manage your pain, break the chronic pain cycle and take control
The impact of pain, not far away
From CDC, about 20.4% of adults (50.0 million) have chronic pain and 8.0% of adults (19.6 million) have high-impact chronic pain in the United States, 2016.
Approximately 28 million adults in the UK are experiencing some kind of chronic pain.
Chronic pain has become a global health issue now.
Why do we have pain?
Generally, we define pain as an unpleasant, uncomfortable, and unwanted sensory and emotional experience. But that is not the whole story. Pain is our bodies' natural alarm mechanism to tell us something is wrong. When our body function as they should, pain serves as a warning system to protect us.
When we do something that hurts our body, it'll automatically trigger our natural pain response mechanisms. Like, if you stub your toe against the table leg, the pain you feel is our bodies' way of telling us that we should be more careful next time. If we walk on an injured ankle and it hurts, that's our body telling us to stop. Without pain, we would not know when to avoid danger and get medical help.
However, when pain is prolonged and continues long after treatment or an injury recover, it becomes harmful and negative.
Types of pain
From injured feet to headaches, we all experience pain. Mostly, this pain is temporary (or acute). However, some pain can also persist for several months or years. There are mainly two types of pain: acute pain and chronic pain. We can go through the table to learn more about the main differences between acute pain and chronic pain.
|Items||Acute pain||Chronic pain|
|Definition||a type of pain that lasts less than 6 months||a type of pain that lasts for 6 months or longer|
|Duration||it goes away when the affected area is treated||It continues after an injury has healed or after an illness has passed|
|Cause||has a specific, treatable cause||not easily diagnosed or treated, has no apparent cause|
|Characteristic||sharp, sudden, short-lived, localized, and reversible||dull, aching, long-lasting, generalized, and may be irreversible|
|Attribute||a warning sign or normal response to an injury or medical condition||a disease that usually can’t be cured|
|Complications||You may go through a short period of discomfort. But after it goes away, you can go back to normal life.||Chronic pain can last a long time and even a lifetime. It may cause individual emotional distress and impede their sleep, daily function, and quality of life.|
|Goal of treatment||pain cure||pain control, functionality, and improve quality of life|
Perhaps, this is what you are going through
You are experiencing a headache for no obvious reason. It continues for more than three months and has no signs of getting better. It distracts you from work and reading. You are not in the mood. You don't want to go out or get together with your families and friends. It takes control of your whole life.
More unwanted thoughts, depression, and anxiety are pouring into you, then you get more pain. Why does this happen? This is because acute or chronic pain can trigger our body’s stress response and overwork our immune system. The inflammation caused by this stress response can also irritate the nerves and further increase pain levels.
Finally, you step into a pain cycle.
Complications of chronic pain may include:
• Overly tired most of the time.
• Insomnia, or difficulty falling asleep.
• Mood swings.
• Worsening of existing chronic disease.
• Tense muscles.
• Limited ability to move around.
• A lack of energy.
• Changes in appetite.
Managing pain safe and drug-free
Chronic pain can interfere with our daily activities and lead to anxiety, depression, and trouble sleeping, which make our pain worse. This response mechanism creates a pain cycle that’s difficult to break. People easily get frustrated when pain continues after medications treatments have been applied.
TENS-Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, is a safe, drug-free physical therapy that delivers low-voltage electrical currents to a targeted area through the skin for pain relief. Since the mid-1960s, TENS has come into wide use for the management of pain by medical professionals. TENS work on the "gate control theory" that suggests pain signals to the brain may be blocked or prevented by the stimulation of nerve fibers.
TENS and Pain Management
A TENS unit consists of an electronic stimulus generator, lead wires, and adhesive electrode pads which are placed directly on the targeted area of skin. The generator delivers a gentle electrical current to sensory fibers through the electrodes applied to our skin.
1, How does it work?
1) block pain signals from traveling to the brain, so the pain will not be perceived;
2) activate our body’s natural pain suppressing mechanism by promoting the secretion of endorphins (our body’s painkillers)
2, How to Manage Your Pain
Personalize Your Therapy
Generally, a TENS machine offers customized treatment modes and intensity levels, you can select a pain mode and set the intensity level according to your requirements.
How does It Feel?
When you get a TENS treatment, you can expect tapping, tingling, massage-like sensations, or mild muscle contractions. For your safety and comfort, always start with low intensity and increase gradually. If you feel uncomfortable, decrease the intensity or change the program.
How Long Should You Use It?
Start with a 15-minute session, and rate your pain to check your progress. If you have been used to it, then extend the treatment session. If you can’t make a decision, consult with your physician.
It’s not a cure for the underlying causes of pain, it can help relieve your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
Besides a TENS treatment, stress, tension, and a lack of activity can all make a worse pain. So, avoiding these factors whenever you can may be helpful in reducing pain.