What is chronic pain and how can you help someone living with chronic pain?
What is Chronic Pain / Long Term Effects / Support / Easing the Pain / More Information
Everyone experiences pain at some point in their life. Have you ever pulled a muscle, cut your finger or felt pain after a surgical procedure? Imagine how it would have been if your body kept on hurting after that? Always feeling that pain. Usually the pains we experience disappear once the tissue has healed or after successful treatment. But for some, the pain doesn’t stop. For them this will be the beginning of a long battle and a pain-filled journey. Chronic pain.
What is Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is any pain that continues for 3-6 months or longer. The intensity of the pain can vary. It can come and go or be consistent. The pain can feel anything like a:
- Dull ache
- Burning sensation
- Stinging sensation
- Shooting bolts of pain
- Tightening or squeezing
- Throbbing or pulsating pain
- Soreness or ache
Chronic pain can last for weeks, months or even years. It can be the result of damaged body tissue or changes to the nervous system which continue to send pain signals after the body has healed.
Chronic pain management is definitely something that should be undertaken with the support of your local physician or GP. While this article touches on some ways to help manage pain it is always advised that you seek specialist treatment when dealing with ongoing pain.
Long Term Effects of Chronic Pain
You can no doubt imagine that having to continually deal with these physical feelings can have damaging effects on a person's ability to work, exercise and even socialise leading to mental health conditions. Long term effects can include:
- Poor sleep
- Job loss
- Marriage or family problems
One of the Fastest Growing Medical Conditions
The statistics for chronic pain in Australia is high with 1 in 5 people, including adolescents and children, being diagnosed. It’s one of our fastest growing medical conditions and as our population ages, chronic pain is projected to increase from around 3.2 million in 2007 to 5 million by 2050.
Isolated, fatigued and helpless. This is how those affected by long term chronic pain can feel and one of the best ways to help someone through this is to maintain a strong connection. Support is vital in keeping stress levels low and breaking the cycle of constant pain.
How To Support Someone Living With Chronic Pain
If you know someone who is constantly struggling with pain, there are many ways you can help support them such as:
- Researching and understanding their condition
- Going with them to their appointments
- Encouraging them to make healthy food choices
- Exercising together if possible for added encouragement and motivation
- Using heat therapy to soothe stiff, sore muscles and joints
- Using cold therapy for any inflammation on the body to reduce pain
- Lots of love and lots of cups of tea!
The type and cause of chronic pain that someone is suffering from will determine the most effective ways to alleviate the pain. While cooling and heating can both be effective temporary pain relief options or course all pain should be managed through consultations with your GP or specialist..
Heat Therapy to Soothe Pain
If the chronic pain is muscle or joint related then applying heat to the area can help, relieving stiffness and reducing pain. The heat will increase circulation and blood flow to the injured area and remove lactic acid waste build-up. If you’re feeling stiff, try applying a heating pad or heat bag to the sore area. Soaking in a hot bath may also provide relief.
A heat bag can be the perfect tool in combating the pain and providing some relief. Inspirational heat bags (ARTG approved) have different sizes and shapes to ensure maximum effect.
Always be mindful of how hot the pads, heat bags, wraps and/or water is before applying them to your skin. You don’t want to burn yourself or develop a rash from irritation. If your skin is turning bright red, remove the heat immediately. Also, try to have someone around to monitor your usage in the event you take a nap or fall asleep while applying any form of heat therapy.
Cold Therapy to Soothe Pain
The opposite of heat therapy, cold therapy works to constrict blood flow and circulation which will reduce inflammation and swelling. This will ease a tight throbbing pain and provide a numbing effect to the nerves, slowing down pain signals to the brain and allowing some relief.
Cold packs or a cool ice bath will help with the symptoms. Inspirational Heat Bags range of specially shaped packs can also be used to cool and are a suitable aide to help reduce swelling caused from chronic pain. Other effective cold therapy methods include:
- ice baths
- washcloths soaked in cold water
- homemade ice packs with frozen vegetables or ice
- a chemical cold pack from a retail store
Much like heat therapy, limiting and/or monitoring your skin’s exposure to cold is important. Leaving a cold pack on the skin for more than 30 minutes can result in hives, ice burns and skin irritations.
Foods That May Help Reduce Chronic Pain and Help Heal the Body
What you fuel your body with can make a huge impact on how you are able to overcome injuries and inflammation. Choosing foods that build bone density, reduce inflammation and help strengthen connective tissues can help the healing process. Here are a few suggestions:
- Fish oils/ omega-3 fatty acids
- Nuts and seeds especially walnuts, almonds and flax seeds
- Fruits like apples, pineapple and berries
- Lentils and beans
- Brassica vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts
- Olive oil
- Dark chocolate, 70% plus cocoa (yum!)
- Bone broth
- Root vegetables and garlic
Further Information and Where to Get Help
For those suffering from chronic pain or helping someone who is experiencing long term pain visit Chronic Pain Australia for more information and support.
No one should suffer alone, there is help out there!