Pain is something with which we're all familiar. Whether it be the dull distraction of a headache or the sting of a wound, everyone experiences pain. But we should be thankful for its reality because without it we couldn’t tell when something goes wrong. Short lived pain is referred to as “acute” and often it's caused by an injury. Chronic pain is more long term and can be much more complex to treat. Oftentimes doctors are left scratching their heads as to the primary source of the symptom. Now we're only beginning to understand the deep complexities of pain.
what is pain?
At it’s core pain is simply the activation of nerves signaling our brain there's trouble. Basic pain tells us to about a stimulus. For example, if you touch something hot, you instinctively withdraw. The acute pain prevented further damage and possibly more chronic pain. However, sometimes these fibers become hyper-sensitized and activate to lower amounts of stimulus. Enter chronic pain.
Right now, over 100 million people in the U.S. struggle with chronic pain. It is a physical reality for many influenced by psychological, emotional, and environmental factors. Each person processes pain differently so even two people with "similar" levels of discomfort can experience something very different.
3 ways to cope with chronic pain
First and foremost if you struggle with chronic pain, don’t attempt to “tough it out”. This epidemic in our culture affects more people than heart disease and diabetes. It's important you seek help before it affects your mental well being. A pain specialist can work with you to customize a treatment plan and alleviate your symptoms. However, many people find a more natural approach ends up being a better long term solution.
- 1Work with a therapist to understand your triggers. Since pain fibers themselves can become overly sensitive, working to understand what's triggering them can dramatically improve your quality of life. Often this includes basic self care routines such as reducing your stress or getting a full eight hours of sleep each night.
- 2Move your body. Practices such as physical therapy, swimming or yoga can bring huge improvements. Strengthening your muscles and increasing your agility could be the solution that sets you free once and for all.
- 3Improving your work environment. If you have a job where you perform the same motions on a daily basis, the repeated movements and stagnant posture might be the source of your pain. Examine your work environment and notice areas you can improve. If you sit at a desk then invest in a standing desk, and prioritize breaks throughout the day. If you work a more physical job, then recognize the motions you repeat and consider how it could be damaging your body.
Pain is a reality for all of us but it shouldn’t be a normal part of your daily life. If it has then seeking help and finding ways to improve your quality of life is crucial. We don’t understand all the complexities of pain and even in this day and age, we are only brushing its surface. However we do know each person experiences it uniquely which means that there is a unique solution for you.