What Causes Pain?

With many safe and effective pain management tools available today, living with chronic pain no longer has to diminish your quality of life or prevent you from doing all the things want to do. Varieties of modern pain relief treatments involve medications (pain killers, NSAIDS and muscle relaxers), physical therapy, psychological counseling and alternative chronic pain management techniques such as acupuncture and herbal therapy.

Pain is biological in nature, but the perception of pain is not. Some people living with chronic pain develop a high tolerance to pain, while others experience severe problems coping with pain. Pain tolerance primarily depends on how your brain interprets and processes the pain signals it receives from all areas of the body. Individual interpretation of pain is based on an array of factors such as personality traits, environmental conditions and even genetics.

The perception of pain begins when nerves are subjected to potentially harmful stimuli, such as fire, a sharp object or something so heavy that is crushes nerve endings. Pain receptor cells comprising these nerves immediately signal the brain that something is wrong. Normally, the body responds by trying to get away from the pain as soon as possible.

Internal and external factors can affect the way we perceive pain as it happens as well. For example, someone running the 100-yard dash in the Olympics will probably not feel a sliver of glass enter his foot as he is running because his brain is concentrating on the race. However, someone running for no reason at all may step on the same piece of glass and experience a sharp, stabbing sensation that forces him to stop running and say “Ouch!” This is why doctors study the perception of pain by the brain just as much as the primary cause of pain.

Temporary pain is referred to as “acute” pain and usually disappears as soon as the wound heals. Chronic pain represents the consequence of an ongoing medical condition that does not heal and requires the continual application of chronic pain control methods. Frequently, patients living with chronic pain discover the most difficult aspect of the condition is finding the right combination of medications and therapies that provide the tools necessary for successfully coping with chronic pain.

Different Kinds of Chronic Pain

Diseases and disorders causing chronic pain include:

  • Reflex sympathetic dystrophy
  • Myofascial pain syndrome
  • Cancer pain
  • Neuralgia
  • Chronic pain syndrome
  • Post traumatic stress syndrome (exacerbated by war wounds)
  • Complex regional pain syndrome

Chronic inflammation and pain generated by any one of these medical conditions often come in the form of:

  • Chronic back pain (lower back pain, upper back pain)
  • Chronic stomach pain
  • Pain in chest
  • Head pain
  • Chronic muscle pain
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Chronic leg pain
  • Chronic shoulder pain
  • Chronic nerve pain

A large majority of people living with chronic pain suffer mostly from some form of back pain due to ruptured disks, accidents, and degenerative diseases. Medications and special exercises comprise many back pain treatment plans, as well as simple things like sleeping on the best mattress for back pain.

Stress Management and Exercise

Exercise releases brain chemicals called endorphins that seem to relieve pain naturally. Whenever possible, doctors ask their chronic pain patients to incorporate exercise in their pain relief treatment program as a way to get these pain-alleviating endorphins flowing through the body and into inflamed pain receptors.

Successfully living with chronic pain also means learning how to manage and reduce stress in your life. Stress and anxiety are definite contributors to chronic pain due to the constantly high levels of cortisol released by unrelenting anxiety. Moreover, receiving chronic pain support from psychological counseling and support groups is yet another excellent way to learn to cope with the mental and physical anguish of chronic pain.

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