How do you know if you have chronic pain? What are the conditions that cause chronic pain and prompt someone to seek help?

Descriptions of pain vary greatly: ‘A river of ice in the arm,’ said a patient with a brachial plexus injury. ‘The pain is excruciating — just like having a tight metal cap over my entire scalp. I even dread combing my hair,’ said Jill who had suffered chronic headaches for 10 years. ‘All vertebrae feel as though they’re moving on one another as if there’s no gristle between them,’ said Max with a three year history of low back pain.

Chronic pain is a disease that is complex both in its causes and the symptoms it produces. It can originate in the muscles, the ligaments and the supporting tissues of the joints, or in the arterial or the nervous systems.

Pain can be triggered in different ways. There could be an initial trauma (an injury) which in turn leads to emotional problems and then to the awareness of pain. Some chronic pain sufferers may well worsen their problems with the treatments they seek. Often, pain is increased by the development of adhesions formed as a result of scar tissue attached to healthy tissue after one or more surgical operations.

Further problems occur when excessive dosages of multiple inappropriate medications, sometimes prescribed by more than one physician are taken. (Some see up to six different practitioners and are found to be taking as many as three different antidepressants and several tranquillisers as well as anti-convulsant medication. No wonder they feel sick!)

Pain can sometimes result from the adverse reactions these drugs have on one another and on the body’s system and can sometimes be completely eliminated by rationalising the medication.


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