Millions of Americans live with chronic pain every day.
-Approximately 45 million Americans suffer from debilitating headaches.
-Nearly 40 million Americans suffer from arthritis pain.
-As many as 8 percent of Americans will suffer from back pain during their lives.
"About 75 percent of people who suffer from chronic pain do not receive adequate relief from their pain," explained Mark A. Peckman, D.O., anesthesiologist. "It is important not to ignore chronic pain, since untreated or poorly treated pain not only hurts physically, but puts people at risk for depression, irritability, fatigue, and a diminished quality of life.
"For instance, one-third of those in pain experience sleep loss, which may affect their ability to work, take care of their families, and participate in daily activities. Effectively treating pain is an important step in regaining control over their quality of life."
What is Pain?
"Pain is the physical sensation that helps alert people to the fact that something is wrong with their body and needs attention," said Dr. Peckman. "For example, pain makes you recoil when you touch a hot stove or let's you know when you've cut your finger. In severe cases, extreme pain may warn you of life-threatening danger, like in the case of the squeezing pain of a heart attack.
"However, sometimes the reasons for pain are unclear, and can occur when the body is not in danger. For instance, a person may experience severe pain from a migraine headache or when using a joint that has become stiff.
"Acute pain is short-term pain that results from an immediate injury or condition and resolves after healing or treatment," Dr. Peckman advised. "Chronic pain is considered to be long-term pain that results from a persistent illness or nerve irritation and remains after the actual healing may have occurred."
Talk to Your Doctor
"Make a doctor's appointment if your chronic pain simply won't improve, worsens, or is interfering with your sleep, emotional well-being, or ability to function at work or home," Dr. Peckman added. "Also, alert your physician to any new pain symptoms."
Effective treatment may start after a thorough review of the individual's medical history and pain symptoms. "A medication regime is usually prescribed as one of the first steps in treating the pain," continued Dr. Peckman. "The person should then be monitored to determine if relief is achieved. For some people, the pain will subside completely, while others may experience partial relief."
Besides the use of medication to reduce pain, a change in lifestyle habits may be needed to help control pain.
Kick butts: Smoking worsens pain and according to one study, people with chronic musculoskeletal pain who smoked had more problems on the job, in their relationships, and with their sleep, mood, and overall quality of life compared to nonsmokers.
Catch more ZZZs: If pain is keeping you awake at night, talk to your doctor about nighttime pain medications or sleep aids that might help, and try to get to bed earlier.
Shed excess weight: Research suggests excess body weight intensifies the pain associated with chronic musculoskeletal pain. If you're overweight or obese, talk to your doctor about a safe weight-loss plan.
Curb stress. It's impossible to avoid stress, including pain -but you can take proactive steps to reduce stress, such as taking a yoga class, trying meditation or listening to music.
Physical therapy: Physical therapists use a combination of hands-on massage, stretching, strengthening, and range-of-motion treatments to relieve pain and improve the conditions that cause it. Therapists may use ice, heat, ultrasound, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENs) to curb pain and promote healing.
Beat pain with exercise: Those with chronic musculoskeletal pain, may not feel like exercising, but workouts encourage the body to release endorphins, which act as natural painkillers. In one study, people with knee osteoarthritis who participated in a walking program felt less pain after just eight weeks. However, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program, especially if you've been inactive due to chronic pain.
Chronic Pain Management
"For those with chronic pain, more aggressive treatment may be needed," Dr. Peckman concluded. "Historically, anesthesiologists managed the pain associated with surgical procedures. Now this same area of medicine allows us to do so much more for people, whose lives have been affected by injury or disease."
Dr. Peckman designs pain management treatment plans tailored to the unique needs of chronic pain sufferers, including those with conditions like:
- chronic tingling or burning of the arm, which results from the use of a cane
- pain associated with shingles
- neck and back pain, including cervical or lumbar herniated disc disease and degenerative arthritis of the spine
- discomfort of fractured ribs
- cancer pain
- reflex sympathetic dystrophy
- diabetic neuropathic pain
For more information about pain management or Dr. Peckman's outpatient pain management clinic at Salem Community Hospital, contact his office at 625 Springfield Road in Columbiana, 330-482-3762.