Chronic Pain & Headaches
Chronic pain is persistent discomfort that can occur alongside a chronic health condition.
Chronic pain is a major medical condition that can and should be treated. It is defined as pain that lasts at least 12 weeks and can occur in nearly any part of your body. It may be steady or intermittent, coming and going without any apparent reason.
The most common types of chronic pain include:
- Low back pain
- Neck pain
- Extremity pain
- Trigeminal neuralgia
- Abdominal pain
Causes of Chronic Pain & Headaches
In many cases, chronic pain is caused by an initial injury. It’s believed that chronic pain develops after nerves become damaged. However, some people experience chronic pain without any prior injury. The pain may sometimes result from an underlying health condition, such as:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
There are also certain factors that put people at a higher risk of experiencing chronic pain and headache. These include:
- Age – Chronic pain is more common in older adults.
- Gender – Females suffer from chronic pain more often than males.
- Weight – Being overweight increases one’s risk of chronic pain.
- Surgery – Undergoing surgery can potentially cause lasting pain.
Symptoms of Chronic Pain & Headaches
The symptoms of chronic pain can vary from person to person and affect different parts of the body. Pain can also be near-constant or appear in flare-ups and affect one’s physical and mental health.
Symptoms often include:
- Joint pain
- Muscle aches
- Burning pain
- Migraines, cluster headaches or tension headaches
- Sleep problems
- Loss of stamina and flexibility
- Mood problems including depression, anxiety and irritability
Diagnosis of Chronic Pain & Headaches
The first thing a doctor will do for chronic pain or headaches is thoroughly evaluate a patient’s medical history. They’ll probably ask questions like when the pain and symptoms started, what kind of pain the person is in, where it’s located and if anything makes it better or worse. A doctor may also order imaging tests such as X-rays or MRIs to determine if there is joint or tissue damage.
Treatments for Chronic Pain & Headaches
In many cases, chronic pain is treatable. The location of one’s pain and the diagnosis for it will determine the right course of treatment. Common options include:
- Pain medications such as anti-inflammatories, steroids or muscle relaxers
- Physical therapy
- Nerve blockers
- Psychological/behavior therapy
- Biofeedback therapy