Following yesterday's topic about seeing beyond your diagnosis; what very many chronic diseases have in common is... you guessed it: PAIN.
When all has been said and done after onset of chronic disease or a traumatic injury, tests and scans have been carried out, possible surgical procedures evaluated or done, all types of medication has been tried with varying effect (sometimes it really works well, other times... not so well), sooner or later you have to accept a new status quo, and what you are left with is the foundation for your new life.
If you have the same pain for more than 3 months it is generally categorized as chronic pain.
What is Chronic Pain?
(From National Institutes of Health:) While acute pain is a normal sensation triggered in the nervous system to alert you to possible injury and the need to take care of yourself, chronic pain is different. Chronic pain persists. Pain signals keep firing in the nervous system for weeks, months, even years. There may have been an initial mishap -- sprained back, serious infection, or there may be an ongoing cause of pain -- arthritis, cancer, ear infection, but some people suffer chronic pain in the absence of any past injury or evidence of body damage.
The problem with chronic pain is that it tends to intensify, as the neural pathways are heavily trafficked with pain signals, the actual nerves tend to become hyper-sensitivized. It's like turning up the volume of the pain, the longer it persists the stronger it gets.
While initially - when the pain is labeled as acute - pain medication like NSAIDS and opiods provide temporary relief, but after regular usage for longer periods of time pain medication can actually make the pain worse. You need a really good doctor, preferably a pain specialist, to be able to set a plan for correct medication of chronic pain.
Chronic pain also has other effects than just making your life miserable. It sets off a stress reaction in the brain, which makes patients more prone to hypertension, stress & burn out, and can affect cognition over long term. A study done at Northwestern University of Illinois in 2004 showed that chronic back pain shrank the brain by up to 11% brain, with memory loss being a common side-effect.
Learning about your specific diagnosis is very important, but learning about what pain does to you is equally important if you live with it over longer periods of time.