What does it mean to be living with chronic pain? Keep reading for seven facts you should know.
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Living with Chronic Pain and 7 Facts That Will Help You Understand It Better
1. Chronic Pain Is Costly
It doesn’t matter what type of pain you’re dealing with—living with chronic pain can mean hefty bills. It can be as much as $635 billion annually, according to a 2012 study.
The research further revealed that:
- The average cost per person is around $4,400.
- The cost can also vary according to the severity and the type. The more severe the pain is, the higher the expenses can get.
- Around 10% of people with this condition experience moderate pain. More than 30% suffer from joint pain.
- Functional disabilities can cost almost $10,000.
In a 2019 study, it was reported that healthcare costs can also come from decreased productivity and disability. Hours of work missed could be almost $100 billion while the price of lower wages could reach $226 billion.
2. It Increases the Risk of Depression and Anxiety
Living well with chronic pain is doable, but it is also challenging. Studies show that it can affect mental health, linking it with depression and anxiety.
A 2017 research mentioned that about 85% of people living with chronic pain also suffer from severe depression. One of the common reasons is the cycle these individuals have to go through.
Chronic pain can introduce negative emotions and thoughts such as fear or uncertainty. Depression and anxiety can impact the body in many ways, including pain.
What makes it even more difficult is the fact chronic pain could affect the way the brain works. This connection is the subject of a 2019 Japanese research study.
Fortunately, people living with chronic pain can manage it and their mental health issues in different ways. These include practicing various meditation techniques.
In fact, one type of meditation called mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) was developed as a method to help patients cope with pain. In a 2017 review, the eight-week mindfulness program produces an outcome already comparable to that of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
What is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)? It is a psychotherapy treatment that aims to modify the negatively held beliefs, thoughts, and actions of the individual.
3. Living with Chronic Pain Can Boost the Odds of Addiction
Those with chronic pain are at risk not only of depression and anxiety but also addiction. Research showed that over 30% of them had addiction disorders.
One of the most prevalent is an addiction to opioids, a medication that’s supposed to manage pain. Many factors contribute to the problem:
- Many Americans suffer from chronic pain every day, raising the demand for these drugs.
- Opioids directly impact the areas of the brain that regulate both pain and rewards. In other words, these medications can help you feel good or euphoric.
- A person can develop tolerance to the drug, and that can potentially be less effective in managing chronic pain. In the process, the individual may consume more of it.
- Some misuse the medication or divert its purpose.
Because of the risks, chronic pain management also involves managing medications. Yale School of Medicine provides some of the solutions:
- Increasing access to naloxone, another drug that reverses the effects of opioid overdose
- Improving awareness of the risks and alternative therapies
- Making treatments to opioid addiction more accessible
- Allowing different health agencies and communities to see and share their data
4. The Days Are Not the Same
What’s life with chronic pain? It can be different from one person to another, between days and seasons.
For example, a study reported by BBC News revealed that humidity could affect joint pain. In the research, the team found out that when pressure is low and the day is damp or windy, the severity of the pain increased by 20%.
Other factors that can trigger or increase the level of pain include:
- Food you eat
- Exercises you perform
- Diseases you’re dealing with such as cancer or degenerative joint disease
Chronic pain is a condition that can persist for as long as six months, but it doesn’t have to be severe at all times.
It’s not unusual to wake up one morning you can go about your day with fewer interruptions. The following day, you may need assistance to get up from your bed.
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5. It Is One of the Leading Causes of Disability
Chronic pain is not a disease, but a condition and a symptom. What many people don’t know, though, is it’s also a disability.
Living with chronic back pain means dealing with one of the most common reasons for work-related disability, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
People who have it can suffer pain for at least 12 weeks. In 2010, it became one of the most burdensome conditions in the United States.
Some also call it the “invisible disability” as many people may be living with chronic pain but appear fine or well on the outside.
6. Chronic Pain Can Change the Immune System
Another reason why chronic pain management can be difficult is the condition’s ability to affect the way the immune system works. That’s the finding of a 2016 study by McGill University published in Scientific Reports.
It plays a role in epigenetics. It is a concept that explains how changes in the body could alter the expression of genes.
To be specific, the researchers found out that pain could mark hundreds of genes. Pain can turn them on or off.
The researchers conducted the study using a rat model, so it’s unclear whether the results will be the same with humans. Nevertheless, it could also mean something positive: targeted therapy to manage pain more effectively.
7. Living with Chronic Pain Can Still Be Manageable
Dealing with pain is never easy, and in some cases, it doesn’t go away. It doesn’t mean it is not manageable.
Today, there are many affordable, effective ways to pain relief:
- Meditation to help calm the mind and improve focus
- Some vitamins to strengthen the immune system or combat fatigue
- Supplements like Dr. Seeds Body Protective Complex to reduce pain and strengthen the joints
- Therapies such as Chill Pill to reduce anxiety
- Low-impact exercises like yoga or walking to prevent immobility and decrease risk factors such as obesity
- Proper diet to decrease pain triggers such as inflammation
- Strong social support to help beat depression
Living with chronic pain is a complex situation. It’s never the same among sufferers.
Managing it will be easier for others. Sometimes it seems medications and therapies are working, other times, they don’t manage the condition.
It’s not surprising to know that chronic pain can significantly decrease the quality of life. The silver lining is clear, however: it could get better.
Scientists are working hard to better understand the condition and find cheaper and more effective solutions. From yoga to support groups, there are practical ways to experience pain relief today.
What are your tips for living well with chronic pain? Share them in the comments section below!
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