It’s no secret that chronic pain is a major health concern in the United States. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an estimated 116 million American adults have some type of chronic pain condition at any given time, making it more prevalent than heart disease, cancer, and diabetes combined.
Chronic pain can manifest in different forms and can affect virtually any part of the body. Here are some of the most common types of chronic pain:
1. Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain
Chronic musculoskeletal is chronic pain that affects the muscles, bones, and joints. Musculoskeletal pain can be classified into two main categories: inflammatory and non-inflammatory.
Chronic inflammatory musculoskeletal pain is caused by conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, and lupus. It is characterized by swelling, redness, and warmth in the affected area. Chronic non-inflammatory musculoskeletal pain, on the other hand, is caused by conditions like tendonitis, overuse, or injuries such as sprained muscles, fractures, or forceful trauma. It’s characterized by stiffness, aching, and reduced range of motion in the affected area.
2. Neuropathic Pain
Neuropathic pain is a type of chronic pain that is caused by malfunction or damage to the nervous system. Neuropathic pain can be either peripheral or central. Peripheral neuropathic pain is caused by damage to the nerves located outside the brain and spinal cord (i.e., nerves in the arms or legs).
Central neuropathic pain is caused by damage to the nerves located in the brain and spinal cord. Diabetes is a common cause of neuropathic pain, but it can also be caused by surgery, certain medications, and injuries to the nerves. In some cases, nerve pain has no identifiable cause.
Neuropathic pain is characterized by burning, tingling, or numbness in the affected area. Common examples of neuropathic pain include phantom limb syndrome, trigeminal neuralgia, diabetic neuropathy, and chronic regional pain syndrome (CRPS).
3. Visceral Pain
Visceral pain is a form of pain that affects internal organs located in the pelvic, abdominal, and thoracic regions of the body. Common causes of chronic visceral pain include endometriosis, kidney stones, pelvic inflammatory disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), cancer, and diverticulitis.
Visceral pain is often felt more diffusely throughout the affected region rather than in a localized area. It mainly manifests as a deep or dull aching sensation but can also manifest as sharp, stabbing pain.
4. Migraine Headaches
Migraines are headaches characterized by intense pain on one side of the head. The pain can be described as throbbing or pulsing and can last for hours or days at a time. Migraines are often accompanied by other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, visual disturbances, and excessive sensitivity to light or sound.
When migraines occur on 15 or more days each month for at least three months, accompanied by migraine-like symptoms on most days, they are classified as chronic and severely impact your ability to function normally.
Chronic pain can manifest in different ways depending on the course and the affected part(s) of the body. Similarly, to effectively manage chronic pain and improve quality of life, treatment strategies must be tailored to meet the individual needs of every patient.
Common chronic pain treatments include physical therapy, medications, lifestyle modifications, and in some cases, surgical interventions. There are some effective alternative treatments, such as biofeedback, acupuncture, electrical nerve stimulation, and ketamine infusion therapy, which could prove instrumental in managing chronic pain.