What is chronic pain and how does it affect daily living?

by cherylone

An article about chronic pain and how somone with chronic pain feels and endures. A short article on dealing with chronic pain sufferers.

Wikipedia defines chronic pain as:

Pain that lasts a long time or that extends beyond the expected healing period.Anyone who has or is experiencing chronic pain will tell you that it is not just pain that extends beyond the healing period.  Chronic pain is pain that is always present, but the spikes come and go based on certain factors such as movement; non-movement; certain types of foods; different types of treatments; needs; and expectations.  Someone with chronic pain may not be in agonizing pain 24/7, but they might as well be.  It is like a storm approaching every day of your life.  It affects daily routines.  It affects sleep.  It affects hygiene.  It affects eating.  It affects your very existence.  Chronic pain is debilitating.  Often, the only thing a person with chronic pain can do is build themselves up to withstand the pain and keep going; which, at times can be nearly impossible.

Chronic pain is like a storm approaching every day of your life!

Chronic pain
Chronic pain

To understand someone with chronic pain....

You must first see life from their perspective.  This is not easy to do since most people forget about pain once the suffering has stopped due to healing, etc.  However, I will try to create an atmosphere where you might get the idea; especially if you have a family member or close friend who suffers from some type of chronic pain.

"I suffer from chronic pain......"

“I wake in the morning and have to force my body to move from the position I was lying in because the muscles and tendons are locked in place.  An audible snap is heard and pain races from my legs to my neck causing me to gasp in agony for a moment before it settles into the steady beat of pain to which I am accustomed.  I rise from my bed and gingerly place my feet on the floor (will they be painful today, or just tender?).  My feet touch the floor and I wince from the pain of the touch before forcing myself to rise and stand beside my bed.  I can no longer make my own bed because I can’t bend over to pull the covers to their respective spots.  I must rely on others to do this task for me. 

The powder room seems miles away.....

The powder room.
The powder room.

“I slowly put one foot in front of the other as I try to make my way into the powder room to relieve myself.  Each step is agony until I am once more used to the spikes of pain that race up my legs with each step.  I reach my destination, but now must have the help of another in order to use it because my hands do not work as they used to and simple things like adjusting my clothing or sitting without help is now impossible for me.  I have finished and now need help to rise and wash my hands. 

“I wish to get dressed before breakfast, but I can’t bend and twist to put my clothes on me and so I need someone else to do it for me.  By now my arms, legs, and hands ache like they are on fire and I have pins and needles racing through my feet.  My neck is stiff and agony shoots through my spine every time I turn to look at something or someone.  I sit, waiting for someone to help me get dressed and contemplate what I may be able to do today.  As I sit a light rain begins to fall and I absently watch it through my window.  It will be a particularly bad day today because the rain will aggravate my arthritis, adding to the pain I am already experiencing.  Today will be a useless day for me.  I will not be able to do anything other than sit and lie down, both of which I will not be able to do without pain.  It will be another day of burden for my loved-ones.  As I watch the rain tap lightly on the window pane, tears fall down my cheeks and drip on my hands where they lay upon my lap.  The day has only just begun…..”

They can do things.....

However, they can’t do them as often or as quickly and neatly as they used to do.  They may fear to do things because it will (notice I said will not might) bring on the pain.  They often fail to try and thus never enjoy what pleasures of life they may have.  They never feel they can enjoy a pain free day because there is always something that will bring on their pain; and, sadly, they usually always have some level of pain to remind them of that simple fact.

Treatments with pain relievers, etc.......

Pain relievers, no matter how strong, can only go so far to relieve the pain chronic pain sufferers must endure.  Once the body has used the drug for a brief period of time, the drug no longer works.  In fact, the more often you switch drugs, the less time it takes for your body to become immune to their effects.  This means that there is little chance of relief for someone who suffers from chronic pain. 

Treatments such as braces, pain relieving gels, and herbal mixtures are also only temporary relievers and often cause discomfiture in other respects.  For instance a brace might cause bruising around the area or raw spots where it rubs.  Pain relieving gels are sticky, smelly, and coat your clothing with a substance that doesn’t wash from the cloth well.  Herbals are not as effective as drugs since they are usually not as concentrated; and the body will build immunities to them in time as well.

Pain Relievers
Pain Relievers

There are other treatments.....

There are other treatments out there for sufferers of chronic pain.  Each one offers temporary relief and a chance for some freedom; however, the freedom is never long lived and the pain, having been aggravated by movement, etc. is usually worse when it finally comes to light.  These treatments are also expensive, difficult, time consuming, painful in their own ways, and have several side effects.  Even physical therapy can help in some ways, but, again, the movement usually brings on the pain and causes the person to have to lie still for several hours with ice, heat, meds, etc. until the pain is relieved enough to resume movement.

