To be diagnosed as experiencing chronic pain, you would have to present the symptoms for three months or longer. In most cases, this is a mysterious kind of pain and can be constant or come and go when least expected. There may be a suspicion about the source of the pain, like an injury or illness, but if it persists long after you’ve healed – in some cases, many years later – you may have chronic pain.
Who Gets Chronic Pain?
Data from the National Health Interview Survey of 2019 revealed some of the demographics of chronic pain, as noted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- 20.4% of adults had chronic pain, with 7.4% admitting their pain affected their quality of life.
- Chronic pain gets worse as people age, with the highest incidence in those sixty-five and older.
- Those most affected: non-Hispanic white adults, 23.6%, compared to non-Hispanic black adults, 19.3%, Hispanic adults, 13%, and non-Hispanic Asian adults, 6.8%.
What Causes Chronic Pain?
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, many things can trigger chronic pain, such as long-ago healed injury or illness. But it’s also worth mentioning that for many people with this kind of pain, the precise origin is a mystery and may never be discovered. One thing we do know, however, is that all types of pain are powered by nerve cells under your skin and throughout your body. These pain receptors send out signals all the time, intensifying the sensation of pain.
The Cost of Chronic Pain
Pain, chronic or otherwise, is a substantial economic burden for the United States. In 2010, the National Academy of Sciences presented shocking numbers.
- The cost of chronic pain was estimated to be up to $635 billion a year.
- Direct healthcare costs amounted to about $300 billion a year.
- Days of work missed resulted in a loss of more than $12 billion.
- Hours of work missed equated to $96.5 billion.
According to the experts at California’s Cedars-Sinai Hospital, certain risk factors can increase the likelihood you’ll have chronic pain. This may include:
- Lengthy opioid use
- Older age
- Fear level and expectations
- Social or relationship problems
- Failed pain-relief treatment in the past
- Mental illness or behavioral difficulties
- Family history of chronic pain, especially among biological relatives
- Certain health problems
Some of these risk factors, like opioid use, can be avoided, while others, like family history, can’t.
The Psychological Impact of Chronic Pain
Managing chronic pain can be lengthy and exhausting, but it’s possible, especially with ketamine treatment or certain medicines. But before the healing can begin, you need as much information as possible to make treatment decisions.
Know the symptoms
Chronic pain can disrupt many aspects of daily life, including sleep cycle, mood, physical activity, and energy levels. Constant tiredness, unhappiness, and lack of physical fitness can exacerbate the pain, making coping a slim possibility. Symptoms may include long-lasting mild to severe pain; pain that shoots, burns, or aches; and pain described as soreness and tightness.
Which conditions are linked to chronic pain?
- Depression may affect up to 85% of people with chronic pain, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
- Bipolar disorder is commonly associated with chronic pain.
- Substance-induced mood disorder is a comorbidity of chronic pain, but each condition may respond favorably when treated together.
- Mood disorders caused by a medical condition
- Generalized anxiety disorder may be hinted at by symptoms related to chronic pain, according to data from the Anxiety & Depression Association of America.
- 40% of people with panic disorder, in a study cited by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, said they also experienced chronic pain, and nearly 8% said they used pain medicine daily to reduce symptoms.
- Phobia-related disorders may accompany chronic pain in certain people due to fear.
- Social anxiety disorder, characterized by intense fear and anxiety to avoid something which causes you noticeable discomfort, often accompanies chronic pain.
- Separation anxiety disorder
Diagnosis & Treatment
Chronic pain isn’t easy to diagnose because of its nature – mysterious, constant or intermittent, and progressing with age. Certain tests may uncover problems that trigger such pain, including blood tests, x-rays or magnetic resonance imaging, urine tests, and others. Still, your healthcare provider will want as many details about your pain and medical history before concluding. A psychiatric diagnosis may also be required. Possible treatment options include psychotherapy, diet, exercise, self-help, or medicine like ketamine.