The coronavirus pandemic has impacted patients with various conditions. According to the latest study by eHealth Lab, 70 percent of patients suffering from chronic pain have worsened their symptoms. The findings are based on the severity, frequency, etc.
In the study, 502 patients (including 88 percent of women aged 30-59 participated, and they were suffering from chronic pain for over 7 years. The most frequent pain locations were neck, lower back, and abdomen. The majority of the participants had pain in multiple locations.
The participants were asked to answer online surveys based on the IMMPACT and the CPGQ to find how the pandemic has influenced pain perception.
Researchers found that there are many things associated with a worsening of chronic pain. These include job insecurity, death of a loved one due to the COVID-19, fear of getting infected by the virus, etc.
The study also reported that the pandemic can lead to the development of various pain triggers. Stress and weather changes were the top ones. The participants agreed that excessive worrying about the future, sleep problems, negative thoughts, loneliness, and reduced physical activity as triggers.
Major Risks of Chronic Pain
Pain is a kind of reaction of the body to an injury or condition. Chronic pain usually lasts for 3 to 6 months or more. According to a 2016 report, about 20 percent of the American adults suffer from chronic pain while 8 percent of the adults had high-impact chronic pain.
Some of the most common chronic pain types are—headache, lower back pain, cancer pain, arthritis pain, and neurogenic pain.
Chronic pain occurs due to an injury such as pulled muscle. Pain caused by nerve damage is intense.
Here are some of the major risks factors for chronic pain-
The CDC estimates that about 60-75 percent of older adults age 65 or more experience chronic pain. In other words, age increases the risks of occurrence of chronic pain. Back pain, nerve and joint pain are the common types associated with the aging process. Diabetes, a contributor of nerve pain, is common among aging adults.
Additionally, aging can lead to reduced physical activity, thus resulting in more pain. Aging adults often face difficulties in balance and agility.
A study in BMC Infectious Diseases reported that increasing age is associated with increased risks of chronic pain in patients with HIV.
Obesity can cause poor health, and may result in pain. In other words, obese individuals are more likely to expereince chronic pain.
Being overweight or obese means you have many fat cells, which release substances that can lead to inflammation. This can result in high blood pressure and chronic pain.
Additionally, the extra body weight can put a heavier load on joints and bones, which can speed up the process of break down.
Medical professionals believe that some chronic pain conditions, such as migraines are associated with genetics. In other words, pain may be influenced by genes.
However, if a family member experiences chronic pain, it’s not necessary that you experience it too. Factors such as diet, stress, sleep, etc. greatly influence your health.
Psychological conditions, such as anxiety, depression, stress can increase the risks of chronic pain. The brain areas have many neurotransmitters that control pain signals, mood, memory, etc.
Depression and chronic pain are interrelated. Pain negatively impacts mood, thus leading to worsening of depression.
So, working on improving your mental health can help you reduce risks of development of chronic pain.
Chronic Pain Treatments
Here are some of the common treatments for chronic pain-
Over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen and NSAIDs are commonly used for pain management. They are effective in managing mild pain. However, NSAIDs can be helpful in reducing swelling and inflammation.
Additionally, you can use topical creams and sprays for pain relief. They are often preferred for managing pain related to arthritis and muscle aches.
Although these medications can help you ease pain, their long-term use may lead to severe side-effects. So, before you start taking pain medications, talk to a board-certified doctor first.
Regular exercise is beneficial in reducing pain while improving muscle strength, flexibility, etc. Science says that exercising helps in releasing endorphins—the natural pain killers.
Additionally, exercise boosts sleep. Studies show that short sleep times and poor quality of sleep can increase the sensitivity of pain. Individuals with sleep problems are usually at a high risk of developing fibromyalgia and migraines.
Swimming, walking, biking, etc. are some of the best exercises for chronic pain patients. You can work with a physical therapist to learn proper exercise techniques for managing your condition.
Pain can cause anger, sadness, lack of focus, etc. These health issues can lead to anxiety, depression and feelings of stress, thus making symptoms worse. So, managing these psychological conditions can help reduce pain.
However, identifying your condition and learning coping skills may help.
It’s believed that acupuncture, insertion of fine needles in specific points on the body, can help reduce pain. This technique releases endorphins—the chemicals that reduce pain.
Acupuncture may be helpful for managing pain-related conditions, such as menstrual cramps, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, myofascial pain, etc.
Chronic pain is a common condition affecting millions of Americans. Recent research shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the risks of chronic pain. Sleep problems, negative thoughts and loneliness are some of the common triggers of pain.
For managing pain, learning about what’s causing it is important. If it’s caused by a psychological condition such as anxiety, depression, etc., go for physiological treatment. Talk to a licensed doctor to get professional help for pain management.
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