Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is pain that persists longer than six months or longer than is expected for a specific injury. Acute pain, in contrast, lasts a limited time and is associated with a specific cause such as trauma, surgery, or specific illnesses like cancer or bone diseases.

Chronic pain and acute pain respond differently to medications and require different approaches to treatment. For example, pain after surgery is often treated with strong narcotic (opioid) analgesics (pain killers). Many forms of chronic pain do not respond to these drugs, and the side effects (impaired thinking, fatigue, disturbed sleep, and nausea) from the drugs can be more limiting than the pain. (See Medication Issues and Behavioral Treatment for more info)

The most common types of chronic pain treated at Solutions for Wellness

  • Back pain
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Headache pain
  • Joint pain from arthritis or trauma
  • Muscle and tendon pain from repetitive strain injuries
  • Neuropathy pain
  • Chronic abdominal pain
  • Pelvic pain syndromes
  • Chest pain syndromes

Chronic pain affects every aspect of a person’s life. It can make a person exhausted, depressed, anxious, unable to exercise, unmotivated to cook or eat properly, and disturb sleep. All of these factors can make the nervous system irritable and magnify the pain signals to the brain. This is called central sensitization, which means the pain is making the brain more sensitive. The first step in successfully decreasing and managing chronic pain is to eliminate these magnifiers and make the body as physiologically hardy as possible.

Central sensitization can be viewed as a pain-promoting neurochemistry that lies on top of the original injury. It can easily account for 50% or more of the patient’s pain-score rating. Changing behaviors instead of using medication to reduce this pain-amplification process can result not only in the reduction of pain and the elimination of drug side-effects but also in the promotion of an enduring improvement in overall health. Bringing the central nervous system back into balance is of major importance to getting positive results.

The Solutions for Wellness approach to helping patients with any form of chronic pain is to treat the central sensitization first in order to make the brain less irritable. After this occurs, a more accurate assessment of the underlying problem can be made; and direct treatment can then be much more effective.

Treating the central sensitization is done by helping the patient achieve restorative sleep without medication and by improving overall wellness through exercise, healthy nutrition and understanding how to manage pain without daily pain medications. The goal for most patients with severe pain is 40-50% decrease in symptoms in 12 weeks.