Chronic pain often brings on depression....

Because it causes the person to realize that they will never face another pain-free day.  The only thing a person with chronic pain has to look forward to is more pain.  The debilitation of the pain removes all chances of the person leading a normal, healthy, happy life.  Chronic pain gives the person the feeling that they are useless (because others must help them to do their daily tasks), worthless (because someone must run errands, care for the children and pets, change the bedding, etc.), and a complete burden to loved ones.  Someone with chronic pain can’t think clearly at times because the pain blocks out all other thoughts.  They can’t remember things due to the pain.  They can’t go out to parties or shopping.  Often they can’t even dress themselves. 

Chronic pain is especially debilitating to someone who is otherwise healthy because their body can do things, but the pain stops them from accomplishing anything.  They usually gain weight from in-activity causing further health issues.  They are extremely depressed and often contemplate suicide as a means of escaping their pain.  Not because they want to die, but because they need the pain to stop so they can live a normal life again.

Chronic pain sufferers are susceptible to scammers.......

Someone with chronic pain will often become so desperate to stop the pain they become susceptible to scammers who claim they have a miracle cure for chronic pain.  I have seen claims that sugar pills can cure chronic pain because you believe they can.  I have seen claims that electricity, re-training of your mind, carrying certain symbols, etc. can cure chronic pain.  While I know that you can heal yourself somewhat if you truly believe in a cure, I also know that the cure is only temporary because your body can only block the pain receptors for so long. 

Chronic pain sufferers are primary targets for scammers, by phone or in person.....

Phone Solicitors
Phone Solicitors

What causes chronic pain?

There are many factors....
  • Some of them are chemical--such as Fibromyalgia which is a disorder of the central nervous system caused by neurobiological abnormalities.
  • Some of them are physical--such as from surgery or an injury of some type.
  • Some of them are caused by specific diseases--such as MS which is an inflammation of the fatty myelin sheaths around the spinal cord and brain.
  • Some are caused by birth defects--such as a genetic brain tumor which grows slowly from birth putting pressure on areas of the brain.
  • There are even some caused by outside forces--such as migraines which may be caused by changes in barometric pressure.

If you have a loved one or close friend who suffers chronic pain.....

It is difficult at best for you to understand them.  Family and caregivers of people who suffer from chronic pain will get angry and/or frustrated with them because they are ‘always complaining’ or ‘always need help with something’ and the natural response is “can’t you do anything for yourself?” Sadly, the answer is “NO, they can’t.”

To get an idea of how a chronic pain sufferer feels.....

Try this simple experiment.  Take a rubber band and wrap it loosely around your wrist.  Then pull it to its full length and let it go.  Repeat this action several times until the area is red and the pain lasts for a bit (be careful not to over-do it or you could suffer serious injury).  Now try to do something with the wrist while it is hurting.  I mean something like pick up a full glass of water and raise it to your lips or try to open a new jar of pickles.  The wrist won’t work right until the pain has subsided.  This could give you at least a general idea of what someone with chronic pain must endure ON A DAILY BASIS.

The next time you hear someone with chronic pain complain or ask for help.....

Be a bit more understanding with them.  If they get depressed for a bit, try to be sympathetic and a good listener so they can talk without being shushed or ignored.  That will allow them to vent a bit and get it off their minds.  They may even experience, for a short time, less pain because their pain receptors will be slowing down as they vent their frustration. 

It is hoped that science, with all of its talented participants, will soon discover a means of ending the suffering of chronic pain patients.  That day will be a miracle for thousands of people throughout the world who suffer from some type of chronic pain. 

Some form of relief may come in relaxation techniques......

These may help but again are only temporary...

Chronic Pain Sufferer...

Someone in pain.
Someone in pain.
Chronic pain is pain that has lasted for a long time. In medicine, the distinction between acute and chronic pain has traditionally been determined by an arbitrary interval of time since onset; the two most commonly used markers being 3 ...
Updated: 02/14/2012, cherylone
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cherylone on 08/14/2012

Bless you, Sannel, I hope you are finding relief with some of it. Yes, I live with chronic pain daily and when family and friends look at you with that "oh I'm tired of hearing how much you hurt, it can't be all that bad" look, I just want to curl up and well, you get the idea. I hope we all get a better understanding family by allowing them to read this hub.

Sannel on 08/14/2012

Thank you for this very accurate wiz on how it is for someone to live with a chronic pain. This helpful information will help many to understand better what it means to live with this. I live with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome myself. The worst part is when close one's do not understand and you just feel so guilty and helpless.

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