Chronic pain is often defined as any pain lasting more than 12 weeks. Whereas, acute pain is a normal sensation that alerts us to possible injury, chronic pain is very different. Chronic pain persists—often for months or even longer.
Chronic pain may arise from an initial injury, such as a back sprain, or there may be an ongoing cause, such as illness. However, there may also be no clear cause. Othe health problems, such as fatigue, sleep disturbance, decreased appetite, and mood changes, often accompany chronic pain. Chronic pain may limit a person’s movements, which can reduce flexibility, strength, and stamina. This difficulty in carrying out important and enjoyable activities can lead to disability and despair.
With chronic pain, the goal of treatment is to reduce pain and improve function, so you can resume day-to-day activities. There are a number of options. However, it is important to remember that chronic pain usually cannot be cured, but it can be managed.
Opioids are commonly prescribed because they are effective in relieving many types of pain. These medications are classified as narcotics and can be dangerous when abused. They also produce significant side effects, including constipation, nausea, mental clouding, and respiratory depression, which can sometimes lead to death.
Long-term opioid use can also result in physical dependence, making it difficult to discontinue use even when the original cause of pain is no longer present. Furthermore, there is mounting evidence that long-term opioid use for pain can actually produce a chronic pain state, whereby patients find themselves in a vicious cycle, where opioids are used to treat pain caused by previous opioid use.
Taken as directed, opioids can manage pain effectively when used for a short amount of time. With long-term use, people need to be screened and monitored because a fraction of those treated will develop an addiction disorder, abuse the drugs, or give them to others. Long-term daily use of opioids leads to physical dependence, which is not to be confused with an addiction disorder. An addiction disorder occurs in about 5 percent of people who take these pain relievers as directed over the period of a year. An addiction disorder can be treated, but like those who misuse or illegally distribute prescription drugs, the prescriber needs to be vigilant to identify and address these problems. That is why everyone who uses prescription opioids needs to be screened and closely monitored.
When people have physical dependence and the opioid use is stopped, withdrawal symptoms include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps (“cold turkey”), and involuntary leg movements. Taken in large doses, or in combination with tranquilizers or alcohol, opioids can cause a deadly overdose that causes breathing to stop. To prevent an overdose, it is important to take opioids only as prescribed and do not combine them with other medications unless directed to do so by the prescriber. As clinicians and monitoring systems become more sophisticated, and opioids are better designed to be tamper-resistant or abuse-deterrent, healthcare providers believe that those who suffer because of a fear of addiction will receive the treatment they so desperately need.
Help and Hope
If your chronic pain is unmanageable or you have developed an addiction from pain management medication, you can get help. Call us today.