Practitioners often work to remedy chronic pain. To learn the source of this common complaint—and a few strategies for tackling it—read on.
When your finger touches a hot stove, it’s the pain that causes your brain to immediately pull your hand away from the burner. When you’re sick, pain will let you know that you need medicine. But, unlike the beneficial warning system of acute pain, chronic pain doesn’t pipe down once its message is received. Instead, it continues on, interfering with a person’s mood and ability to function. There may have been an initial trigger for the pain, such as an infection or the week you decided to try sleeping upright, and there may even be an ongoing cause—arthritis, ear infection, stress—but it also can occur seemingly out of the blue. Such pain most commonly takes the form of headaches, lower-back pain, and joint discomfort, but can affect any part of the body. The 2011 report Relieving Pain in America noted that roughly 100 million adults suffered from chronic pain in the United States alone.
The quest to be rid of chronic pain can lead those who have it down a winding path of potential remedies. Opiates and acetaminophen (found in Tylenol) are common pharmacological go-tos, but there are other options. Relaxation helps prevent tension and redirect attention away from the pain, so many people try acupuncture, exercise, and massage. It’s also important to understand what may trigger your pain, if anything, and so the American Chronic Pain Association recommends keeping a log of daily activities to try to pinpoint aggravators—perhaps stress or weather conditions such as humidity or really sharp snowflakes.
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