all.
- Chronic pain can be a source of frustration for health care professionals seeking to provide care and assistance but who don’t possess the training and experience to do so.
- Incidence: The American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA) estimates that one in three Americans (approximately 110 million people) suffers from some type of chronic pain.
- Causes: Lower back problems, arthritis, and headaches are the most common sources of chronic pain. Others causes include cancer, Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)/Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSD), repetitive stress injuries, shingles, and fibromyalgia, diabetic neuropathy, phantom limb sensation, and other neurological conditions.
- Pain is considered acute when it is temporary, lasting for a few hours or, at most, up to six months.
- Usually, acute pain comes on suddenly, as a result of disease, inflammation or injury—and goes away when the healing process is complete.
- Most of the time, acute pain serves a purpose because it “warns” the body of a problem that needs fixing.
- The cause of acute pain can usually be identified and treated—which makes it easier to feel sorry for the person in pain.
- When people are in acute pain, their discomfort tends to be obvious. IN fact, acute pain can rev up the body, causing pale, sweaty skin and an increase in heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure.
- Most of the time, medication and other treatment can greatly relieve acute pain.
- Pain management is an important part of the overall care.
- Incidence: Lower back pain is the most common form of acute pain and is the fifth most common cause for all physician visits. It is responsible for direct health care expenditures of more than $20 billion annually.
- Causes: Acute pain is triggered by tissue damage such as a skin burn, muscle pain or a broken bone. It’s the type of pain that generally accompanies an illness, an injury or surgery. It can manifest in just about any part of the body.
- Not everyone who has cancer experiences pain.
- Pain often signals the need for medical treatment, and can be a sign of cancer.
- Pain tends to worsen as the cancer spreads.
- Chemotherapy or radiation treatment can damage tissues, organs or muscles, causing pain.
- Ongoing cancer pain can be successfully treated in about 95 percent of people with the appropriate drug and non-drug therapies.
- Incidence: Approximately 30 to 40 percent of Americans diagnosed with cancer experience moderate to severe pain. With 90 percent of people who have a more advanced diagnosis of cancer experiencing significant amount of pain. Sixty to 80 percent of all cancer patients with bone metastases feel pain.
- Causes: Most cancer pain is caused by the effects of cancer itself, side effects of treatment, compression on bones, nerves or body organs, poor blood circulation, blockage of an organ, metastasis, infection, or inflammation.