What is Chronic Pain and How Do I Know if I am Suffering from it?

Chronic pain is characterized as lasting longer than six months. The pain can be mild or severe, continuous or periodic, merely annoying or completely disabling. Chronic pain can start from an injury or trauma but it can also be an ongoing cause of pain. Some people can actually suffer from the disease from body damage or the absence of a past injury. When this occurs, the nervous system receives signals of pain for days, months, or even years. Unfortunately, chronic pain can take both a serious physical toll on a person as well as a mental toll.

Any kind of long-term or recurring pains often lead to frustration and anger. This frequently prevents individual from enjoying part of, or the majority of his/her life. Due to this mental frustration, chronic diseases and injuries that result in long-term pains are extremely hard to manage, even when the pain is mild.

Chronic Pain and Physical Discomfort

The physical aspects of chronic pains can stem from slow onset aches such as backaches, headaches, joint pain, or aches from an injury years ago that may not have healed completely or properly. The most common chronic pain symptoms are:

  • Mild to severe pain that will not go away that is continuous for six months or more
  • Pain that can be described as burning, shooting, tingling, electrical, or aching
  • A constant feeling of being sore, tightness, discomfort, or stiffness

Other common chronic ailments include carpal tunnel syndrome, sinus pain, and aching in specific parts of the body that are often attributed to stress such as the neck and shoulders. Further, ongoing nerve and muscle pain can cause chronic discomfort that can last for years. If you are experiencing these symptoms and are worried you may have a more serious underlying issue, it may be time to consult with a specialist. Keep in mind that before you make a trip to the doctor, it’s best to make a list of all your symptoms.

Emotional and Psychological Effects of Chronic Pain

Besides having to deal with the physical pain, chronic pain can also have an emotional toll on you that can actually make the pain worse. If you believe you that you are suffering from chronic pain, you may also notice a lot of emotional or behavioral symptoms, including:

  • Withdrawal from activities and constant need to rest
  • Sleeplessness
  • Changes in mood such as anxiety, depression, hopelessness,
  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Anger and irritability

If chronic pain is affecting your quality of life, you may also like to seek out a professional’s help. Like your physical symptoms, if you choose to see a mental health professional, you should make a comprehensive list of any and all emotional and behavioral ailments you believe you are having. This best ensures a correct diagnose and effective treatment plan.

Treating Chronic Pain Relief Using Medications

Often when you visit a doctor’s office, the first option for chronic pain relief is treating it with medications. There are many different types of medications that can be used. Over the counter drugs such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen are two of the most common and effective pain relievers. However, if you find yourself in constant use of over-the-counter medications, the next step may be to talk to your doctor about medical alternatives. Common chronic pain medications may include antidepressants, corticosteroids, and muscle relaxants. Keep in mind, however, that while these drugs may work in the short term for bringing relief, but there are potential serious side effects, especially if used for long periods of time (which is often the case for chronic pain). Because of these reasons, many people turn to alternative methods for relief.

Chronic Pain Relief through Alternative Methods

Rest is often the first thing that you should do for a day or two after an injury. After this, physical activity is thought as a good chronic pain relief. Exercise will increase your flexibility and strength and improve muscle tone. Exercising also promotes healthy blood circulation, ensuring that your injury receives adequate blood and nutrients to heal. If you decide that you are going to start a physical exercise program to relieve chronic pain, make sure you consult your doctor. He or she may prefer that you work with a physical therapist or personal trainer, which many people today are using to guide them through the right exercises to relieve chronic pain. This can also help prevent you from further injuring yourself.
you can employ some natural methods for chronic pain relief. These could be herbal treatments for relief of pain. Herbal relief from pain can be quite effective. Acupuncture for pain relief is another alternative method of healing that has been used effectively for centuries. If you have never tried acupuncture for pain relief, it may be a beneficial alternative. Similarly, many people find that meditation and other mindful relaxation methods help in relieving anxiety. This in tern tends to have a calming effect on aching and tense body parts. Some people find that these methods in combination with aromatherapy and biofeedback techniques help them to relax their muscle. The ultimate goal of many of these techniques is to allow you to release tension, which can aggravate chronic ailments.
Another natural pain relief method that you can do at home is hot and cold therapy. These can be an effective chronic pain relief treatment. To use this method, simply switch between cold (ice) and then use hot packs or warm water on the affected area. These can be an extremely effective method to relieve pain.

Effects of Chronic Pain and How it Affects your Disability Claim

Chronic pain is not merely a physical disorder. The medical field has accepted that living with chronic pain also results in many psychological problems. The Canadian Pain Society supplies us with a devastating and frightening statistic – those who suffer from chronic pain are fifty percent more likely to commit suicide than those who do not. Thus, when dealing with chronic pain, you must also take your mental health into consideration. This typically begins to affect every aspect of the sufferer’s life. The physical pain not only seriously inhibits your ability to live fully and enjoy the world around you, but also limits your ability to work. If you are filing a disability claim, it’s important to take note of all aspects of your life your chronic pain may affect, physically and mentally.

Ability to Apply for Disability Benefits With Chronic Pain

While Chronic Pain is now recognized as debilitating condition in itself, this serious and lasting medical issue can also be associated with a number of different disorders and diseases such as arthritis, gout, Crohn’s Disease, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome and a number of neurological and spinal disorders as well as back and neck issues which may be related to an accident or physical trauma. In addition, chronic and uncontrolled pain can compromise the immune system and the healing process as well as promote tumor growth. These long-term diseases can be viable reasons to apply for disability benefits. However, if you are suffering from chronic pain because of a work-related injury, you may be eligible for permanent partial disability benefits through workers’ compensation. Because chronic pain is recognized as a disability by Social Security, you may also be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance as well.

Social Security Act Definition of Disability

Under Social Security law, an individual is considered disabled if he or she is:

  • Unable to do any substantial gainful work activity because of a medical condition (or conditions), that has lasted, or can be expected to last, for at least 12 months, or that is expected to result in death; or
  • In the case of an individual under the age of 18, if he or she suffers from any medically determinable physical or mental impairment that results in marked and severe functional limitations.

The medical condition(s) must be shown to exist by means of medically acceptable clinical and laboratory findings. Under the law, symptoms alone cannot be the basis for a finding of disability, although the effects of symptoms may be an important factor in  the SSA decision whether a person is disabled. If the medical evidence alone shows that a person is clearly disabled or not disabled, SSA decides the applicant on that information. Otherwise, SSA considers other factors, such as functional capacity in light of the person’s impairment(s), age, education, and work background.
In general, the Social Security Administration looks at longitudinal clinical records and detailed historical notes discussing the course of the disorder, including treatment and response, and functional capabilities since the onset of CFS with that of his or her prior status will help. As stated above, and worth reiterating, the Social Security Act requires that a disabling impairment be documented by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory findings. Symptoms alone, or diagnosis alone is not sufficient to establish a compensable disability under the Social Security Act.
Generally, meeting the eligibility requirements under your individual disability insurance policy or employer provided long-term-disability plan is more forgiving compared with meeting the requirements of the Social Security Act.