Experiencing continued pain of any kind generates in people a negative impact on their daily activities and prevents them from enjoying the life in a full and satisfactory way. Identifying the consequences is a step towards recovery.
Pain is an unpleasant physical sensation, related to damage in body tissues and that limits people’s ability or capacity to carry out your daily activities. It can be sharp (short duration) or chronic (long-term, generally more than six months).
Types of pain
There are different ways to classify it. Sometimes they overlap and they are regularly interrelated. The following classification is one of the best known:
– Nociceptive: caused by a condition in the body and it acts as a protective sign. Some examples are: joint pain, low back pain, sports injuries.
– Inflammatory: caused by damage to the soft tissues of the muscular and skeletal structure. It is usually local and perceived as mild or intense. It presents more frequently in the hips, shoulders, hands or lower back.
– Neuropathic: related to nerve injuries. It can be described such as tingling or stinging sensations. Sometimes the main cause is not detected.
Most significantly, it can alter people’s lifestyles and it can affect family and work activities and independence.
When you have an acute illness, it is possible to know that you have an injury or a problem that, when taken care of, it is solved quickly. When the pain is chronic, the situation changes. It can last for months or even years. The origin can be an infection or injury or have a keep going cause.
Sometimes an apparent cause is not shown, the person suffers from osteoarticular pain, headaches, low back pain, neuropathic or cancer pain.
Many older adults suffer from chronic conditions. These are presented more frequently in women than in men and, in general, they have psychological consequences.
People with chronic pain often develop psychological and interpersonal conditions economic problems, and their quality of life is seriously diminished.
They appear gradually and they make people to stop performing their habitual activities and this leads to people becoming socially isolated.
– People often feel tired or suffer from insomnia.
– They lose appetite or taste for food and lose weight.
– Sexual desire decreases, there is apathy and even losing the ability to feel pleasure and enjoy things appears.
– Anxiety, depressive disorders, disappointment and feelings of despair are presented.
– Low self-esteem.
– In very prolonged cases, irritability, sadness, mood changes.
– The perception of uselessness and / or guilt is strengthened.
– Demotivation appears and many future plans collapse or remain unfinished.
– Intrusive thoughts develop, which make the person believe that is under the control of their own pain and makes them unable to do work or enjoy activities.
– In severe cases there are thoughts of death and suicide.
In addition to physical harm and suffering, people with chronic pain see their interpersonal life affected, by not meeting the expectations of their beloved ones.
Their quality of life worsens considerably with lack of physical activity, independence and lack of entertainment. Economic problems become serious with possible sick leave, medical costs or disability.
Aspects that are affected
Chronic affectations produce great psychological and emotional reactions which can increase the patient suffering in various aspects:
– Physiological: it affects the functionality of the own biological structure of the human being.
– Mental: it causes negative thoughts and vicious circles.
– Emotional: it directly affects the self-esteem and image of the person that suffers.
– Behavioural: it modifies activity patterns and alters daily tasks
– Social: it is generated by the voluntary isolation that the person is infringing himself/herself.
On many occasions, the very conception of life is modified and it establishes a new one in which pain is an integral and daily part of the personal world of the sick person.
Prevention and treatment
Most prevention cases focus on inflammatory pain, with measures in the hygiene of the posture, in balanced diet and healthy, in blood tests to identify vitamin levels, hormones and chemicals, bone densitometry or spinal exams. The required tests are found in the “Pain Check up” that health professionals use with their patients.
On the other hand, psychological treatments have shown good results to improve the chronic condition suffered by many patients:
– Relaxation. Considering that people with chronic pain feel strong tension and anxiety, relaxation techniques decrease adrenergic activity and generate feelings of peace and acceptance. The most used techniques are: massage, emotional release technique, progressive muscle relaxation, tai chi, breathing techniques, yoga or neurostructural physiotherapy.
– Biofeedback. Also known as biofeedback, it is used to restore the body’s self-regulation.
– Commitment and acceptance therapy. It consists of accepting suffering and it establishes a strategy that avoids confrontation, in addition to commit to basic goals for growth and improvement.
– Hypnosis. To work on the thoughts, emotions and behaviours of afflicted people, this technique promotes their change as a key factor.
– Mindfulness. This therapy is based, fundamentally, on focusing on the present moment without judging, predisposing or interpreting, but on accepting reality as it is. Some studies report that patients undergoing this treatment have a higher quality of life and live with fewer negative emotions.
– Emotional writing. It is believed that, when writing the situations and experiences, these are organized to make sense of future experiences and facilitate social relationships.
– Physiotherapy. The treatments that physical therapy can offer are focused on going to the root of the problem, acting effectively and holistically , to eliminate or mitigate pain. There are many treatments and manual techniques, as well as medical equipment, which has proven to be a key tool in the treatment of chronic pain.
– Working with attention. Attention is selective, limited, and controllable, which means that it “chooses” which stimuli it attends, because they cannot be all of them, and it is possible to “focus” its priorities.
If attention is focused on pain, the painful experience intensifies and causes more suffering and discomfort (magnifying glass effect) so it is important to “distract” it with activities of intense interest.
If you want to improve the quality of life and reduce chronic pain and its effects, there are professionals who can integrate different techniques and therapies, healthy habits and promotion of self-care to achieve surprising and lasting results.