Chronic pain can affect a patient’s overall quality of life, making it harder to care for their families or manage a home, and even leading to possible loss of income. Chronic pain can be prevented and managed through diet and exercise and avoiding smoking, and researchers are currently looking for effective, non-addictive alternatives to opioids, which can be addictive.
Below are 10 facts you need to know about chronic pain.
1. A chronic pain patient’s suffering is only partly due to the severity of their pain.
Chronic pain can be debilitating, making it difficult to perform everyday tasks like cooking, cleaning, and shopping, and to keep up with the physical demands of their job, leading to loss of employment and income.
2. Chronic pain can lead to emotional distress and isolation.
Depression and anxiety are very common in chronic pain patients and can worsen chronic pain. It can also lead to social isolation from family and friends and make it harder to take part in exercise programs. Overall quality of life suffers greatly and can lead to more misery than from anything that caused the pain itself.
3. Most conditions that cause chronic pain can’t be cured.
Although the severity of a patient’s pain can be significantly reduced, they will often continue to have physical limitations and emotional distress. Treatments designed to help increase physical functioning while reducing anxiety and depression are key to improving overall quality of life. It should be a multi-focused approach that includes pain medicine, behavioral health, physical medicine, and vocational specialists. This multi-specialty approach unfortunately only exists in a small number of clinics in the U.S.
4. The best approach to treat chronic pain is to prevent it.
Prevention includes proper diet, regular exercise, avoiding smoking, and maintaining a reasonable weight. The benefits from these things far outweigh and are less harmful than all the chronic pain medications, injections and surgical procedures combined.
5. Smoking is bad for chronic pain.
Besides the obvious reasons why smoking is bad for you, like giving you cancer, emphysema and heart disease, it can actually make chronic pain worse. Research shows that smokers are three times more likely to get low back pain than non-smokers. Smoking can also make joint pain worse. It reduces blood and oxygen flow to tissues, which can lead to degeneration of the discs in the back, where blood flow is already limited. Even worse, it reduces the chances of having a successful surgical treatment, such as spinal fusion, and can increase the chance of infections.
6. A healthy diet is key to combating chronic pain.
Inflammation and obesity both play a role in developing and worsening chronic pain. Studies show that diets like the Mediterranean diet to plant-based diets reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. They can also reduce chronic pain through weight loss and inflammation reduction.
7. Anti-inflammatory foods like leafy greens, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and fish are key to preventing and combating chronic pain.
It’s just as important to avoid certain processed and greasy foods and food that are high in sugar. Foods like white bread, white rice, pasta and sweets can promote inflammation and have low nutritional value. Such foods can also make it harder to maintain a healthy weight.
8. Exercise plays an important role in chronic pain prevention and treatment.
Core strength is also important in avoiding lower back injuries and reducing the severity of low back pain after an injury. Chronic pain patients frequently suffer from lower energy levels and depressed moods, which can be greatly improved with regular exercise.
9. An exercise program is only good if it’s sustainable.
Choose an exercise program that you will enjoy and can easily fit into your daily routine. It should include 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at least 3-4 times a week. Vigorous walking is great exercise that can be worked into your weekly routine. Pilates is usually well tolerated by people with back pain.
10. The overreliance on opioids was due in part to the lack of effective alternative options.
However, more research funding has been allocated by the federal government and the drug development industry to find effective, non-addictive alternatives. Clinical research studies require volunteers, and the best way to contribute to the progress of non-addictive pain relief management is to volunteer for a clinical research trial.