Chronic Pain - Why It Lingers
specialist in pain management, Dr. Jennifer Schneider, explains that your
body’s nervous system is ultimately responsible for two major forms of
The first is called nociceptive pain. This is triggered by an injury to muscles, tendons and ligaments. It could also be prompted by an injury to the internal organs. In this form of pain, undamaged nerve cells respond to an injury outside of themselves. The cells then transmit pain signals
to the spinal
cord and then onward to the brain.
pain is most often described by those experiencing it as “deep and
throbbing.” Low back pain is
a good example of this type of pain, as is fibromyalgia, headaches,
osteoarthritis, and chronic pelvic pain.
second type of pain however. This
is the form that “results from abnormal nerve function.”
It could also result from direct damage to a nerve.
This type of pain is called neuropathic pain.
Examples of this type include shingles, diabetic neuropathy, phantom
limb pain, spinal stenosis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease,
stroke and spinal cord injury.
damage nerve fibers appear to fire spontaneously, not only at the site of
the injury but along other locations along the pathway of the nerve as well.
The tricky aspect of this pain is that it can – and often does –
continue indefinitely, “even after the source of the injury has stopped
sending pain messages,” Dr.
pain can be constant or it can be intermittent.
It can also be felt as a burning, aching, shooting or stabbing
sensation, Dr. Schneider says. And
it can also radiate down the arms or legs.
This form of
pain many times involves exaggerated responses to painful stimuli as well as
the spread of the pain to areas that were not initially affected.
Additionally, this type of pain may cause a response from the person
afflicted with it that seems inappropriate to the stimulus.
For example, a light, mild touch may seem to hurt much more than it
neuropathic pain often reaches its peak at night and it may also include
some abnormal sensations, such as tingling, that feeling of pins and needles
and intense itching.
the chronic pain syndrome that involves both nociceptive and neuropathic
pain. This might appear as
sciatica, a pinched nerve which causes back pain to radiate down the leg. In this case, the pain of sciatica is not only felt in the
back, but also in the leg, making the cause extremely difficult to diagnose
with the use of a MRI – magnetic resonance imaging.
This is a non-invasive method of taking images of your body.
The real price
tag of chronic pain though extends far beyond the immediate treatment of the
pain. Pain comes with a whole
host of potential physical effects, some of which are quite surprising.
They include poor wound healing, growing muscle weakness and eventual
breakdown. Not only that, but
the decreased movement that is incurred because it’s just to painful to
move fully about as a person used to can lead to blood clots, shallow
breathing. It can also be the
beginnings of a suppressed cough that can raise the risk of pneumonia,
sodium and water retention in the kidneys, not to mention a raised heart
rate and blood pressure.
has also been cited in a weakened immune system, the slowing of
gastrointestinal motility, as well as the more obvious problems of sleep
difficulties, loss of appetite, weight loss, and fatigue.
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